Now that the 2010 NFL season has come to a close and the Green Bay Packers came away with the Lombardi Trophy, it’s a great time to look back and see how the league is evolving. There are some aspects of the game that will move into the future. Like any business, demographics, flexibility and demand, bring changes that can be both positive and negative.
Like a year ago, Super Bowl XLV became the most watched television show in history. To put it in perspective, the ratings for the Super Bowl beat the NBA Finals, the World Series and the Stanley Cup Finals combined. While the ratings include homes, they don’t include all the bars, restaurants and groups of people at each home watching the game.
One TV alone could account for 10-to-15 viewers. It seems as if over half the country was at a standstill for four-plus hours on February 6th.
This massive popularity of the sport has brought changes to game as well. The largest growing demographic of viewers are children under 12 and women. Besides The UFC, the NFL’s appeal is growing the fastest of all televised sports. Roger Goodell has noticed the influx of new viewers and has enforced safety precautions to keep the NFL appealing for the whole family.
When multiple concussions occurred in October, including the hit on DeSean Jackson that looked very violent, the league decided it was time to enforce helmet-to-helmet hits. What the league basically did was put an invisible strike zone on the players. Players were confused on how to play because the change occurred midseason and not during training camp.
Players are trained for years to “blow up” plays and now they had to adapt. Fines and flags were getting thrown at an all-time high this season.
The 2010 season showed us that quarterback play is the most important part of the new era of the NFL.
All of the top QBs were in the playoffs. Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, Ben Roethlisberger and Michael Vick were all focal points of their teams. Phillip Rivers didn’t get the Chargers to the playoffs, but they had a winning record. Quarterbacks averaging 4,000-plus yards could be the norm in the coming years.
With defenses getting less and less leeway to do what they can against quarterbacks and receivers, the position becomes vital to the success of any team. Having an outstanding running game will only get a team so far now in the NFL.
The top rushing teams in the NFL this season were the Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders and the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Teams that had questions at the QB position like the Carolina Panthers, Arizona Cardinals, Cleveland Browns, Denver Broncos, Buffalo Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals had the worst records in the league.
Look for teams to build around a quarterback more than ever.
Parity keeps every team’s hopes of reaching the playoffs, as well. If the collective bargaining agreement keeps a salary cap and floor for every franchise, teams can go from worst to first in just one year. Parity is one of the reasons for the drama that the NFL brings.
Unlike the MLB, where a Pittsburgh Pirates fan will be in the doldrums season after season and Yankees or Red Sox fans can wait to watch until October, a fan of any NFL team has hope even if they won just a couple of games the year before.
This is why the NFL can show any team on prime time television and expect large viewership from the country. If the MLB showed the Orioles against the Diamondbacks on Sunday night for their game of the week, the ratings would show just how lopsided the worst teams are from the best teams.
The NFL is the only real American sport there is. Baseball is very popular in Japan and basketball is a worldwide sport like soccer. The NFL is a juggernaut when it comes to ratings and popularity and is looking in the rear-view mirror at all other forms of entertainment, not just sports programming.
With cell phones, iPads and other technologies, the NFL is using the new technology to give the league even more exposure to a sport that is already toppling all others with ease.