There are seven weeks left to the NFL season and this has been a weird year. There are some wonderful teams creating wonderful stories. The Colts are steady rolling behind Manning which, I suppose, was expected.
New Orleans is flying high with Drew Brees. He is getting some well-deserved love and the Saint’s defense is finally fun to watch. The Big Easy is a long way from the days of the ‘Aints.
The Vikings are again the Purple People Eaters. Brett Favre is still evolving as a quarterback throwing a Favre-like 16 TD’s but un-Favrian three interceptions. Jared Allen is playing like he is Reggie White incarnate.
And this is the way it typically is with the NFL; but the 2009 season will not be remembered for its good stories. Rather, 2009 will be remembered in NFL lore as the Year of the Rancid Teams.
Fourteen teams are below .500. The Jets are on the fence waiting to fall and that leaves only 17 teams playing above a 50 percent clip. That seems like poor product performance. The most powerful sport business rarely missteps but this season could be the start to a slow, cancerous growth; one that, without intervention, could prove costly. The bottom-feeders are used to their view and we are used to their futility:
Rank Team Record
*I am willing to give Jeff Fisher and the Titans a break. This season is a fluke. The rest of these boils need to be lanced. I have an idea that is not guaranteed to help a team win; it is not guaranteed to improve play; it will not suddenly make the managements of these teams (Raiders and Redskins most of all) more insightful or enlightened.
But it will make terrible teams interesting...at least for a week; and if teams facing blackouts, and there are more than ever before, cannot improve play to the point where their fans want to buy tickets, a gimmick or two is in order.
If gimmicks will prevent blackouts then it is Roger Goodell’s responsibility to at least entertain the thought. After all, it worked for Bill Veeck...I mean this was a guy that drilled an ashtray into his prosthetic leg so he was always ready for a smoke break.
Gimmick No. 1: Reality TV for the Raiders
The Raiders could all be involved in a seven-week, Apprentice -like reality show. Through a series of contests, interviews, and the all-important phone voting, 10 contestants work as underlings for the team.
By Week 16, the “winner” is announced. That person wins a two-year contract to act as GM for the Oakland Raiders. They would have full control of staff and personnel decisions. They would get to set up the war room for the 2010 Draft. Press conferences, contracts, free-agents...the whole thing all under the control of someone who, weeks before had dined on Tombstone Pizzas and Purple Fanta
Think of all of the fantasy wannabes that think they could run a team better than Al Davis...think of all the fantasy wannabes that could run a team better than Al Davis.
What’s the worst that could happen? A drop in ticket sales? The Raiders are averaging 78 percent capacity for home games. Last year, they were at 91.8 percent. Sales have dropped; time to do something about it.
Gimmick No. 2: Bring in Madden
The video game, not the guy. Hold regional video game contests on college campuses open to people of all ages. By the end of the tournament, the player(s) with the highest ranked offense and the highest ranked defense win coordinator jobs for the St. Louis Rams.
If some 12-year-old kid from Eden Prairie, MN happens to have the best team on both sides of the ball, so be it. He (or she) gets to call both sides of the ball. It’s better than what Chris Long and Stephen Jackson have to deal with now.
Gimmick No. 3: Fan involvement in Florida.
Jacksonville is at a paltry 68.3 percent home attendance rate. Wow. Come on Jaguar fans! Let’s get involved!! Nothing forces people into seats like raffles. Twenty minutes before kickoff, 100 seat numbers are called. Each person sitting one of those winning seats gets to pick from one of four plays, just like Tecmo Bowl™.
A first down get that person $50.00; a touchdown wins $100.00...a pick-six and you have to wash the O-line’s jockstraps.
Gimmick No. 4: If you cannot play well, at least look good.
I’m talking to Seattle here. Those neon uniforms have ruptured your sense of good play. Hold a contest. A $100.00 entry fee gets you the opportunity to design the Seahawk’s uniform for the 2010 season. Again, could things really get much worse? Each remaining week, they wear a new uniform design and by the end of the season, people vote for what they like best. It may at least increase female viewership.
Gimmick No. 5: Going back in time.
Bring back the Chicago Charities College All-Star Game. From 1934-1976 the Super Bowl champion (or league champion) of the previous year would play a team of that year’s college seniors. Eight times the college All-Stars won.
Let’s do that again, only this time, the worst team in the NFL is the opponent in for the Senior Bowl. I’d watch that and so would other people. It could be a charity event. Cities with the pride to avoid that would not allow their team to flounder without support.
Gimmick No. 6: Addition by subtraction.
The lowest ranked team in the AFC and NFC by year’s end, gets cut. Yep, I said it. Take the worst team in each conference and un-make them. Take football away from cities that do not want it, owners that are irresponsible, and players that are just cashing checks. I guess that’s not really a gimmick, is it?
Every steak needs a little fat for flavor; but too much spoils the meal. The NFL has a bit too much gristle on its sides this season and some of it needs to go. But if it’s going to stay, let’s at least have some fun with it.
The alternative is more power matchups like last week’s Lions-Rams game and no one needs to try to take something like that seriously again...do they?