Titans Tuesday: Big Picture Manifesto

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This edition will be a bit different. The NFL is in a very interesting and somewhat fragile position. It is the most powerful and popular sport in America. The NFL generates profits and ratings unlike any other sport. But I believe all that power and money and prestige are precariously balanced. There are things happening in the sport, around the sport and to the sport that will cause the whole thing to come crashing down unless changes are made. This won’t be an in-depth look at all those things, but I would like to spend a little time addressing a few things, and changes that can be made to keep the sport we love as good and as popular as it is today. If you are not interested in any of this, then jump down to the final paragraph for the Titans’ talk.


Let’s look at three things that are generating a lot of talk and controversy for the NFL: officiating, player safety, and identity.

Officiating

Most NFL fans believe that the referees are worse now than they have ever been. I don’t think there is any way to conclusively prove that, but if enough people believe something, and empirical proof is absent, then arguing the opposite is pointless. Officiating blunders are a public problem for the NFL. Too many games are being affected by bad calls. Multiple cameras on the field show us everything that happens in High Definition, which makes it even harder for the officials. We see all their mistakes. It’s unfair for us to expect the officials to be perfect. It is not unfair of us to expect them to be competent. And there are too many examples of incompetence. I won’t belabor this point with stats and links. If you have been paying any attention to the NFL the past few seasons, you know all the examples. Some people argue for full time refs. Others argue against that idea saying it wouldn’t affect the performance on the field in any tangible way. Here are my top three ideas to help the officials do their job better:

  1. Transparency. The NFL should release a grade for each officiating crew every week. They should discuss areas where the crews struggled and areas where they did a good job. They are already doing this, for their own use, but this information should be made public. Not releasing it only makes people think that the NFL is not treating this seriously, or that they have something worse to hide.
  2. Accountability. We all know the officials miss things. We need a system in place that will punish officials that continually make mistakes. One that will suspend, fine, or simply reprimand an official that makes a blatantly poor call. And please, don’t “punish” an officiating crew by placing them in a lower profile matchup, something that has happened to the Tennessee Titans more than once. What does that move say to the teams that are playing with the “punished” officials? If players, coaches, and owners are held accountable for their mistakes, then the officials should be as well, and that accountability should be public.
  3. Technology. The NFL is “flushed with cash.”1 It is cliché to say this, but they can basically print money. For now. How about the NFL partner with some cutting edge tech companies and produce technology that scans the field, tracks the ball, and monitors the goal line and sideline? If that involves more cameras, so be it. If it involves sensors in the footballs and on the lines of the field, so be it. If it involves a heavy financial investment, so be it. The NFL is like the wealthy man that takes a sack lunch to work, drives a 1996, 232,000 mile Nissan Altima, and still wears the same jeans he bought in college, all so he can hide a little more money under his mattress. Great examples of frugality, but if that money is just going to sit there and not do him or anyone else any good, then what’s the point? The NFL can afford to fix a lot of these problems with better use of technology. But they won’t because they don’t want to spend any money. That bump under their mattress just feels too good.
  4. Fire Roger Goodell. I know this doesn’t fit here but it needs to be said and I have run out of other things to say. He is the main reason things are the way they are right now. The owners love him because they are making so much money. That money is going to start to come in more slowly in the near future. If Goodell remains in power, he will cripple the league. I have no doubt of that. He’s got to go.

Player Safety

It’s safe to say that football is a very violent sport. A dangerous sport. The players know this when they choose to participate. No one is unaware of the risks involved. The NFL has been too slow, to reactionary, and too uncommitted to actually doing something worthwhile to address the issue. If the NFL really cared about player safety, there would never again be a word said about an 18 game regular season schedule. If the NFL really cared about player safety, it would not require the teams to play on Thursday night, with only four days between games. If the NFL really cared about player safety, they would do a better job of managing and enforcing the concussion protocols that are in place. The NFL talks a big game about player safety but their actions speak much louder. Money is the loudest voice in the room and everyone else takes a back seat. How do they fix this? A few ideas:

  1. Scale back. The NFL, if it is to survive, needs to be willing to make less money now for the future health of the sport. That means getting rid of the Thursday night game. I love football as much or more than the next guy, but asking these players to play on four days rest is insane. It produces bad football. It subjects the players to more injury risk. The Thursday night game is not there for the benefit of the on-field competition. It’s there because it earns the league MILLIONS of dollars. That’s it. Look to the future NFL. I realize the money seems too great to pass up. That extra money comes at too high a cost. It’s not worth it.
  2. Scale up. Expand the active roster. 53 man roster. 46 man game day roster. Typically two quarterbacks – one who will likely not play. A kicker and a punter. That leaves you with 42 players to do the rest of the hard work. I’ve yet to read a compelling reason the active roster should not be expanded. It would give teams a chance to rest players if needed. To avoid asking too much from certain players that play special teams as well as offense or defense. I’m not asking for college level numbers. But I can see only good from allowing teams a handful more players on game day.
  3. Invest. Invest in technology to reduce concussions. I realize the NFL recently committed $100 million to just this cause. That’s a good start. $60 million of that is going to helmet research and technology. $40 million to medical research. From what I can tell, this is over a five year timeframe. I know $100 million is a lot of money. It’s a big number. To the NFL, $100 million over five years is almost nothing. The NFL is set to earn over $13 Billion in annual profits this season. And of that $13 Billion profit, they can only find $20 million a year to try to fix the massive concussion problem? Really? I guarantee you if it was the owners that were struggling with depression, anger, anxiety, and all the other post concussion symptoms, they would be investing a lot more money. There is a conversation to be had of the actual severity of the problem, but as I said earlier, the general public believes it is a problem so the NFL needs to get in front of it. It needs to come out with a plan that looks beyond ambitious. The plan they have now is less than they spend on Commissioner Goodell’s annual salary. Much less.
  4. Fire Roger Goodell. I know this doesn’t fit here but it needs to be said and I have run out of other things to say. He is the main reason things are the way they are right now. The owners love him because they are making so much money. That money is going to start to come in more slowly in the near future. If Goodell remains in power, he will cripple the league. I have no doubt of that. He’s got to go.

 


No Fun League

This point does not have near the importance of the other two, but in some ways, it is more crucial to public perception. It’s a common joke now that the NFL stands for No Fun League. I used to roll my eyes when I saw or heard that tossed around. Unfortunately, the evidence is stacking up in support of those that believe the NFL is trying to legislate fun out of the game. I’ll give you an example: Last week, in the Titans win over the Green Bay Packers, rookies wide receiver, Tajae Sharpe caught his first ever NFL touchdown. He celebrated by lying down and pretending to sleep in the end zone. It was an odd but innocuous celebration. He got flagged for it because the rules state that a player cannot go to the ground when celebrating. It’s a dumb rule but it’s a rule nonetheless. I didn’t like the penalty because there was no malice, no taunting, and nothing offensive about the fake nap, but I understood why they threw the flag. What I didn’t like is that later in the week, Sharpe was fined $12,154 for it. In the same game, a Packers’ player jumped offsides on defense and then proceeded to hit Marcus Mariota after the whistles blew and the penalty flags were thrown. It was a cheap shot that has no place in the game. It put Mariota at risk of getting injured. It provoked a quick response from teammates and got Taylor Lewan thrown out of the game for making contact with an official. The player who started the whole thing, Letroy Guion, was fined $9,115 for his late hit. What Guion did was dangerous. What Sharpe did was at worst, a little dumb. Yet Sharpe received the bigger fine from the league office. Crazy.

So, NFL, if you are listening, here are a few things you should do to fix this image problem you have:

  1. Celebrate good times! Allow touchdown celebrations. Stop worrying about how players celebrate. I have rarely seen any celebration that seemed excessive or in bad taste. If you must, put in a few guidelines that must be followed but leave the rest up to the imagination and creativity of the players. As long as they are not taunting, being vulgar, or getting in the faces of the other team, there is very little they could do that would offend most fans.
  2. Keep it classy. Crack down on actual taunting. If a defensive player makes a big tackle and the proceeds to stand over the tackled players and yell at him, then flag that. That is textbook taunting. That is not in the spirit of competition. It’s disrespectful. But I see that sort of thing much more often than any offensive or disrespectful celebrations. And I never see taunting actually penalized. You picked the wrong battle NFL.
  3. Fire Roger Goodell. I know this doesn’t fit here but it needs to be said and I have run out of other things to say. He is the main reason things are the way they are right now. The owners love him because they are making so much money. That money is going to start to come in more slowly in the near future. If Goodell remains in power, he will cripple the league. I have no doubt of that. He’s got to go.

Titans Talk

When you spot any team in the NFL a 21-0 lead, you lose most of the time. The Titans did a great job of battling back and making the game competitive, but it was too little and too late.

I hate the Colts. I can’t understand how this year’s team could beat the Titans twice. It just goes to show you that the Titans are not there yet. They are still in progress. They have too many holes on defense to be a great team. They lack the great receiver that will cause the offense to be nearly unstoppable. This offseason will be a lot of fun for Titans’ fans as we watch Jon Robinson fix some of these areas and put together a team that can make a legitimate run in the playoffs. It’s a good time to get on the bandwagon, if you haven’t already. The Titans have one of the top quarterbacks in the league. A top five running back. A top 10 offensive line. Strong pieces on defense.

See you next week as we discuss the final quarter of the season and playoff scenarios and possibilities for the AFC South.

In closing, fire Roger Goodell. I know this doesn’t fit here but it needs to be said and I have run out of other things to say. He is the main reason things are the way they are right now. The owners love him because they are making so much money. That money is going to start to come in more slowly in the near future. If Goodell remains in power, he will cripple the league. I have no doubt of that. He’s got to go.

Phill Lytle

I love: Jesus, my wife, my kids, my church, my family, my friends, Firefly, 80’s rock, Lost, the Tennessee Titans, the St. Louis Cardinals, Brandon Sanderson books, Band of Brothers, Thai food, music, books, movies, TV, writing, Arrested Development, pizza, vacation, etc…

7 thoughts on “Titans Tuesday: Big Picture Manifesto

  • November 22, 2016 at 1:23 pm
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    “I don’t think there is any way to conclusively prove that, but if enough people believe something, and empirical proof is absent, then arguing the opposite is pointless.”

    You know I’m not a sports fan, but have to say that I love this sentence. This is so, so often true in every context.

    Reply
    • November 22, 2016 at 2:23 pm
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      Thanks Ben!

      Reply
  • November 22, 2016 at 1:37 pm
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    This is really good! And if Phill ever tells anyone that they need to fire “Allen Pointer” I will indeed just leave! This makes too much sense and is too well said!

    Reply
  • November 22, 2016 at 2:24 pm
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    You are safe Allen. For now. :)

    Reply
  • November 22, 2016 at 2:38 pm
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    Use of technology in officiating is right up there for me as well. I’ve said for years that there should be a way to electronically track the progress of the ball so that we don’t have these silly exercises of trotting the chain gang out and painstakingly determining whether the nose of the football is a micron on one side of the stick or the other, after there was maybe a tenth of a second’s thought in physically spotting the ball. (See last night’s MNF Mexico game and ask the Texans how well that worked in the 4th quarter.) If Wimbledon can put sensors in to help with in-out calls for tennis balls, the NFL should be able to properly equip game balls and 16 playing fields with the necessary sensors to help track the ball’s progress, IMHO.

    Reply
    • November 22, 2016 at 2:43 pm
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      Agreed. It won’t fix all the issues when it comes to spotting the ball, but it will fix many. It will also help in goal line situations tremendously. I don’t see a downside other than the cost, which they can easily afford, but also the reason they won’t do it. Well, that and Roger Goodell probably thinks it’s a bad idea.

      Reply
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