The NFL is in trouble. That’s the bad news. The good news is that most of the problems with the league can be corrected, as long as the NFL acts decisively and quickly.
The NFL is best seen as a giant battleship. It’s enormous and built to last, yet its size makes it unwieldy and difficult to change course quickly. Right now, it is the biggest and baddest ship on the water, but it is headed in the wrong direction. To make matters worse, it has dozens of small cracks along its hull that are slowly taking in water. Not one of those cracks is enough to sink it, but collectively, those cracks will eventually bring it down.
The NFL has multiple image problems, some real and some imagined but no less damaging. This includes player safety, a problem that is a little bit of both. On one hand, the NFL sustained a massive self-inflected wound with the way they handled concussions in the past. That crack is big and the league has done very little to patch it. On the flip side, many paint the NFL as too dangerous and too violent and are doing everything they can to bring it down. Everyone associated with the NFL – owners, players, fans – knows that the sport is dangerous and violent. It is part of the deal, and most of us are good with it. The day the players are no longer good with the risks is the day the league goes under for good.
Another image issue, and one that dominates headlines, is the National Anthem protests. We live in a society where the media thrive on controversy and division. The more hyperbolic the report, the better for business. Colin Kaepernick is the poster boy for this issue, though it has grown to be much larger than just one man. The problem with it is you have people from both sides of the political divide that are now tuning out because of it. Those on the far left are demanding that the NFL force someone to hire Kaepernick. (Stupidest idea possible.) Those on the far right feel that the league is full of a bunch of rich, entitled, unpatriotic jerks that hate the country and the flag. (Ignorant at best.) You know it is a huge issue when commentators as good as Al Michaels are going out of their way to update you on who did or did not stand for the anthem. The media in general is terrible and sports media is not that much better. They have decided that this controversy deserves ALL THE COVERAGE because of ratings, not realizing that their constant coverage is going to hurt the ratings for the NFL, which will then hurt their own ratings.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you: THE MEDIA
The League has a leadership problem.
I don’t care for Jerry Jones. He comes across as boorish and arrogant. If Jerry takes a position on something, I am usually going to be on the other side. But, reports indicate that he is standing in the way of Roger Goodell’s contract extension. I believe I have made my thoughts about Goodell very clear in my time writing for REO. This then becomes similar to the recent presidential election. Do we have to side with one of these two?
With that said, many of the NFL’s problems can be directly traced back to Goodell or the overall leadership of the league. And even if the problems are not entirely Goodell’s fault, sometimes it is just better to make a change in leadership for appearances. Most people don’t care who the commissioner of the NFL is, but if they were to replace Goodell with someone with greater vision and self-awareness, it would do wonders for the overall image of the league.
The League has a product problem.
I saw a Twitter poll posted by Clay Travis recently that asked the question, “You can only watch college football or the NFL on TV this year — which do you pick?” And College Football won. Overwhelmingly.
Now, I realize this poll was posted by Clay Travis, someone who has made his career covering college football (and making fun of ESPN), but I think the results still have validity. There is a perception among many, right or wrong, that the college game is better than the pro game. I could post stats about blowouts in the college game, or how close games are in the NFL on average, but those stats usually fall on deaf ears. People see what they see and feel what they feel and stats and facts are rendered meaningless. The college game can be incredibly exciting. I enjoy it. But I enjoy watching the best of the best playing the same sport on Sundays more. But there are issues built into the professional game that can be fixed or tweaked that will make the game more entertaining for fans, and the NFL needs to start working towards those soon or they will continue to lose fans.
Over the next few weeks, I will be doing my best to tackle a few of these issues and present some ideas for change. These cracks need to be fixed or the NFL will cease to be the powerhouse that it is. Let us know in the comment section what you would do to fix these issues. Or, if there are issues you have noticed that I have not addressed, let us hear about them.
Crack: The Diminishing Product
Thursday Night football is unwatchable.
I love the NFL. I can watch any real NFL game and be perfectly satisfied. I will watch a game between the New York Jets and the San Francisco 49ers and find plenty to enjoy.
But Thursday Night football is a completely different animal.
Thursday Night football is sloppy. TNF is ugly, poorly played, and worst of all, boring. TNF is a match-up between two teams that are tired and not recovered from the previous week. The product on the field completely supports my assertion – you only have to look at the most recent Thursday night game for proof.
Thursday Night football needs to be taken out back and put out of its misery. Effective immediately. It is a prime-time game that is as poor of a representation of actual professional football as one can find. It will not create new fans. It will not engender good-will towards the league or the game itself. In fact, I contend it is doing the exact opposite. It is too much football. And it is football that is a poor representation of what the game is supposed to look like. It makes the NFL look greedy, ugly, and uninteresting.
NFL, if you want to keep your league at the top, get rid of Thursday Night football as soon as humanely possible. It is a blight on your league and your product. Focus your immense power and money on Sunday and Monday football. Make those games as good as they can be and stop diluting your sport with inferior product.
That was fun. What we saw in the second half of the game against the Jaguars is what fans of this team are expecting this season. A physically dominant performance in all three phases of the game. And there is no Titans’ player that better epitomized that physicality than Derrick Henry. Let me be clear about something – DeMarco Murray is the number one running back for the Titans. But until he is 100% healthy from the hamstring pull, Henry is the better option. The Titans have the luxury of having two number one backs on their team and they need to take advantage of that starting Sunday against the Seahawks. Sit Murray and start Henry. Do that until Murray is completely healed. If they want to make a run late in the season and into the post season, they will need Murray. If you want to see what I mean by Henry being the best representation of Titans’ football, go check out this article at Music City Miracles. Those guys do great work covering the Titans.
There is a youth movement at work for the Titans and it should be very exciting for fans of the team. This year’s draft is showing up all over the field, with players like Adoree’ Jackson, Taywan Taylor, Jonnu Smith, Corey Davis, and Jayon Brown already playing big minutes and contributing in a number of ways. The future is very bright for the this team. Enjoy the ride Titans’ fans.
This week poses a significant challenge for the Titans. The Seattle Seahawks are a good/great defense and they have a mobile QB that can extend plays with his legs. The Titans have struggled against mobile QB’s in the past and Russell Wilson is better than most, so it will be imperative for the defense to stay on course and not deviate from their assignments. The good news is the Seahawks have a terrible offensive line and the Titans’ pass rush should have plenty of opportunities to get to Wilson. For whatever reason, I have a similar feel about this game as I did for the Green Bay game last year. I am hopeful that the Titans’ offense will pick up where they left off in the second half of the Jaguars’ game. It should be a fun one.