Every few years when a division is won by a team with a less-than-sterling record, eating up a playoff spot while a better team sits at home during the postseason, reconstruction comes to the forefront of the NFL.
The year is particularly noteworthy with the TV-magnet NFC East, once the league’s crown jewel, cratering like a lump of coal tossed into a pit of sadness. The gloomy division has a current combined record of 17-35. Dallas and Philadelphia sit at 6-7 atop the division. The best either could do is 9-7.
Either Philly or Dallas will host a team that will have a far better record come January, likely either San Francisco or Seattle, both of which already have 10 wins with three weeks to play.
The nature of the NFC East’s putrid play being on display had led to questions about whether there is a better way to decide who will play in the tournament for the Lombardi Trophy.
Denver Broncos coach Vic Fangio, whose first NFL coaching gig came in 1984, is stumping for the “No Divisions” crowd.
“Since the league went to 32 teams, which was when the Texans came in in 2002, my ideal suggestion — which has never been put forth in front of anybody important — I don’t think there should be divisions,” Fangio said Wednesday, via 9News Denver. “I think you’ve got 16 in each conference. Everybody should play each other once. That’s 15 games. Then if you want a 16th game, you play a natural rival from the other conference-Jets and Giants play every year. Eagles-Steelers, Texans-Cowboys, etcetera, play every year. Then keep it at 16 games, but you’ll avoid the problem that’s going to happen this year where probably an 8-8 team is hosting a 12-4 team.”
The solution would certainly solve the problem of division winners with weak records getting into the playoffs.
“You’re going to get the six best teams in each conference,” Fangio said. “The divisions always float. There are some that are easy some years, some that have a bunch of good teams, that switches back and forth every couple years.
“I just think that’d be a good way to avoid it, but I’m not for 17 games. I think it should stay at 16.”
No solution is perfect. In Fangio’s system, there would be fewer cross-conference opportunities each year, which would wipe out chances for, say, the Packers to play the Steelers or Drew Brees‘ Saints to take on Tom Brady‘s Patriots ever few years.
While some fans might gnash their teeth at the prospect of Philly or Dallas getting into the playoffs while a better team sits home, the league doesn’t sound ready to even broach the topic.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was asked Wednesday whether there was any conversation about re-seeding the playoffs during the owners’ meeting this week, and he summarily shot it down.
“This is not the first time this conversation has occurred or this situation’s occurred,” he said. “Teams go into the season with the first objective is to win the division. That’s what they work on — we win the division and get into the playoffs. That is something we’ve considered over the years. I have not heard that this year and I don’t anticipate hearing it again. It’s been discussed in the past but I don’t see that as an issue. If it comes up we’ll certainly have a conversation. I don’t anticipate it.”
Sorry, Vic, it looks like your No Divisions idea won’t happen, and you could also see your anti-17 games take ignored as well, depending on the outcome of CBA negotiations this offseason. I doubt an 0-2 record is getting Fangio into the Suggestion Box Playoffs.