Man with a plan
One of the recurring topics of the 2019 NFL season is the owners’ push for a 17 game schedule and the idea’s generally bad reception among coaches and players. So, when asked about the proposal yesterday, Vic Fangio threw out some of his own ideas for consideration instead. As he often does, the veteran coach rewound the clock a bit to set things up before delivering the major shift in organizational thinking that he’d like to see happen.
Well, I’ll tell you a story. Since the league went to 32 teams, which was when the Texans came in 2002, my ideal suggestion - which has never been put forth in front of anybody important - I don’t think there should be divisions.
And 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 of years. I just think it’d be a good way to avoid it. But I’m not for 17 games. I think it should stay at 16.
Abandoning the concept of divisions is a pretty radical concept for the relatively hidebound NFL, but it does have some merit. The idea of divisions is rooted in an era when travel was slower and more difficult, so playing the closest teams most often made a lot of sense. But travel’s a lot faster and easier in today’s NFL, so maybe it actually is time to forget about carving the national map up into funky geographic clusters in sets of four.
But if not divisions, then what? Fangio prefers a model based more on college scheduling, with a major emphasis on the conferences. That would certainly change the dynamics of the NFL season.
I think you got 16 in each conference, everybody should play each other once, and that’s 15 games. 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, etc., play every year and then keep it at 16 games.
But, perhaps more importantly, this format would help fix a significant issue that plagues the NFL in regard to how its postseason is laid out.
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. You’re going to get the best six teams in each conference.
I just don’t think divisions are going to get you the best six every year. You want the best six, do it like they do in college: you play everybody once.
That’s definitely a different take on how to organize the NFL’s season. To me, it’s rather refreshing, and would certainly bring a whole new feeling to how a season plays out. But while I’ll freely admit that Vic Fangio has
likely almost certainly forgotten more about football than I’ve ever learned about it, I’d argue that there’s one major flaw in the Don’s plan: only one non-conference game.
I think it would be a major mistake for teams to play the same 16 opponents every year and basically ignore the other conference entirely. I mean, imagine never seeing the Broncos suit up against the Packers again, or never facing the Seahawks any more- outside of the Super Bowl, anyway. Or never getting to see Drew Lock suit up against Kyler Murray’s Cardinals or Daniel Jones’s Giants? It’s a better NFL with non-conference opportunities like that still available.
How I’d Do It
If it were me getting to choose, I’d modify the current setup a bit rather than changing it wholesale: Keep the two conferences, but consolidate the current eight divisions into four divisions- two per conference- with some realignments.
Thus each team’s yearly schedule would include:
- 7 games against division opponents
- 3 games against teams from each of the other 3 divisions
- That’s 10 conference and 6 non-conference games per season, with 7 annual opponents built in.
With 8 teams per division, teams would play every other team in the league at least once every 4 years as they currently do, and every 3 years about 1⁄3 of the time.
That also sets you up to neatly split the playoffs into four brackets. The top three teams by W-L record in each division make the playoffs, with the #1 seed in each division getting a Bye.
This way, the playoffs would be set up thus:
- First Round: #2 seeds host the #3 seeds. #1 seeds enjoy a bye.
- Division Championship Round: #1 seeds host the winners of the First Round.
- Conference Championship Round: Division champions face each other in each conference.
- Super Bowl: Conference champions face off for the Lombardi.
It’s not a radical departure from the current setup like Fangio’s is, but a setup like this would allow for a lot more geographical flexibility and common sense in divisional alignments, as well as removing the possibility of teams at or near .500 getting home playoff games against better teams. And it would transition division championships from being a matter of regular season record to being an actual two-round playoff complete with division championship games. That means higher stakes, more drama, and more fun in my opinion. I also think this format would help encourage the growth of new rivalries while mostly maintaining traditional rivalries.
I didn’t really touch on rosters for the 4 divisions, but feel free to discuss that in the comments.
But that’s just my take on it. What do you all think of Fangio’s ideas in this area, and what would you do if it were up to you?
What do you think of Fangio’s proposed schedule?
This poll is closed
That’s awesome- the NFL should do that!
It’s got possibilities... and issues.
Absolutely not. Bad idea.
Why can’t we just keep things the way they are?