Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Yet Another NFL Promotion/Relegation Idea

Well Doc, it doesn't take much to get me going on this topic. I've debated how this whole NFL relegation thing could work, and I think something might be needed in time, if only to counteract how many horrible teams there are these days. For years the Bengals stank while raking in millions of dollars, and other teams are starting to follow the same course. The NFL is a river of money, and all you have to do is be in the club.

And so we get wonderful gems like Lions-Rams, and weekends where half the games are one star games. If we're to keep the salary cap, which does at least give every team a chance, we have to find a way to punish the awful teams where the front office has stopped trying. So lets kick some teams out.

For the life of me I can't figure out why there can't be a reasonable second tier league played in the fall, or even in the spring, as a minor league. It works so well in baseball, and even the miserably boring Arena League survived for years.

So, two tiers should work, and we need more teams. Let's give 13 cities a team, or even a second team, to create a second league with 15 teams. LA could have two. Here are the next 13 major metropolitan areas without an NFL team:

Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA
San Antonio
Las Vegas
San Jose
Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News
Providence-New Bedford-Fall River

Okay, and some of those wouldn't work because they are too close to very popular existing teams. But every single one of them is larger than New Orleans or Buffalo. And further down the list we see:

Salt Lake City
Grand Rapids
Oklahoma City

And there are a handful more that have populations of over 1m. Of these lists, are there 13 cities that could field their own team? No doubt about it. And I'd bet at least one of these markets would be a major success. You might even have room for an NFL III.

So here's my proposal, which I'm trying to keep as realistic as possible. We have a new second tier with fifteen teams. The worst team in the NFC and AFC are relegated, leaving just 30 teams in the NFL (like the old format, which I prefer). So, in two years, surely predicated by which big money owners showed up, your NFL II league consists of:

NFC Worst team (Lions/Rams)
AFC Worst team (Raiders)
LA #1
LA #2
Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA
San Antonio
Las Vegas
San Jose
Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News

This league is more stripped down, with the format being seven home games and seven road games, playing every team once. The top team is promoted, and the second and third team playoff for promotion, that game possibly being the most lucrative game of the year. Relegation would be determined by a short playoff between all teams that couldn't win five games. Imagine the drama as the Titans try to win five games this year! The whole Vince Young thing would have even more impact.

Now, how would you work out the details? Like salary cap and the draft? I say everybody gets to play at the same salary cap, and NFL II teams are mixed in starting at the third round of the draft, with a few more rounds added at the end. Plenty more debate to be had here.

Of course, the owners may never go for all this because you'd be harming their cash cows. Maybe if they got some cash up front for franchise fess that would help. Are there other problems?

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At 11/03/2009 02:03:00 PM, Blogger Doc said...

Yeah, the salary cap really wouldn't have a huge impact on the primary or secondary leagues, since the higher drafted players (i.e paid more) would be playing for/drafted by the primary league teams anyway. The draft is certainly something that would have to be negotiated, but I like the idea of starting in the 3rd round.

This is again why I think the UFL and the NFL should adopt this model. Right now you have the UFL actually trying to COMPETE with the NFL for talent, viewers, and money. There's no way this is going to work, as we saw in the USFL. The UFL is competing with inferior talent, e.g. those players that couldn't get a roster spot in the NFL. They have done a good job of recruiting successful coaches (Fassel, Haslett, Green), which makes the idea even better.

There are plenty of caoches around, and plenty of up and coming talent like Harbaugh with the Ravens and Tomlin for the Steelers. Why not use this league as a place to develop head coaches and have previous head coaches redeem themselves? It makes sense.

I know this much: people will watch sports in a league that matters, and a Tier 2 league would certainly matter if it's affiliated with the primary league, especially in the relegation/promotion system. Nice work, Mike.

At 11/03/2009 04:44:00 PM, Blogger Chris said...

I like the idea of relegation, but I wonder about the players' motivation. The league will look upon the newly upgraded NFL team as a bunch of guys who weren't good enough to make it in the big time, and I figure quite a few of these guys would get cut and have to play sub-level football for most of their days.

And if you're a new team...you're going to have to spend a bunch on free agents and draft picks to ensure you don't get relegated yourself.

I still like the idea better than what goes on now.

At 11/03/2009 05:06:00 PM, Blogger Mike said...

It's crazy for the UFL to try to compete with it, they need to co-operate. It's the only way to go. But they won't and it will fail, and somebody else will try in a year or two.

Think how many more people would make a living off of this. More teams, more talent, more good coaching... yeah.

At 11/03/2009 05:24:00 PM, Blogger Mike said...

To Chris... the motivation will be huge for the players. If you're a young guy and you shine at the lower level, somebody is going to pick you up. Future Pro-Bowl players are overlooked all the time and fall until the fifth or six round, while the supposed blue-chippers often end up being Ryan Leaf. Who's to say they wouldn't be found in the seventh and eighth round as well? Right now they make a practice squad if they get lucky, and most just hang it up. We're losing a lot of talent with the current setup.

To add to the motivation, if you're in the second league this year, have a two year contract, and have a team pushing for promotion, how could you not be motivated? Next year you are in the big league. And the reverse would happen just as often. Who wants to drop to the lower league? So there wouldn't be nearly as many mail-it-in games as there are now.

And yeah, some guys would end up playing second tier for years. Better than factory work.

To your other point, I think to get into this club, you'd have to pay a franchise fee, and have substantial amounts of money. The Texans fee was freaking $700m, and I bet you could get half that for an NFL II franshise. There has to be some guy in San Antonio with $350m lying around who would be eager to do a better job than Dan Snyder.

I wouldn't expect a new team to qualify for the playoffs right away, but with a quality owner, the right plan, and the right fanbase, they could move up fairly rapidly in the current parity-rich NFL. And the bad owners would be punished. Good.

Still though, good points. A lot to iron out in my fantasy world.

At 7/17/2010 01:19:00 PM, Anonymous reverse lookup said...

This sounds like a stimulus package in the making!


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