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Wednesday Walkthroughs: Our weirdest ideas for fixing the NFL

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What would make the NFL better? Let’s think big, not small things like “consistent officiating.” Here are our wild, crazy ideas for fixing the league.

Green Bay Packers v Denver Broncos Photo by Joe Amon/The Denver Post via Getty Images

These are crazy times. We at Acme Packing Company think we need to introduce a little crazy into the NFL. Here are our wildest ideas for changing the league. You wanna get nuts? Let’s get nuts.

Matub - RELEGATION

I’m a big fan of football, as we all know. I’m also a big fan of science fiction literature. Those two things come together in a novel by Scott Sigler. His Galactic Football League series is extrapolative sci-fi that takes place about 700 years in the future. In this version of the game, each position is dominated by a different alien species with regular Earth humans mostly only playing QB and TE (there’s a planet of humans with three times Earth’s gravity where they evolved to be apelike and play as interior linemen, but I digress).

A notable difference between the GFL and the NFL in terms of teams is the GFL follows a league structure similar to that of soccer. There are three levels of play. The third level is more of a development league while the 2nd and 1st are the premier products. The end of the Tier 2 season brings a tournament in which the winner gets sent up to Tier 1. Conversely, the Tier 1 team with the worst record is automatically sent back down to Tier 2.

Imagine an NFL where the best XFL team replaces the [checks notes] Cincinnati Bengals. This would prevent teams from tanking for draft position and also make the last few games of the season matter, even to the bottom of the standings. This also means we’d get to see PJ Walker play in the NFL sooner rather than later, and I’m VERY much on board with that.

Alex Crawford: Rearranging the Divisions

I think it is time for a big shake up within the NFL. Aside from the new 17 game season and playoff rules, there should be a rearrangement of the divisions to allow the teams to be as close as possible. Both to make travel easier on the NFL players, but it would also ramp up rivalries.

A big part of this change would be the reduction in average flight time for teams within the division. The longest flights would only be 2 and half hours for games between the Chiefs and Raiders, Chiefs and Cardinals and the Los Angeles teams against the Seahawks. Currently the longest flight is when the Dolphins and Bills play each other. Of course, there will still be long flights if say the Seahawks and Dolphins play each other, but it is more for cutting down time within the division.

An important part of this change is keeping key rivalries in the same division. The Packers and Bears would stay in the same division, but so would teams like the Panthers v Falcons, Seahawks v 49ers and Eagles v Giants. New rivalries could form, particularly between teams that were in the same state that are now in the same division, such as the Cowboys and Texans.

Another addition to this crazy idea: Also have the NBA, MLB, NHL, and MLS all rearranged their divisions to follow as closely as possible to the NFL. I.e all the Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Michigan teams are all in a division together in every league.

Below would be a breakdown of the new NFL divisions.

  • NFC North: Packers, Vikings, Lions, Bears
  • NFC South: Panthers, Falcons, Jaguars, Dolphins
  • NFC East: Washington, Ravens, Eagles, Giants
  • NFC West: Seahawks, 49ers, Rams, Chargers (move back to San Diego!)
  • AFC North: Titans, Colts, Browns, Bengals
  • AFC South: Cowboys, Texans, Saints, Buccaneers
  • AFC East: Steelers, Jets, Bills, Patriots
  • AFC West: Chiefs, Broncos, Raiders, Cardinals

Tex Western: Divest private ownership of all NFL teams to the fans

Having billionaires own sports teams is dumb. Some rich family or person buys a team to stroke his ego and have a fun toy to play with, and in the case of an NFL team, rake in boatloads of money. Meanwhile, the Green Bay Packers continue on functioning with thousands of owners who are joined by a single common goal: seeing their team win.

The point of sports, fundamentally, is to entertain the fans. So why not have the fans own every team instead of just one?

My proposal is to force every NFL owner to divest themselves of their team using the Packers’ stock sale model as a basis. Let the fans choose to own shares in their team, vote for members of the teams’ boards of directors, and feel a sense of direct pride in the organization, while giving the owners the funds raised by the sale as compensation. You have a small, not very dedicated fan base? Looks like you’re not getting a ton of cash from Jags fans, Shad Khan — you should have run the team better. Jerry Jones, for all his faults, gets a huge payback from Cowboys fans, and he probably deserves to. Now get out of the football business unless you have valid credentials that consist of more than just the number of zeros in your Swiss bank account.

And now, instead of rich, greedy jerks pocketing huge amounts of money and paying the players less than half of the league’s revenue, the people on the field can finally start receiving most of the money that rolls in.

(Or, maybe all this would do is convince fans of other NFL teams to stop crowing about us Packers fans framing mostly meaningless pieces of paper and hanging them on our walls. That’s good enough for me too.)

Jon Meerdink: Ban kicking specialists

Most NFL teams punt too often and kick too many field goals. No amount of statistical evidence seems to sway decision makers toward becoming more aggressive.

So I propose to take away the one thing making those decisions easy: kicking specialists.

You want to punt on 4th and 2 from your opponent’s 43-yard line? Go ahead, but it’s not going to be with your punter. Good luck dropping that punt inside the five now! You want to kick a field goal when your drive stalls out at the 26? Great! Hope you’re confident in whoever you choose to take that shot.

To be clear, I don’t want to eliminate these plays. I think there are ways you could allow them to continue. For instance, you could allow kicks to take place, but the kick must be performed by someone who was on the field for the prior down. Maybe that would see the return of lineman kickers in the vein Lou “The Toe” Groza or even Jerry Kramer.

I don’t see a downside either way: we’d either get coaches being more aggressive (and smart) or non-kickers doing kicker things. That’s a win-win for me. Who doesn’t want more of this:

Paul Noonan: Extra Points for Laterals

Do you like laterals? Do you like chaos? Do you like random silly turnovers? Me too, which is why I would award an offense one extra point per successful lateral on a play that scores a touchdown. This would incentivize exciting plays (especially from trailing opponents), careless risk-taking, and at the end of the game, it would allow a team to come back from all but the most severe deficits.

Partially, I just enjoy option football and would like to see more creativity with option laterals generally. There was a time not that long ago when coaches and players were perfectly comfortable with one lateral per play. I long for those days and wish to make triple options and hook and ladders standard.

Matub: I change my answer to Paul’s answer