[This is my column in The Commercial Review from Thursday.]
If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it, right?
That’s how I feel about the NFL Playoffs.
Commissioner Roger Goodell thinks otherwise.
In 2006, Goodell was elected as head of the most popular league in America, and since then he has made his mark on changing the game.
He introduced the new NFL Personal Conduct Policy in 2007, where players could be suspended for their actions off the field.
And there are the fines his office likes to give out for conduct on the field. No one has been fined more since the league cracked down on behavior on the field than Detroit Lions’ defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.
But that debate will be reserved for a later date.
Now, there’s the discussion of expanding the 12-team playoff format by adding one, or maybe two, more playoff teams in each conference.
Again, if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.
The NFL playoff system isn’t broken. Here’s why:
In the last 10 years, only one team has made the playoffs with a losing record. The 2010 Seattle Seahawks made it to the postseason in coach Pete Carroll’s first year by winning the NFC West with a lackluster 7-9 record.
In the same span, however, five teams have made the playoffs with an 8-8 record. Two — San Diego in 2008 and Denver in 2011 — were division winners.
Currently, 12 out of 32 teams (32 percent) make the playoffs.
In the four major sports, it is third highest.
For comparison, the NBA has 30 teams, and more than half (16 teams, 53 percent) make the playoffs.
Since 2004, nine teams have had a losing record and still made the postseason. Twice, there was more than one team with a record below .500. It happened in the 2003-04 season, and again in 2007-08.
The NHL, also a 30-team league, has 16 teams make the Stanley Cup Playoffs, like the NBA, but in the same 10-year span not one team has made the playoffs with a losing record.
The NHL standings are based less on win-loss record and more on a point system; two points for a win, one point for an overtime loss and zero points for a loss in regulation with the top eight teams in each conference making the playoffs.
Although it is possible for a team to make the playoffs with a losing record, it is very uncommon.
Major League Baseball, another 30-team league, has the fewest playoff teams with 10. Like the NHL, only teams with winning records have made the postseason since 2004.
If Roger Goodell and the league owners choose to expand the playoff format so half of the teams make the playoffs, it will just water down the regular season.
Recently, the NFL changed its schedule so the last few weeks of the season pit division rivals against one another. This was to put more importance on the final games of the season so teams did not have the option of resting key players for the playoffs.
During the final week of this season, 13 of the 16 games had playoff implications. It made for a thrilling week of football.
The only downside to the playoffs is the way teams are seeded. We saw an 8-7-1 Green Bay team win the NFC North and host a 12-4 San Francisco squad in the Wild Card round.
Why the NFL still allows teams to play to a tie is again a topic for a later debate.
Still, there is no need to expand to 16 teams. It just opens the door for teams with a losing record or teams that are 8-8 to make the playoffs.
Why reward mediocrity?
Like the MLB and NHL, the NFL playoff system is not broken. It’s exciting. It’s effective. It works.
Don’t change it.