RETRO RELAPSE is a series of older articles from various places where I used to write before Talking Pulp.
*Written in 2014.
The English Premier League and most of European soccer has been around longer than the National Football League in its modern form (post AFL). Being a long time soccer fan, I have always been a big fan of the way the Premier League and most European leagues handle their shit. The structure of the EPL is awesome.
The NFL could benefit greatly by adopting a similar system. I know this is a pipe dream and probably too big of a feat to accomplish at this point but imagine a league of twenty teams, the bottom three each year get relegated to a lower league while the top three in the lower league get promoted to the big time NFL.
There would then be multiple lower leagues, like in English soccer, where teams would move up and down depending upon where they finish. This would open the floodgates for expansion and allow a lot more markets the accessibility of having a professional football team. Even if your local team didn’t fare well and get into the top level NFL league, they could still fight for championships in lower levels. It’d be like the pandemonium we have with all the bowl games in college. Multiple playoffs in multiple levels of the sport would be pretty fucking awesome. And yes, I said playoffs but I’ll get more into that further down.
In the Premier League, schedule strength isn’t even an issue and the playing field is level and fair. The reason being, every team in the twenty team structure plays each other once at home and once on the road. Again, everyone plays everyone on home ground and enemy ground once.
Now could the NFL have a 38 game season? No, even though from a fan’s perspective, that’d be awesome. They could however, have a 19 game season and just play each team once. Who gets home game advantage can be determined in some diplomatic fair way by some dudes in suits making a lot more money than me. Additionally, you could make the season 21 weeks and give these guys two bye weeks to rest because honestly, I don’t think one bye week is enough now. I’d even be in favor of expanding it to three bye weeks in a 22 week season. Think of all the football!
Now in the Premier League, there are no playoffs. The team with the most points at the end of the season is the champion. I’d change that however and make a 6 team playoff. The top two ranked teams get a first round bye while teams ranked third through sixth meet in the first week of a three week playoff; the winners going on to play the two top teams in a final four situation and those winners of those games playing for the championship. It’s fair, it’s easy and it’s badass! I would actually implore the Premier League to adopt this same playoff system even if it gets the traditionalists in an uproar. Playoffs mean more games, more money and more excitement!
I’d say that the NFL should go to three leagues of twenty teams, making a total of sixty teams. That nearly doubles the professional squads that we have now and increases the amount of local tribalism. All these states and large cities that don’t have teams can now have them. And hell, maybe the teams that continually flounder in the NFL, like the Cleveland Browns, can go on to win championships and have success once being relegated to a lower league. I’m not saying that to be disrespectful to Cleveland because in college basketball for example, no one ever complained after winning the NIT. In fact, those teams rejoiced and felt accomplished. This also doesn’t mean that teams like the Browns can’t fight for their spot to stay in the top tier NFL. In fact, this might improve competition between all the teams.
I know that from an economics standpoint, that it might not seem feasible for smaller markets to have a professional football team but if British soccer can have stadiums for dozens upon dozens of teams in their much smaller nation, America can get this done. Besides, not every stadium has to be Cowboys Stadium. Smaller markets can have smaller venues but it’d still be awesome. Hell, rent out some college fields.
This may all seem like a crazy idea and it probably is but I think that it’d improve the sport, breed more competition, create a lot more revenue, give more opportunity to players and give the fans so much more than what they have now. I wish I had a time machine and a shit ton of money so I could go back to the 1920s, buy a team and pressure the league into taking shape like this at its early stage.