Here is a link to my Friday column about the NFL’s desire to add more playoff teams. The full text runs below:

The brain trust of the National Football League will consider a proposal to further screw up their product.

At next week’s league meetings, the NFL competition committee will suggest adding two teams to the postseason lineup beginning in 2015. If you’re keeping count — and you may need a calculator for this — that would raise the number of qualifying teams from 12, already an inflated number, to 14.

If I were on the competition committee I would fight to the death against this playoff inflation — call it postseason bloat. Understand, I am not philosophically against change. But I am against bad change. And this change would be very bad.

There are 32 teams in the NFL. Currently, four division winners and two wild-card teams in each conference qualify for the playoffs. That’s enough. That’s more than enough. Add two more and almost half the league makes it to the playoffs. What a joke.

If the NFL enacts this rule change, it will be committing NBA on itself. To commit NBA is one of the gravest sports crimes. The NBA is comprised of 30 teams. How many make it to the playoffs? Sixteen, that’s how many. More than half the teams in that silly league get into the playoffs. Thirty teams play an 82-game regular-season schedule to eliminate 14 teams. You just want to fall down laughing.

There should be a law against committing NBA — especially in the NFL.

Major League Baseball has the right idea. Thirty teams. Ten get into the playoffs. One-third in. Two-thirds out. See you later, losers, and do better next year if you can.

FYI: Baseball allows into the postseason three division winners and two wild cards in each league. I’d prefer only one wild card per league, but that’s quibbling.

OK, back to the NFL. This is how a 14-team arrangement might work in the postseason. There would be six games instead of four on the first playoff weekend. This might include two Saturday games, three Sunday games and a Monday night game. Big revenue increase for the league.

Why is it awful to invite 14 teams to the big postseason party?

It’s not like Western Civilization as we know it suddenly would crumble. Two more teams certainly would create interest for the fans in cities which would be uninvolved, on the outside looking in. And it would add even more fire to the playoffs. And let’s be clear, the NFL playoffs are as exciting as exciting gets.

I’ll tell you what’s wrong with adding two playoff teams, with allowing 14 to qualify. It dilutes the regular season, diminishes the importance of the regular season.

Remember the thing called the regular season? Allowing almost half the teams to qualify for the postseason makes each regular-season game less important, less valuable. The NBA is the extreme example where regular-season games are cheap and degraded. With the San Antonio Spurs, you never know if coach Gregg Popovich will put out his “A” team or “B” team on a given night. Popovich is forever resting his old stars for the postseason — i.e., the real season.

The NFL does not want to be this, does not want Green Bay resting Aaron Rodgers on a given Sunday because he allegedly has back spasms or an ingrown toenail, does not want Colin Kaepernick standing on the sidelines listening to whatever he listens to on his headphones because he needs a rest.

What is beautiful about the NFL, what makes it sizzle is a simple fact. Almost every regular-season game feels like a playoff game. Almost every regular-season game matters and you feel the thrill in your gut. Allow 14 teams into the playoffs and the regular-season thrill diminishes.

I am lobbying against the loss of thrill. Life needs every thrill it can get. Sports are our avenue to thrills — there are other avenues. Sports are our way to rise above the ordinary for a few hours. Please don’t make the regular season ordinary. We already have enough ordinary in our lives.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and his lieutenants aren’t thinking about the loss of thrill. Thrill shmill. They don’t think at that level. They think about one thing only. Dough. Scratch. Simoleons. Call it what you want. More playoff teams mean more games mean more money. The hell with the integrity of the regular season.


Outmoded concept.

There’s something else. We are losing the concept of excellence. When you limit the number of teams qualifying for the playoffs, when you make it really hard to get into the postseason, you are making a serious distinction between excellent and pretty good. It is an important distinction.

And it means pretty good is not sufficient. Pretty good is not a mark of honor. Never has been. I’m sorry but that’s how it is — and always should be.

The NFL’s postseason is strictly about eliminating one team after another until only the most excellent remains. Nothing nice about that. Or kind. Or cuddly. It’s downright rude. Brutal. It tells 31 teams, “Sorry, you don’t measure up.”

Don’t allow mediocrity to infect the postseason. Keep the excellence in the NFL.

(For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at lowell.cohn@pressdemocrat.com.)


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  1. Gary Bettman

    What’s wrong with 16 playoff teams in a 30 team league?

    Nothing. It’s absolute perfection!

    March 20th, 2014 8:06 pm

  2. Dr. Feelgood

    Well, good luck with that.
    Soon, maybe every team will be in the playoffs, with the regular seasons purpose being to determine seeding
    It’s said that within 3-4 years, NFL game day jerseys will sport commercial advertising/logos. Are you ready for the players coming out of the tunnel with “Bud Lite”, “Cialis”, and “Ford Trucks, “Built Tough”, and more, on their uni’s. Two more playoff teams?, they’re probably exercising restraint.
    As an aside- There are havens in the major entertainment world, places one can attend major productions, see world class performers at the very top of their game. Places where the lights are turned way down low, the seats are comfortable, and the sound is incredible.
    1.) Movie matinees on weekday mornings. It helps if you have night jobs or such or are retired, but you can see the finest films, in near any seat, with very few other patrons in attendance, at a low price.
    2.) The SF Symphony. Much pricier, not as much darkness but pretty good, but absolutely astounding music. A wondrous night out.
    3,) My living room. Having 49er season tickets has jaundiced my view of fellow man. The regulars are stand-up people who for the most part know how to behave in public. It’s the one-off crowd that is loathsome, whose behavior is often times, well, shameful. Or worse. So, I’ve invested in a nice home theater setup and can watch watch games in comfort, no beer flying through the air, and can mute the sound at the first sign of any commercial. (Understand, Will still brave the home games…for now).

    March 20th, 2014 10:05 pm

  3. Mike Hatz

    Wow, something is going on here, Lowell. I find myself agreeing with you on multiple posts in the same calendar week. This almost never happens!

    March 21st, 2014 7:28 am

  4. Frank in Minnesota

    It’s just greed on the owners part and you are right, they are only making a change that would ruin the game….it waters down the season …I am sure that if this playoff structure were to pass that it would affect the quality of the season and players performance….

    March 21st, 2014 8:07 am

  5. mike

    No question, Lowell, it is all about the money. The league can turn around and demand greater revenues from networks for expanded play-offs; demand more revenues from advertising and sponsorship deals; make more dollars from post-season ticket, parking and concession revenues so the owners can pocket some more money.

    Owners also can amp up their profits for their luxury suites and increase their take because the suite lease revenues, contrary to the seats in the suites, are not part of shared dollars.

    Also, players will like it because of the additional dollars that can go towards the salary cap so their contracts can be enriched further.

    Plain and simple, it is a money grab.

    Goodell has to come up with new concepts to put more money in the pockets of the owners to justify the exorbitant money they are paying him, and the NFLPA is not going to go for an 18-game season because of “concerns” about injuries.

    They can charge only so much for the seats in the stadiums and already are fighting the packages offered by Direct TV and Dish which bait some football fans into staying at home rather than going to the stadium.

    March 21st, 2014 8:23 am

  6. CohnZohn

    Matt, This is the start of a beautiful friendship.

    March 21st, 2014 9:58 am

  7. Mark M

    Total agreement. The question I keep wondering is how the NBA will do with a new commish with such a diluted product. The regular season is getting very difficult for me to watch. I haven’t purchased a ticket to a regular season game in over a decade and watching games on TV is pretty tough unless it’s our W’s playing or a particularly good matchup. Still, they appear to be making dough and are looking to expand it seems. It’s annoying.

    The NFL is #1, so let’s see how they screw it up. Adding two more games to the regular season and two playoff teams would be a good first few steps.

    March 21st, 2014 10:37 am

  8. Johnc

    Why Lowell , you made your argument airtight..like a lawyer preparing a brief. More pendantic than usual. I agree with what you said.

    March 21st, 2014 8:29 pm

  9. Johnc


    March 21st, 2014 8:29 pm

  10. Dennis

    The NFL will expand the playoffs and fan interest will increase. Teams already rest starters if nothing is on the line. The move will not diminish anything. Baseball would be better served with less meaningless season games and more teams in the playoffs. The playoffs are where the games get interesting and the more interesting the better.

    March 22nd, 2014 7:54 am

  11. julian

    There’s nothing wrong with the nba’s playoff structure…. Except the eastern conference doesn’t pull it’s weight. The west has more than enough teams to fill their 8 slots, in recent years we’ve seen good playoff worthy teams in the 9th slot having to sit out the playoffs. Then in the east they do a good job of supporting lowells argument. they have two contenders, a couple interesting potentially up and coming teams and then the 7 and 8 seeds have loosing records. that should never happen, if a team has a loosing record in the east their place should be forfeited to a team in the west with a winning record. Maybe the east doesn’t need all those playoff slots, but the west certainly does..

    March 25th, 2014 11:12 am

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