Everything Wrong With the NFL, In One Play

| November 3rd, 2017

There were audible screams in the basement bar on Waverly Place. Zach Miller had caught a perfect Trubisky toss in the end zone but nobody seemed to notice anything but his leg. My God, his leg. On replay it was even worse. Maybe it was shown a third time on television, maybe it wasn’t. I wouldn’t know. I wasn’t watching. I went to the toilet, disgusted.

When I came out of the bathroom, Miller’s season was over and somehow the NFL had determined they had enough visual data to overturn the touchdown. Not sure which of the two sickened me more.

The Zach Miller Touchdown illuminated everything currently dragging down this great sport and formerly great league.

Forget about anthem protests. They’ll be a thing of memory in a few months. Forget about declining ratings. Television ratings are plummeting everywhere, and will continue to as cable companies lose their monopolistic grip on home entertainment. Forget about head injuries and CTE. People will always play this game and people will always watch.

What will bring the league down?

Injuries & Greed

Aaron Rodgers. Andrew Luck. Deshaun Watson. David Johnson. Dalvin Cook. Odell Beckham Jr. Julian Edelman. Joe Thomas. Jason Peters. JJ Watt. Eric Berry.

These are not bottom of the roster journeymen. These are the faces of the NFL. These are the stars of the league. And the NFL is the only sport on earth that has to endure losing its men at a rate comparable to the Tet Offensive.

And it’s not only marquee power the league is losing. When players go down like this, it renders teams non-competitive at times. The Chicago Bears are only halfway through their season and they have lost their three top pass-catching options. Look at what their passing game is as a result. The Houston Texans have lost three of their top four pass rushers and now the league’s best defense a year ago is allowing nearly twenty-seven points per game.

Is there a solution? Quite possibly not. It’s quite possible, as the players keep getting bigger and stronger, the injuries will continue to mount. But the league could be taking proactive steps to ensure franchises aren’t completely crippled by the loss of players to injury. How?

  • Increase roster sizes to 70. Would this cost far more money? Yes. Adding 17 men to the payroll would be expensive. Oh, and by expensive I mean it would cost about $10 million to franchises worth BILLIONS. And it would be the only way for teams to actually develop from within. Every single team in this league should have a developmental quarterback on their roster. Every one. And a development edge rusher. And a developmental wide receiver. And on and on.
  • Eliminate the practice squad. How did owners get away with this? “We want you on our team but we don’t want to pay you to be on our team”? It is difficult to develop young players in the NFL if another franchise can poach them at any moment.
  • Change the IR rules. There is no reason that a player injured in Week One should be ruled out of a possible postseason appearance. Go to a 4 game, 8 game, IR structure. With 70 player rosters, teams only get to replace the player once they are fully on IR.
  • Mid-Season Trade Exemption. The NFL trade deadline is usually a bore because it is so difficult to find a player that fits your organization’s need that also fits under your salary cap. Why not grant each team the opportunity to exceed the cap – with a penalty – for adding a player with an in-season trade?
  • Loans. For those of you who don’t know how soccer around the world works, many of the bigger clubs allow their young talent to develop by loaning the players to weaker clubs to gain experience. The caveat is that player can’t play against them. What if the Pats could have loaned Jimmy Garoppolo to the Packers for a second-round pick? What if the Bears could loan Charles Leno to the Eagles for their second-half run towards a title? This is never going to happen. But that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be considered.

These solutions are not going to keep players from getting hurt. But they are would severely lessen the impact of those injuries if implemented correctly.


Zach Miller’s catch was a catch. Every single human being who watched the Bears play the Saints last Sunday believed it was a catch. Every single human, that is, except Alberto Riveron in the league office.

Football is a moment-to-moment game. It doesn’t build like a baseball game or have huge point swings like the NBA. It’s fireworks, loud and colorful. But the rules and refereeing have removed the fan’s ability to be in the moment with the game. It is no longer possible to celebrate a fifty-yard run because fans are left waiting for yellow to appear on the field. It’s no longer possible to sing the fight song after a touchdown catch because who knows what a catch is anymore?

Is this fixable? Of course it is.

  • Flags for egregious penalties only. Refs should only call holding, offensive/defensive pass interference and illegal contact if the infraction is both obvious and has a discernible impact on the play. Would anyone complain if we saw fewer holds? Does anyone think this new focus on OPI is good for the game?
  • A catch is a catch. Enough with going to the ground and completing the process. Possession of the ball. Two feet down. That’s it. That’s a catch. That was a catch for the entirety of football’s life and that should be what a catch is forever.

Every decision made on officiating during Roger Goodell’s tenure has involved INCREASING the number of flags thrown. How does he think that’s good for viewers of the sport? Well…

Rudderless Leadership

Roger Goodell is the worst commissioner in the history of professional sports. Yes, he is the employee of the thirty-two owners but his gutless, money-grabbing and misguided decisions are hurting the sport every single day.

The refereeing is a disaster. But we’ve talked about that already.

The anthem protests could have been handled the day after they took place but Goodell has let it linger and linger and linger.

Thursday Night Football is despised by players and coaches and 75% of the games have been hard to watch. Goodell overly saturating the airwaves with the NFL has finally turned off high-ranking network partners, like Sean McManus at CBS.

The Chargers are playing in an empty soccer stadium.

Just look at what player discipline has become. Arbitrary fines and suspensions for on-field conduct and even MORE arbitrary suspensions for what happens off-field. Do the owners really believe it’s good for them to have Ezekiel Elliot tying up the American court system in an effort to play some football games?

Look at the other sports and you’ll find commissioners trying to solve problems. Look at the NFL and you’ll see a commissioner creating them.

It was a moment. One play. But everything in that moment and what has ensued tells the story of a declining NFL. And that should make all of us who love this sport so dearly so very sad.

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