We may be knee-deep into the baseball season and the basketball play-offs, but the National Football League has become America's year-round pastime and the NFL has a few issues to deal with this off-season. The first is the upcoming decision by the NFL on whether to award the 2014 Super Bowl to Tampa or to New York City.
I know this seems like it is a long time away, but these decisions will change the Super Bowl for years to come. For years, northern cities such as Seattle, Boston and now New York have built new stadiums with hopes of getting the league to award them a Super Bowl. For the most part, Roger Goodell, the NFL commissioner, and his predecessor have followed the unwritten rule that if you build a new stadium, a Super Bowl is on the way. That is how it happened in Arizona and Houston and how it will happen in Dallas next year.
What do those cities have in common? Warm weather. If the NFL were to give the 2014 Super Bowl to New York City, it would run the risk of the big game being played in either painfully cold weather or snow or both. The Super Bowl has become the big holiday for American football. The teams, fans and media spend the week in the sun preparing for and publicising the title game. Would it be possible to do that in a snowstorm?
Critics of the idea of giving a cold-weather city a Super Bowl say they do not want to watch the game in adverse weather conditions and point out that the players have the best opportunity to display their talents in a domed stadium or an outdoor stadium somewhere warm. I see their point, but I think that by keeping the Super Bowl away from northern cities, the NFL are missing the chance for a true classic game.
Could you imagine the Steelers versus the Cowboys in a driving snowstorm in New York? I get chills just picturing it. Also, the rough weather could keep the games closer. Less chance for a boring blow-out victory. I love going to San Diego or Miami for the Super Bowl, but an occasional visit to Chicago, Seattle or Buffalo would be novel. The other, more serious issue for the NFL is the out-of-control salaries of the top rookies coming into the league.
The idea of the NFL draft is that the worst teams pick first to increase their level of talent and make them more competitive. The problem is that the higher your pick, the more you pay that player and the less money you have to spend overall to improve your team. In 2009, the Detroit Lions were the worst team in the NFL and had the top pick in the draft. They chose Matthew Stafford, a quarterback from the University of Georgia, and signed him to a huge contract six years for US$72 million (Dh264m). Stafford may lead the Lions back to respectability, but what if he does not? They just spent millions on an unknown commodity. There is no way an unproven college kid should be paid more than veteran players.
Two weeks ago, the Oakland Raiders cut Jamarcus Russell, a quarterback who was the first overall pick in the 2007 draft. He was awful in his three seasons with the Raiders and he cost them around $40m. How did having the top pick in the draft help this team? These days, nobody wants to sign the No 1 pick. It is too risky and too costly. The NFL needs to go the way of the NBA, where there is a controlled salary structure for incoming rookies so that the veterans make the lion's share of the money and no team is forced to spend tons of money on an unproven rookie. The NFL Players Union is in place to protect the players' rights. They should start thinking more about the veterans than the rookies. @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org