How can we fix the NFL?

Opinion - The United Free
Shawn Gallagher

So we have seen plenty of issues these days with the current state of the NFL.  Many people I know have boycotted the NFL over the National Anthem kneeling controversy and off the field issues with players getting arrested, etc. I respect both those that boycott the league or don't, although I still watch the games, I'm a lifelong Cleveland Browns fan and grew up watching them nearly every Sunday, plus I also like to punish myself :).  As far as this article goes, I want to focus mostly on the NFL on-field product, and how we can actually fix the actual gameplay, so fans are happy with the league and not frustrated or angered as many are now. I will pinpoint 3 main problems with the league based upon my own personal observations and suggestions on how to fix the league!

  1. Commissioner – Yes it starts at the top of course, as quite simply, Roger Goodell is a very poor NFL commissioner. The biggest issue I see with him is that he doesn't really show a strong firm sense of leadership, instead of being pro-active, he is more reactive. For example, he's done a lot of things in reaction to what the players want, so if the players want to protest the National anthem, they pretty much are able to, despite whatever rules the league already has, that Goodell doesn't enforce. Goodell also has shown big inconsistency as far as player discipline is concerned, for example, stars like Ezekiel Elliott and Ben Roethlisberger have both had lengthy suspensions based on “allegations” and not convictions.  Former Browns WR Josh Gordon has now been suspended for several years over failed “drug tests” including testing positive for “Beer” and “Weed” for that matter, pretty excessive if you ask me! Major scandals under Goodell involving the New England Patriots have been totally mishandled by the NFL, this included the infamous “Spygate” and “Deflategate” scandals, where the league seemed to make blunder after blunder during this investigations, severely hurting NFL credibility. A new commissioner to take control of the league and grab the reins is much needed here, like Donald Trump would be good for this role for example, but of course, he's a bit busy right now 😉 
  2. Going overboard on player safety –  First off, I like the league certainly trying to make things safer for players, like making safer helmets or equipment for example, but I think things have gone too far as far as rules go to attempt to protect players. For example, the league has nearly made quarterbacks untouchable, as if you are on a practice field, and the quarterback wears a different color jersey, and players can get in trouble just for touching the guy, or hitting the guy in an attempted sack. The league rules for targeting have also gotten out of control, as players get huge fines and ejections for helmet to helmet hits, where most times a helmet to helmet hit is not intentional as you have too many players going full speed at each other trying to make a play. The league's “concussion protocol” procedures have also become a joke, as small or large hits to the head are part of the game, and are pretty unavoidable.  Since the beginning of the league, players understand that they are putting their body and health at long-term risk, but agree to it, as the big money and TV endorsements turn players into American Superheroes. 
  3. Officiating – Quite frankly, NFL officiating is absolutely horrible, and has been declining over past several years. Way too many penalty calls are flat out incorrect, unnecessary, or inconsistent. The great John Madden once said that “there is holding on every play, it just depends on if its called”, which I agree with John here, however, the NFL really doesn't need to call as many holding penalties as they do, especially if they are weak calls, or not relevant to the actual play. Calls like Pass interference are called rather excessively, making it nearly impossible for a good defensive back to simply make a play. Other weak calls such as “Illegal Shift” or “Motion” are mostly unnecessary, but called too much.  Its as if I will watch a touchdown or big play happening, and you sit there waiting a few seconds for some kind of unnecessary penalty to be called, ruining the play. At times, officiating is so bad, you sit there and wonder if a game is “fixed”, as referee play is totally inconsistent to put it lightly. My solution is to pay referees a higher salary, but with more training provided, and many less unnecessary penalties or incorrect calls. 
  4. Finally the NFL, is a game I grew up loving since I was a kid in the 1980's, I couldn't wait for Sunday games and church to end right before the games. Certainly some things have changed over the years, but bringing back the passion and fun of the old days of  league, can and should still happen today in 2018, so that the NFL can shake the nickname of the “No Fun League” !