The New England Patriots win the NFL!
Well, maybe not yet, but let's imagine a couple changes we would see if American football leagues (NFL and College) were more like English Football (Soccer, and the English Premier League).
League champion in the EPL is determined by the best regular season record, and then by goal differential as the first tiebreaker. That's it. Done. No playoffs, no wildcards, no elimination games. Nada.
The NFL ended this regular season with 5 teams sharing a 12-4 record: New England Patriots, Denver Broncos, Seattle Seahawks, Dallas Cowboys, and Green Bay Packers. But the New England Patriots have the best point differential with 468 points scored and only 313 points allowed, for a +155 dif.
As we sit here ready to head into my favorite football weekend - the Divisional Playoffs, with 4 games on the slate, each of which has a win or go home at stake (Not to mention the first ever college football playoff championship game on Monday..), I couldn't imagine having already crowned a champion. That would be a travesty.
Even worse would be those seasons where a dominant team finishes 15-1 or 14-2 and wins the League Championship with two weeks left in the season. Yuck!
Promotion and Relegation
On the flip side of no playoffs is the most awesome system for rewards and punishment ever created.
Finish at or near the top of your division, and you get promoted up to a higher division. Finish at or near the bottom of your division and you get relegated down to the next lower division. This is the exact opposite of giving the first draft pick to the worst team. Instead of rewarding ineptitude, you kick it out of the league and bring in another team who has shown they can be successful.
This would be difficult for the NFL to do, because they don't have a minor league. But imagine the college football landscape:
In the PAC-12 Conference this year, Colorado finished 0-9 and Oregon St was 2-7 (tied with Washington St but WSU won the point dif tiebreaker), so CU and OSU would get relegated to the Mountain West Conference next year, while Boise St and Colorado St would get promoted from the Mountain West into the PAC-12 after having finished 7-1 and 6-2, respectively, in the Mountain West.
Taking it a step further, UNLV finished 1-7 in the Mountain West and Wyoming was 2-6 (so were San Jose St and New Mexico, but we'll use the point differential tiebreaker again), so they could be relegated to the Big Sky Conference next season, while Eastern Washington and Montana would get promoted from the Big Sky into the Mountain West.
Next season in that system you would have Montana playing against Colorado as a conference game! Wow, and if only...
Eventually the perennial doormats would end up in the lower divisions, while the dominant programs would have more challenging competition. Even better, every team would have the same opportunity to reach the top of the pyramid through successful hiring, recruiting, facilities development, and teamwork.
I'm enjoying soccer more and more every year. It's not football yet, but it's a good watch and it has some ideas to offer that could make our football even better. Just a little something to think about as we head into a great football weekend.