NFL system: Equality and justice for all

The National Football League has tried it's best to design a system that will keep all teams competitive each year. They designed a draft of college players so the teams with the worse records draft first. This should help the teams with the worse records become better quickly, right? Not so fast.

It actually is hurting the pocket books of some of these losing teams because most of the time, the poorest owners are losing and paying out the most money for draft choices. It also is not allowing these losing teams to trade their early round picks for multiple draft choices.

The reason for this is that early first round selections are being paid at a rate five times more money than winning, richer teams having later first round selections. These losing teams are paying well over 20 million dollars for unproven college kids, and worse yet, no team will trade up in Round One because no team wants to guarantee these high amounts of money. Thus teams will not move up in the draft and give up multiple draft picks.

If the high amounts of cash now being paid out by early round drafting teams had a salary cap and rookie scale that is more equitable, then teams with better records would be more likely to move up in the draft process and give up multiple draft picks, if there is a player they want at the top of the draft.

The premise of the draft is a good one. The problem now exists because the owners have placed themselves in a position of paying out large amounts of money for unproven rookie players. These problems need to be addressed sooner rather than later if the owners and players alike want to improve their system.

Another way the NFL felt it could make things more equal for all teams and better for the fans and television networks, was to have a schedule that rotates all teams in each conference every three years. This would be exciting and allow each team and each city to play everyone in each conference but still allow teams within their own division to continue their rivalries every year. The NFL even has it set up where teams with winning records from each division face teams with the best records, and the worse teams face teams with losing records within their conferences. Seems like a great plan right?

That means that each year, including this 2008 schedule, would have the best teams, the Playoff and Super Bowl teams having the toughest schedules. But this is not the case in 2008 and hasn't been true in other years either.

The way the NFL determines the strength of the schedule each year is, it takes all opponents each team will be playing in the coming season (2008) and adds up wins and losses from the previous year getting a winning percentage and placing each team in positions 1-32 for difficulty of schedule.

This means teams like the Ravens, who won five games and finished last in their division, should have an easier schedule than the Super Bowl participant Patriots. But, the Ravens actually have the fifth hardest schedule in 2008, along with the Bengals (seventh hardest), the Titians (sixth) and Texans (eighth), none of which made the Playoffs.

In 2008 the Patriots, a Playoff team in recent years, have the easiest strength of schedule at 32nd along with the San Diego Chargers at 31. The Dallas Cowboys' schedule strength comes in at 14th hardest along with Super Bowl Champion New York Giants at 16th. Nine teams that did not make the Playoffs in 2007 have harder schedules then the Giants and Cowboys. Worse than that, the Patriots and Chargers' schedules are easier than thirty other teams.

Can or should this be changed? Should Playoff teams in both conferences be forced to face each other the following year while low win teams play each other? It would present a scheduling nightmare, and the same teams would face each other year after year for a period of years. Fans would not get to see or watch the entire league every three years. Therefore, the league should leave things the way they are.

The main reason the strength of schedule sometimes comes out the way that it did in 2008 is because teams within their own division are weaker. For example, the AFC East with Buffalo, the Jets and Miami who had very poor winning records in 2007, makes the Patriots schedule a lot easier in 2008 than the Ravens in the AFC North Division with teams like Pittsburgh and the Cleveland Browns who both won 10 or more games in 2007, and who the Ravens play twice each year.

The NFL always maintains that any team can beat any other team on any given Sunday which sometimes happens. But, in 2008 all fans know that the Patriots and Chargers will be in the Playoffs barring major injuries to many key players, and Miami will not.

NFL does try to make the playing field equal and just in as many ways as is humanly possible for the fans enjoyment. That's all we as fans can expect. We will still enjoy the games no matter how hard the schedule may be this year. We will follow our favorite teams each week because the NFL is a special event that we truly love to watch and enjoy.

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.

Ravens Insider Top Stories