What Needs Fixing?

We Know What's Right in the NFL, But What Needs Fixing?

What a great NFL season 2008 has been. Again this year some great surprise teams who did not win last year are now in the playoffs. Teams that looked in deep despair after last year hired new management, new coaches and with a good draft and smart free agent signings, and with some also managing the cap well, are now in the playoffs. Teams like Atlanta and Miami are set and most likely Baltimore could be in the playoffs. This shows how playing under the current NFL standards can change a team from a losing one into an instant winner with a bright future in just a short time frame and give a city a new, exciting team to cheer for each year.

But what would make this league and this sport even better? Let's look ahead and see what would make the state of this game even better. First, a new contract must be signed and agreed on by all parties before an uncap year is allowed to take place. If that happens, it will destroy all that has been accomplished in having a very successful cap system and millions in revenue dollars from TV and sports merchandise. The players and management alike need to realize before it's too late, that changes are needed and all parties need to compromise on a new contract which includes a better and more equal distribution of all these millions of dollars in many different areas for continued success. However, if it is to be accomplished, it must be done sooner rather than later, and a strike would be the biggest set back this game has ever seen.

What needs to be done is the following:

1. A rookie salary cap with the extra rookie cap money that is currently being used and wasted on unproven rookies be put into the veterans salary cap and upgrade the current veteran minimum salaries. A maximum rookie bonus for each drafted player and placed on a scale by drafting order not to exceed one million dollars for the top drafted player and maximum contract of 2-3 years so proven rookies can earn veteran bonuses and salaries if they are quality NFL players in the future. If a rookie sits out with an injury the first year or two thirds of those games that year, the year does not count as a NFL season that leads to a veteran contract in the future and an extra year can and should be automatically added to the rookies contract deal.

2. This means with less amounts being given to the rookies, the veteran players total money distributions would then be given in more guaranteed money in salary contracts. For example, since the TV contract money is usually increased with each new deal and salary cap money is increased each year, raise the veteran minimum salaries per year up by using salary cap money from money now given to rookies.

Make any new veteran contract signed by a player that has been in the league at least three years be at least two years in guaranteed money even if player is cut or injured during the new contract.

Second, change the instant replay system now! Since most teams and coaches seemed to like the replay system, the owners and TV networks should together spend the money needed to make it right. If hockey can have a way of showing if a puck crosses the goal electronically without a referee's judgment, then so can the richer NFL to improve their game. All stadiums should be changed so that all line calls can be accomplished by an electronic system. Each line, side line, goal line, or first down line should be done with modern electronic technology. No instant replay should be done by the human eye or have human error involved.

Next, when a play is reviewed, do not allow the referee to be the determining judge. Have two officials in the replay booth make that determination using larger screens and all TV access cameras. One replay official would be appointed by the league office, the other by the union and all current roster players could then vote at the beginning of each year (after 53 man rosters are selected). These officials (players) could be hired from retired veterans NFL players, many from years ago with good pay being offered. If they, the replay officials in the booth, cannot agree, then the ruling on the field is unchanged just like the days before instant replay, right or wrong.

Next, allow all players to wear electronic head sets in each game. Also, why not allow referees and head coaches have a head set on a different frequency? Timeouts and challenges could be communicated by coaches that way. All this can be accomplished now if the NFL is willing to spend the money to get it corrected.

Change the "tuck" rule on quarterback fumble issue. If a quarterback's arm is not moving forward, it should be a fumble and be reviewable. If a defense can rush a quarterback and he cannot get rid of the ball in time or take a sack, don't allow him to just get a free ride and the offense keep the ball because he is trying desperately now to gather the ball back in or "tuck" it back in to avoid a fumble, a fumble should be the ruling on the field and the defense rewarded.

Do not allow a referee's whistle to cancel a fumble even if it stops play because a quarterback is involved. It's bad enough that the defense could have recovered and be cheated out of a touchdown return or a large run back, at least give them the ball if they recover it! Allow a defensive player to "chuck" or push or contact an offensive receiver at anywhere on the field as long as the ball is not in the air and the offensive player is in front of him.

Third, change the way the six teams in the playoffs are seeded and how each division is determined the following season. The playoff system is really a mess when bad teams (Arizona, Vikings, or Bears, Denver or San Diego) not only make the playoffs, but teams winning 11 games could be left out, and these bad teams get a home game and in some year in the future could have a first round bye. The seeding should be by wins and losses, not division winners.

Fourth, since bad teams emerge each year and there are usually at least eight, and you now rotate games anyway every three years, rearrange all divisions by wins and losses within the conference before each new season.

Take each conference and total wins and losses by each team in that year and realign each division the following year.

For example, looking at this year in the AFC and each team's won and lost record at the end of the 2008 season; the new alignment in 2009 could be as follows:

Division One: Pittsburgh, Houston, Buffalo and Kansas City

Division Two: Titans, Jets, Oakland, Browns

Division Three: Patriots, Bengals, Jacksonville, and Chargers

Division Four: Colts, Denver, Ravens, Miami

You can still have rival teams play each other twice a year such as Jets/Patriots, Ravens/Steelers, Colts/Titans. Also, only two top teams in each new division would play each other and the bottom two teams do the same, but never top two teams play bottom two that year. The last four games against NFC division will be different each year unless more rivalry games are desired from old divisions by some owners. If so, then the scheduling of the NFC rotation system can be abolished.

With the new alignments, many new exciting games can be seen at more equal levels for better TV games and more fan interest. Two additional games will also be played with best record teams facing each other (this year, Pittsburgh vs. Titans). This schedule would make best teams each year play against each other guaranteeing them toughest schedules while still keeping rivalry games in tact. I know all this would make the NFL even better than it is now, but will it ever happen? I don't know, but this is my football wish for this and every holiday season.

Next, and lastly, allow rule changes within the new contract agreement when signed by all parties. This could include such new provisions as making players responsible for their guilty actions on and off the field punishable with bonus monies returned, and make all players sign new contracts that in detail outline time limits for returning such monies if and when a player is found in violation by the league in each case.

Also, have in the new players' contract that the players cannot take whatever league action is decided to a court of law and also have the union agree that no grievances will be filed by the union for any bad offenses in the next contract signed. If a player has been determined on film and by league committee to have shown intent to seriously injure another player, that guilty player sits out without pay, the same amount of games as the injured player.

All suspensions or fines for any rule infractions of this type in any game will be determined by the league office by a new committee of former players (selected by the union) and league officials of at least four, not more than six people (equally split two or three from each side). A majority of votes will be needed for any penalties to be enforced. All misconduct and penalties for off the field violations still will be determined by the NFL league commissioner. These changes are needed now and all are important. Players and owners need to move forward in today's game and implement the necessary steps to insure that the NFL remains America's best sport.

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