I’m with Wayne Weaver on this one. The NFL owners should have blown the whole thing up and started over. Even Weaver’s idea of 16 teams in each conference playing one game against everybody else and one game against the other conference sounded intriguing.
Wild, but intriguing.
Instead, the owners opted for the “old” rivalries, ones that have been around, in some cases, since the league started. With the league’s current parity and the salary cap, rivalries aren’t a real part of the game for very long anyway. Everybody’s going to be average, with one or two road wins determining what teams get into the playoffs.
I brought this up to my friend Tom, the Redskins fan, who scoffed at the idea of leaving Washington in the East and moving Dallas to the West, where they belong.
“You guys won’t want to play the Cowboys. For a while, they’re going to stink,” I explained. “And that’s just how we like it,” Tom quickly responded with glee.
There are some divisions that make perfect sense. The new AFC North has Cleveland, Cincinnati, Baltimore and Pittsburgh. They can all lament about bad weather, how they get a bad rap, how they play real football, blah, blah, blah.
The NFC South has a real regional flair. Tampa Bay, Atlanta, New Orleans and Carolina. I like that division. They can all drive to each other’s towns and say how much better they are then each other (behind their backs of course).
The rest seem fine except for the AFC South, where the Jaguars have been placed. Tennessee is a real rival, on the field and geographically. Houston could turn out to be a glamour team. New owner, Dom Capers as their coach, expensive stadium, large television market. As an expansion team, they have to go somewhere, and it’s a non-stop plane ride from Jacksonville.
Indianapolis? I mean Indy? What are they doing in a division with Jacksonville? Indianapolis has as much in common with Nashville, Houston and Jacksonville as, well as just about nothing. Domed stadium, not really Midwest, not really Northeast, it’s not a good fit for the division in any way. The only factor for Indy’s placement was the Irsays’ refusal to be in the same division with the Ravens, saying they didn’t want to have a trip to Baltimore every year. Talk about weenies. They moved out of Baltimore, Baltimore didn’t throw them out. If they wanted a real rivalry, they’d have demanded to be in a division with the Ravens.
New rivalries will develop quickly and fans will get to see all kinds of teams come through their towns every year. The preseason games will spice up the schedules and everybody will make money. They had a chance though. A chance to really excite a lot of people, but instead, stayed the course.
Occasionally, I wish they would stray off course.
Just a little.