The National Football League is a sports organization unlike any other located in North America. Those running the NFL have mastered the art of turning a competition that runs for roughly five months into a product that is worthy of yearlong coverage. Pro football diehards who live and die on the NFL can get their fill 12 months out of the year thanks to events such as the NFL Scouting Combine, pro day workouts, the NFL Draft, and then all of the training sessions, practices, preseason activities and roster shake-ups that lead up to meaningful games that kick off in September.
Business is better than ever for the NFL these days. The league brings in record amounts of revenue with every year, Sunday Night Football dominates in the ratings on a weekly basis, and the NFL is looking to relocate teams to major cities. Los Angels could, if rumors are accurate, soon be the home of both the San Diego Chargers and the Oakland Raiders if those two franchises can agree on a long-term partnership. The St. Louis Rams could also potentially move out west if team owner Sam Kroenke has his way. We now know that the Buffalo Bills will be staying put rather than moving to Toronto, but there continue to be whispers that the Jacksonville Jaguars could relocate overseas to London at some point over the next decade or so.
That final sentence from the previous paragraph is just one example of how the NFL has insulted the intelligence of fans over the years. One would also have to include the ridiculous “Deflate-Gate” case that grabbed headlines for nearly eight months and that made, of all people, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady the good guy in a spat that included NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Last but certainly not least are the NFL rules that insult fans, the games and the athletes who take the field on Sundays, regulations that need to be explained by “experts” because they make so little sense to casual viewers.
15 Work Stoppages
Pro sports fans do not care to hear about arguments between franchise owners and players unions, and that was especially true back in 2011 when NFL owners and the NFL Players Association was squabbling over how to divide $9 billion. The majority of consumers are priced out from obtaining top-tier seats at NFL stadiums. These fans and customers just want to have their weekly escapes from life and watch football at home or at a bar with their friends and families. Any pro sports lockout insults fans and the NFL should do whatever possible to ensure that what occurred in 2011 never happens again.
14 The Pro Bowl
NFL fans know the score as it pertains to the scoreboard. The game does not matter even a little bit, it is essentially a contest of two-hand touch featuring players in pads, and it exists only because guys want a free trip to Hawaii. That last one is why players get upset at the thought of the Pro Bowl being played in a less-exotic location, such as Florida. You have to be the biggest pro football fan with nothing better to do on that particular Sunday to watch all three hours of any Pro Bowl. Just send the All-Pro players on a nice postseason vacation, NFL, and scrap this game already.
13 Rush Limbaugh on ESPN
Remember when ESPN thought that it was wise to bring political commentator and polarizing figure Rush Limbaugh into the studio to break down football back in 2003? That not at all surprisingly ended poorly after Limbaugh made controversial and perhaps even racially-motivated comments about Donovan McNabb, who was then starting at quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles. Neither ESPN nor the NFL needed the ratings boost at the time and that remains the case in 2015. Leave the football to the football people, ESPN, and keep people such as Limbaugh off of the airwaves.
12 Dennis Miller on Monday Night Football
In yet another attempt to draw attention to the most-popular sport in the United States, ABC brought comedian Dennis Miller into the Monday Night Football booth as an in-game commentator in 2000. Miller contributed next to nothing positive to those broadcasts outside of a few clever one-liners, and the experiment was mercifully abandoned after two seasons. Those who would point out that the Miller and Limbaugh moves were made by networks and not the NFL need to remember that the league could have, with one phone call, had both men ripped off of the air after a single segment. Fans would have been grateful had that call been made.
11 Illegal Contact/Pass Interference Penalties
The NFL has put an emphasis on making things easier on the field for passing attacks and offenses over the past decade. That has been great for fantasy football owners and for fans who love to see massive amounts of points put up on scoreboards, but it has also resulted in a plethora of ridiculous illegal contact and pass interference penalties being called on defensive backs. Wide receivers, per the nature of the sport, already have advantages because many of them tower over shorter DBs. Those great athletes do not need the extra help of defenders not being allowed to breath on them without a flag being thrown.
10 NFL Marijuana Policy
Personal opinions on whether or not you feel that marijuana should be a legal drug in the United States need to be put aside here. No reasonable person in the league or in the NFLPA can, at this point, say with any seriousness that marijuana can be classified as a performance-enhancing drug. Yes, marijuana can help with pain management during the midweek. Why is that a problem? Any player who shows up for a game stoned on any substance should not be allowed to take the field, but that should be up to coaching staffs and to teams. All indications are that marijuana will eventually be legal in the US. The NFL needs to revise this portion of its drug policy.
9 Preseason Ticket Prices
Preseason football seemingly becomes more meaningless with every August in the minds of players and coaches, and it shows in the lackluster football that takes place over those four weeks. Players need exhibition games to prepare for a grueling season, sure, but these walkabouts should not cost fans the same amount of money as a December game that actually matters in the standings. NFL owners make billions of dollars in revenue each year. Every one of them could afford to slash preseason ticket prices without noticing it come the end of the season, and they should do so to throw a bone to fans.
8 Roughing the Quarterback Penalties
NFL quarterbacks are stars who are featured in advertising campaigns and who make millions of dollars in salaries. It is completely understandable that owners would want to protect their investments. Common sense should nevertheless prevail in certain situations. A defensive player can be flagged for a roughing the quarterback penalty that is worth 15 yards if he so much as touches the helmet of the QB with a hand. Seriously. That's the rule. Fans do not want to see their favorite QBs go down to injuries, but there is a way to keep these players safe without insulting our intelligence.
7 Big Hits Not Wanted (but not really)
The NFL has cracked down on players “headhunting” and looking to make big hits, so much so that the league will fine and even suspend repeat offenders. Why, then, do NFL broadcast partners routinely air slow-motion replays of these crunching blows? Why are these plays shown again and again on scoreboard screens inside of stadiums? The reason is that fans like to see the big hits, and the NFL is in the business of giving customers what they want. Player safety is a big issue for the NFL and the NFLPA these days, but only to a point.
Remember, everybody, that the NFL does not condone illegal gambling; except when game lines and over-unders are announced during league broadcasts. The NFL has gone out of the way to insult the intelligence of fans regarding this issue in 2015 in that the RedZone station is openly sponsored by Draft Kings. You cannot live through an hour of NFL programming without seeing a Draft Kings and/or a Fan Duel advertisement. Oh. That's right. Those weekly fantasy football competitions are technically not “gambling” contests, even though fans who participate in them know what is at risk when they put their money on the line through those websites.
5 Expanded Regular Season
The day is going to come when the NFL pushes for an expanded regular season, likely one that includes 18 games and maybe even a larger postseason tournament. Fans will be told that this is happening to eliminate those pointless preseason affairs and thus give customers more bang for their buck. That's a great story from league owners, but it is one that covers up the reality that owners want more regular season games because more meaningful football means more money being spent inside of stadiums. A season that has 18 games and additional playoff contests would also equal increased television revenues for owners.
4 Player Promotion
The NFL has a long history of promoting hand-picked players ahead of others in the league who deserve similar praise. Defensive end J.J. Watt is the latest example. Watt is a tremendous athlete, arguably the top defensive player in all of the NFL. Is Watt the best player in all of the NFL? Not even close unless he proves that he can line up under center and beat opponents as a quarterback. You would not, however, know that if you followed how the NFL Network hypes Watt on a weekly basis. Intelligent NFL fans know that Watt is a great player, but they also know that Watt is no Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady.
3 Replacement Refs
The NFL was in a financial dispute with league referees back in 2012. Rather than buckle and meet the referees at a compromise that would have been favorable to all parties, the NFL instead trotted replacement refs onto fields for games. Those replacements tried their best, but they simply were not capable of officiating professional football games. Any question about that was answered for good on the final play of a Monday Night Football showdown involving the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks, a game that is known for the infamous “Fail Mary” incident. The NFL has hopefully learned from this miscue.
So much about the “Deflate-Gate” scandal insulted the intelligence of fans. Tom Brady being given a four-game ban for allegedly having a hand in footballs being deflated ahead of the 2015 AFC Championship Game was a joke. It was downright ridiculous that the NFL, the New England Patriots and Brady could not come to some sort of compromise during the offseason, especially when the league could not prove Brady to have been guilty. That the matter went on through the beginning of September was the cherry on top of the embarrassment sundae. Fans were so insulted by the end of the debacle that even those in the New York region were glad that Brady beat Goodell in the end.
1 Domestic Violence Issues
Here is the question you have to ask yourself: Would the NFL be taking such a stand against players found guilty of domestic violence if that disturbing video featuring former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice would never have gone public? It seems that we have our answer in that defensive end Greg Hardy is eligible to play in the league and is, as of the posting of this piece, a member of the Dallas Cowboys. There is no reason to believe that Rice would not be in the league today, either with the Ravens or with another team, had we never witnessed that tape. That is an insult to female and male NFL fans.