July 16, 2024


Living – be prepared

Thirty fan ideas to improve the NFL

21 min read
Thirty fan ideas to improve the NFL

Peter King is on vacation until July 18, and he lined up some guest writers to fill his Monday spot on Football Morning in America. Today’s guest is you, the reader, with 30 ideas on improving NFL.

Many times over the years I’ve found myself thinking, I’ve got some smart people who write to me. So when I was thinking of guest columnists for my time away, I decided to turn a column over to all of you. I asked for your ideas for how to improve the NFL.

I got flooded by 766 emailed ideas. Originally I was going to use the best 10, but in reading them all, I decided there was no reason to limit the column to the 10 best. So I didn’t count—I just picked those I thought were either imaginative or well thought-out. And I ended up with 30.

I don’t agree with them all, but it’s not about that. It’s about presenting a think-tank of ideas—some original, some not—to generate discourse. I will use some of your reactions—[email protected] or @Peter_King on Twitter—in my next couple of columns.

My thanks to all of you for your thoughtful, reasoned ideas. Here they are, with brief comments from me:

No Kicking In OT

Ben Sharaf, Seattle

After the initial overtime kickoff, no punting, no field goals. The ball is turned over on downs only. Teams play until someone scores a touchdown, or 15 minutes and call it a tie. Would coaches choose the ball or the field position? How fired up would a defense be to try to hand the ball to their offense 25 yards from the end zone?

The strategic aspect here would be fantastic. Thanks, Ben. I could see quite a few teams deferring and wanting to play defense to start OT.

17th Game Ideas

Tim DeLaney, Tempe, Ariz.

My idea is twofold: grow the game domestically/internationally and create a consistent and fair way to allocate the recently added 17th game.

  • Every team plays one neutral-site game (so eight home, eight road, one neutral-site).
  • Continue to schedule several international games: London, Mexico City, Munich, and let’s mix in some new locations each year such as Dublin, Barcelona, Sydney, Rio de Janeiro, Toronto.

Here’s the twist, and a way to connect with casual U.S. fans who may be college football fans first:

  • Schedule the remainder of neutral-site games in traditional college markets (with behemoth stadiums)—Lincoln, State College, Clemson, Tuscaloosa, Tallahassee, Baton Rouge, Norman.

Think of what the “Winter Classic” has done to bring charm and nostalgia to the NHL. Imagine the Steelers and Eagles playing for bragging rights in front of 107,000 at Beaver Stadium. Let’s play a salute-to-service weekend matchup between the Bills and Giants in West Point.

Tim, there are so many great ideas in here that I can’t count them all. Thanks.

Thirty fan ideas to improve the NFL
The Dolphins and Jaguars met in the 2021 NFL London game at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium last October. (Getty Images)

Adopt Relegation

Troy Johnson, Orange, Texas

I do not enjoy watching soccer but after watching Ted Lasso, I love the idea of relegation. Relegation would have made the Hue Jackson and Brian Flores situations improbable in Cleveland and Miami. To make it work, the NFL would make the USFL the ‘Champions League’ and form a partnership. Leave the USFL team in Birmingham and put the other teams in cities without NFL teams. The USFL would play in the fall. The championship game will be played on a Saturday when colleges will be on their bowl break. Then the worst team or teams in the NFL would be relegated after the season, and the best team or teams in the USFL would move into the NFL.

I love it, Troy, but it’d never happen. NFL season-ticket holders expecting to see Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert on the schedule won’t pay for the no-names of USFL—and that’s one of about 63 problems standing in the way. But you’re right to say the threat of relegation would be motivating to the bad teams.

Cut Out The Flag-Waving

Steve Larson, Central Virginia

Let’s stop using the NFL as a military recruitment tool. No more silly camouflage in team colors for the coaches, unless they really need to hide from somebody on their own team. War is not a game like football, and the consequences of war are far more brutal and lasting than any army will admit. Let’s not treat war as just another game alongside football; let’s stop playing pretend with our young people.

Thought-provoking, Steve.

Make Field Goals More Challenging

Joseph Loudon, Kansas City

The past two seasons NFL kickers made nearly two-thirds of field goals from 50 yards and beyond: 231 of 352 (65.6 percent). Kickers being this good is simply bad for the league.

Fans now expect kickers to be almost automatic from about 55 yards and in. The high drama in close games plunges when do-or-die drives need only reach the opponent’s 35 or maybe 40-yard line to set up a likely-to-be-made field goal as time expires. How do we make longer field goals tougher—more likely to be missed? Shrink the target.

Replace the goal posts with what would essentially be a four-pronged fork. You’d still have the standard cross bar and two uprights 18.5 feet apart but add two interior uprights the gap between which will be only 11.5 feet. To make any field goal 45 yards or longer, kickers must put the ball through these two inside posts. (Any kicks from inside of 45 yards that ‘doink’ off an interior upright would count.) These narrower uprights will force kickers on their longer kicks to be even more precise.

A few years ago when Adam Vinatieri advocated giving teams four points for field goals longer than 50 yards, I remember thinking that would cause the absurd scene of a team trailing by four late in the game trying to avoid advancing the ball past the opponent’s 33 for fear of falling out of four-point range. Let’s instead give teams more incentive to keep trying to get the ball further down the field so their kicker can have a shorter, and wider, field-goal attempt.

I got 20 or so suggestions about field goals and how to make them more sensible. This was original and interesting.

End Night Games At A Decent Hour

Michael Ruger, Mentor, Ohio

Move the kickoff for night games from 8:20 p.m. to 7 p.m. These night games go on until 11:30 or later on a workday, and the combination of sleep deprivation and my team losing leaves me a little cranky. I know the league is driven by money, but there are four times as many people in Eastern time than Pacific. You would think they would want to max out on viewers for the whole game.

Actually, Michael, I love your suggestion and wish it would happen. Problem is, the NFL believes a great Sunday night or Monday night game will compel Easterners to stay up later than they want. There could be a better rating if the games start at 7; I don’t know. But on Sunday night, it would infringe on the late-window games and the NBC pre-game show. The NFL wouldn’t like that, nor would my employers.

Move The Super Bowl To Saturday Night

Rob Jensen, Voorhees, N.J.

I know the old school fans will clutch their pearls at such a notion since it had been referred to as Super Bowl Sunday for most of my 50 years alive. But one thing we have learned in watching sports is that baseball has failed in making their most important games available to younger audiences. It makes no sense to me to hold the most important game in the season, and the parties that go along with it, on a school night. Having the game on a Saturday would make it more accessible to kids and the millions of us who have to get up early for work the next day.”

You get no argument from me. I love the idea.

Give Ownership 10 Years To Win

Bill Miller, Savannah, Ga.

I grew up in the fifties in Detroit, with Bobby Layne and the Lions winning three championships during that decade. Unfortunately, in 1960, William Clay Ford bought into the Lions. Over the past 61 years, the Lions have won one playoff game. We have had William Clay running the team, then Billy, then a bunch of sisters, grandmothers and others. How many coaches and GM’s have failed in Detroit over this period? The common denominator is that the Fords picked them.

I have a proposal for a new NFL rule. If a team does not win a playoff game in 10 years, the team must be sold to another owner, or the NFL must step in and pick the next GM, similar to Pete Rozelle forcing the Giants to hire George Young as GM in 1979.

Cool idea, but it’s one lawsuit from one spurned owner away from being overturned.

Create A Fourth Sunday TV Window

Wes Smith, Yardley, Pa.

The idea is to create an 11 a.m. Eastern Time window and have a few games, maybe two to four games weekly, which would feature only Eastern or Central Time Zone teams. So instead of 1 p.m., 4:25 p.m., 8:25 p.m. for the windows, it could be 11 a.m., 2:15 p.m. (the new 1 p.m. time slot), 5:35 p.m., and push Sunday Night Football back 30 minutes, to 8:50. The idea of creating another Sunday window spreads games out, which gets more eyes on more games. Networks on their doubleheader weeks would instead get tripleheader weeks. The biggest gripe might be the moving back SNF 30 minutes, but to me that isn’t the end of the world (and that’s coming from an East Coaster). 

The biggest gripe, I think, would be the disappearance of Football Night in America.

Tickets For Deserving Kids

Hank Zellman, Ohio

The NFL could purchase a block of, say, 20 to 25 seats in every stadium for every game and provide those tickets to underprivileged kids who would never get to a game. Criteria of eligibility could be grades or community service.

Simple idea. Great idea.

Tanking Insurance

Jamie McIntyre, Braintree, Mass.

It is time to reward the teams that narrowly miss the playoffs. The teams just out of the playoffs should get the top picks. This approach rewards the attempt to win instead of the need to lose games to one day be competitive. Competitive franchises that are a notch below playoff contention should not have to sink to the bottom for a chance to rise to the top. Perennial bottom-feeders are likely in that position due to a failure in leadership at the top, which would also incentivize those teams to make changes. Stagnant leadership would also be limited under this plan, hopefully.

Never heard this before, and it has merit. Thanks.

Return Training Camps To Campuses

Chris Fried, Philadelphia

There is something special about going to see an NFL team practice during the dog days of summer. The sound of pads hitting in the early morning mist; the oohs and ahhs that spring forth from fans after a big play; the interaction and closeness that fans have with players and coaches; the feeling that football is a game and not a business. This is what fans had when training camps for NFL teams were held on college campuses. Unfortunately, today almost all NFL teams hold their practices at their facilities, where few fans can come and watch.

I have the memories of attending training camp (Philadelphia Eagles at Lehigh University) from when I was younger. For young fans of today, they have no such memory and will never have the chance to experience what I had the opportunity to enjoy.

I’ve said for years that teams moving away from campus training camps is a blight on the NFL, and on the future for young fans. Just look at Kansas City’s camp at Missouri Western University in St. Joseph, Mo. Fans get close to the action, can touch players, can get autographs, can see their team being formed before their eyes. Teams build chemistry at the same time.

New England Patriots Training Camp
Patriots training camp at Gillette Stadium in July 2021. (Getty Images)

Broadcast Replay Reviews In-Stadium

Richard Young, Camberley, England

Cricket and the NFL don’t appear to have much in common, but the cricket system for instant replay is really good. It’s based on the idea that the onfield umpire’s decision stands (“Umpire’s Call”) unless there’s obvious proof that the decision was incorrect. That’s not so different from what the NFL does. However, when a call is challenged, the entire review (including the conversation between the two officials) is broadcast live in the stadium.

Half of the issue with the current review system is that the audience doesn’t understand why the call was made. This would speed up the process because the call wouldn’t need to be announced; it would pressure the review team to make the call rather than taking a commercial break and it would add a degree of theatre to the game as the call is followed through by the fans.

Intriguing. Thanks, Richard.

Mandate Some Minority Ownership

Seyi Aiyebusi, New Orleans

The NFL has an amazing product with some glaring problems that have become news recently. The Jon Gruden debacle, the Brian Flores suit and the Hue Jackson allegations have revealed once again that a sport that is America’s game is rife with some of America’s age-old racial problems. As detailed by William C. Rhoden in his book Forty Million Dollar Slaves: The Rise, Fall, and Redemption of the Black Athlete, the sport continues to exist and profit off of the availability of black athletes but that their place in the game is limited to being players and coaches but not head coaches, GM’s and owners.

I propose a simple solution to spur change. All NFL teams should be required to have a minority ownership group that are equity partners (a minimum 5 percent of the franchise) in the ownership group. This would allow former players, coaches, celebrities and ordinary members of the African American or other minority communities to have a voice from within the organization to help push change. Creating pools of minority investors who can become the minority investment partners for each franchise would be an incredible PR opportunity and a concrete step toward creating equity in the communities form which the majority of these players come from.

I like forcing change to a community that is averse to it.

Eliminate The Draft

Brian Cullinan, Wellesley, Mass.

The draft is no longer needed with the salary cap. Replace the draft with a one-week window when teams can offer contracts to incoming rookies. ESPN could televise the entire thing. It would allow players some choice in where they play while allowing bad teams to improve more quickly. The drama of the week would be amazing to watch. The players would have to weigh offers and make a decision around where they want to sign. Is money the number one factor? Opportunity? Do they all want to live in Miami? What about a solid organizational structure? It would be fascinating to watch.

Interesting, and I don’t hate it. But I do think it would be really hard for a consistent loser—Detroit, Jacksonville, say—to get the best player in the draft to come. Would Trevor Lawrence have chosen Jacksonville last year? I doubt it. Maybe it’s fair to do it this way for the player, but I also think it would promote a rich-getting-richer ethos in the league.

Adopt A Red Card—Sort Of

Keith Heisler, Palos Verdes, Calif.

The NHL power play is one of the most exciting fixtures in sports. Instantly, the style of play changes. Teams implement offensive and defensive strategies the fans wouldn’t otherwise see. For two minutes (or five for a major penalty) the power play injects the game with a nitro boost of offensive opportunities.

I propose the NFL implements a power-play penalty where a team is required to play a man down for some period. For example, a helmet-to-helmet hit that knocks a player out of the game or into concussion protocol for a few plays. A 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty (and a midweek fine) doesn’t seem like fair compensation for an illegal hit that takes out a team’s star receiver. What if the team causing the infraction had to play with 10 players for one play or until the other team got a first down?

I like this a lot, particularly on illegal hits. I’m going to make sure Rich McKay and the Competition Committee sees this idea.

The Best Teams Should Pick Playoff Foes

Andrew Stathulis, Ann Arbor, Mich.

[Higher-seeded] playoff teams should get to draft their opponent in the first round. The current system tries to reward the highest seeds by giving them matchups versus the playoff teams with the worst records. But record is not a perfect indicator of how good a team is. We saw this in the NFC this past year. In the first round, the Dallas Cowboys, the three seed, got the San Francisco 49ers, while the Los Angeles Rams, the four seed, got the Arizona Cardinals. The Rams, the lower seed, had an easier first-round opponent. Giving teams the ability to choose which wild-card team they play in round one is a more reliable method of rewarding the highest-seeded teams the most.

Not sure how often this would come into play, but it does make sense to give the best teams their choice of first-round foe.

NFL: JAN 16 NFC Wild Card - 49ers at Cowboys
The 49ers upset the Cowboys in the NFC wild-card round last season. (Getty Images)

Make Any Play Challengeable But Allow Just One Challenge

A.J. Irbe, Sachse, Texas

Allow the Bill Belichick long-desired “anything is challengeable/reviewable” by instant replay, but only one per team per game. The drama of when to use that challenge would be really interesting. Would a coach use it to try to get a holding penalty on the other team that negates a touchdown in the middle of the first quarter? Or do all the coaches hold on to it until the fourth quarter when the stakes are the highest?

Really interesting, A.J.

The Aaron Rodgers Rule

John Wagner, Champaign, Ill.

Rodgers is notorious for underthrowing guys for cheap pass interference calls or quick-snapping teams with too many guys on the field. My suggestion doesn’t pertain to those, but to the fact that he always is allowed to get plays off after the play clock has hit ZERO. To solve this, I would have the referee have a buzzer in his back pocket that goes off every time the play clock hits zero. Problem solved. I’m surprised they have not implemented it since it is an easy fix.

I bet 50 plays per season, easy, commence after the play clock is clearly at :00. So I like this idea.

Adopt A Fun CFL Rule

Brent Morgan, Midland, Texas

All backfield players can be in motion or, at a minimum, wide receivers can get a head start to the line of scrimmage like they do in Canadian football. This will likely create more confusion for defenders and require better schemes by coordinators of both teams. It would be fun to see what Kyle Shananan, Sean McVay or Andy Reid would create. Scoring would increase, I think, and the games would be more fun.

At first, the movement would look quirky. But you’re right—it would add an element of excitement to the offensive game.

Let’s See The Whole Field

Mark Rodrigues, Fall River, Mass.

My idea is simple for every televised game: a wide-angle, bird’s eye camera shot for live broadcasts similar to a coach’s tape. I’ve always felt the current default camera angle for the game is too close and you miss so much of what is happening. One of the best things about being at a game is seeing the play develop. We can get excited when a receiver breaks free or a cornerback breaks on a ball with open space. We can also complain about how wide open someone was when the quarterback missed him. This isn’t particularly innovative, but it would give the viewer at home the in-person experience.

Now that’s a great idea, and it could be used, live, on a few plays every game, with replays showing the more common angles immediately after the play.

Give Green Bay A Super Bowl

Joe Stillman, Staten Island, N.Y.

I always loved December and January games with my dad and brother in cold Giants Stadium. Getting there at 9:30 a.m., eating and drinking till 12:30, then heading in. The snow and cold always made it such an awesome atmosphere. Cold breath in air just seems right for the sport, like the old clips of the Ice Bowl. Why can’t the Super Bowl be played in that football setting we all deep down love, Lambeau Field? Can’t we have the biggest game of the year in that historic setting?

You’ve got my vote. (And Mark Murphy’s, I’m sure.)

Minnesota Vikings v Green Bay Packers
Packers fans at Lambeau Field in January. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

Another Idea For Game 17

Matthew Rule, Portland, Ore.

Make the extra game special and buzzworthy, rather than just a regularly rotating non-conference opponent.

The slate of extra games should be hand selected by the league to draw interest and eyeballs, using specific themes and player matchups. Some games could feature area rivalries, with, for example, the Jets versus Giants battle for New York, Chargers versus Rams battle for SoFi. Another theme could be Super Bowl rematches … Patriots-Giants or Cowboys-Raiders. Using this method, the league could create opportunities for great matchups we otherwise don’t get to see often. If they want Josh Allen versus Aaron Rodgers but the Bills aren’t slated to play the Packers until 2025, no problem! Maybe they want one more bite at the Brady-Belichick apple, but the Bucs aren’t scheduled to play the Patriots till 2025. The NFL would have the power to create 16 monster matchups each season, however they see fit. Imagine, in the midst of schedule release mania, looking to see what “special feature” games were on the docket each year.

I’ve always been a fan of this, and have written as such.

The Birch 18-Game Season Plan

Larry Birch, Warrenton, Ore.

There would be 18 regular-season games and two preseason games. No player could play more than 16 regular-season games. At the beginning of the week, for that week’s game, teams must list their eligible players from a newly expanded roster. Ineligible players would have the week off and would not be allowed to practice with the team. This would make an interesting coaching strategy. Most teams would use their best players for strongest divisional opponents. 

This plan would do the following:

  • Prolong playing careers. Players would have two weeks off, at least, plus the bye.
  • Show what backup QBs can do in real games.
  • Give more players a chance at an NFL career.
  • Players with borderline injuries may be less likely to be pressured to play.
  • The players’ 16-game season records would be comparable.

The biggest downside would be that fans would not always get to watch their favorite players in every game.

This sounds a lot like the Peter King Plan from several years ago. I am bullish on this idea.

Bring Sanity To First-Down Measurements

Logan Scheuer, Milwaukee

My improvement idea for the NFL is regarding the first-down marker. I understand the chain gang is traditional and helpful to have sideline judges, but there have been instances where a pileup might make the spot tricky, or like the Packers’ first-down gain that ended their playoff game against the Seahawks in the 2019 season. The solution is from the football across the pond with a term called ‘Goal Line Technology.’

This technology is basically a camera tracking system in the stadium during games that keeps up with where the soccer ball is on the pitch throughout the game. In soccer, unlike football, the ball must cross the goal line entirely to be a goal—instead of simply breaking the plane. With goal line technology, the cameras track the ball and if there is any doubt if the ball fully crossed the goal line or not, it maps out the ball on a 3D image relative to the goal line. If it does cross the goal line entirely, an encrypted signal is sent to the referee on the pitch directly within one second through either a wristwatch or earpiece for an instant decision. 

NFL teams have no lack of funding and can install the system (or one of the other forms of goal line technology) in each of the 32 stadiums. It would add clarity and decisiveness for the first-down markers, and even the end zone. This will cut down on the need for time-consuming replays and using coach’s challenges for the spot of the ball.

It’s very, very hard to argue with this logic.

NFC Wild Card Playoffs - San Francisco 49ers v Dallas Cowboys
NFL referees measure for first downs when it’s close. (Getty Images)

Allow All 53 Players On The Rosters To Dress

Duane Smith, Elizabethtown, Ky.

In the name of safety, let all 53 men on the roster be active on game day.

I’ve never understood this rule [dressing 45]. They’re not saving any money by making players inactive. In cases of blowouts, you can rest some starters any get some inexperienced players some game time. Why have depth if you can’t use it?

It’s a foolish rule without reason. We agree.

Teams Should Have Real Specialists

Steve Blosch, Arlington Heights, Ill.

Why do NFL teams not use one of 46 active slots on a game day for a true specialist? I am thinking somebody in the 7-foot range, or taller. A person like that could serve dual purposes. One, the end-zone fade. From the 1-yard line or when going for 2, you toss the ball up and as long as the person does not have stone hands it seems to me like the fade would actually work more times than not. Second, long field-goal attempts. The ball is coming off low on 50-yard kicks or longer, and kickers have stronger legs than ever. Why not have a seven-foot person across the line of scrimmage from the kicker try to knock a ball down?

I feel like if this idea took off, eventually teams would have to employ one tall specialist on defense if for no other reason to try to stop the end-zone fade.

The biggest problem, I think, would be keeping a 7-foot-3 guy healthy, even if he plays only five snaps a game. But it’s a cool idea.

Add A ‘Weekend Of Legends’

Jonathan Borne, Shawnee, Kan.

The league should make Week 3 or Week 4 of each season a “Weekend of Legends.” Hype it up! The NFL loves hype. Have each team wear a throwback uniform and invite the Hall of Fame and living legends from both teams appear at the game. Celebrate the game’s history all weekend long and connect the fans of today with the players of yesterday.

I had expected something like this during the centennial celebration of the NFL but it did not happen. As a second suggestion, I think that the NFL should create “natural rivalry” games between the NFC and AFC to be played every year just like divisional games are required (Giants-Jets, Cowboys-Texans, etc.).

It makes sense, Jonathan, but I’m not sure it needs to be on a single weekend.

Nip Away At The Time Of Game

Richard O’Hagan, Beaconsfield, England

Football is a great and complicated (maybe overcomplicated) sport. However, as a longtime British fan who has benefited from the efforts of the NFL to expand the game across the world, it has always puzzled me that they have not addressed the one factor that people in other countries see as a turnoff, which is the length of time that it takes to play a game. This is something that other sports, for example cricket, have addressed in recent years and yet something the NFL seems curiously reluctant to attack.

There is no logical reason for the play clock to stop so often. There are now ample people on the sidelines to return the ball after an errant pass play and multiple balls per team anyway. It should not be necessary for the clock to do anything other than keep running except in a limited number of situations.

Obviously, a change in possession should require it to stop and also there can be no objection to a pause for officials to consult or for an injury. But the fact that an incomplete short pass causes it to stall is, at best, anachronistic and at worst counter-productive to trying to improve the broad appeal of the sport.

I would keep the clock running except on these occasions but also retain the option for a team to stop the clock by spiking the ball, with the loss of a down being the trade-off for the time gained. With these stoppages plus the retention of the team and television timeouts the game will still be a good length and yet sufficiently speedy to allay the criticisms. After all, who does not love the sight of a team hustling to the line in a desperate attempt to get a play off in time?

Preach, Richard, preach. A two-hour 40-minute game would be much better than a 3:10 game, particularly when the extra half-hour is full of nothing.

Make It ‘Instant’ Replay

Mike Gallagher, Boston

Let’s put the “instant” back in replay. The goal of replay should be to fix egregious errors like the missed Saints pass-interference call.  My proposal is simple and embraces “instant.” Challenges and official reviews remain the same but in all cases the officials have 30 seconds to review the play. If they can’t see a major error right away then the play stands as called. Thirty seconds, right or wrong, then spot the ball and set the clock and GO.

I’m good with this. I’m not good with micro-analyzing replays seven times.

Have thoughts on any of these 30 concepts? Tell me what you think: [email protected]

My column will resume next Monday. Looking forward to the new summer, and the new season.

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