Owners Opt Not to Reseed Playoffs on Final Day of 2008 League Meetings
PALM BEACH, Fla. - The seeding system for the NFL playoffs will remain the same.
For now, at least.
One of the most-discussed proposals entering the 2008 NFL Owners Meetings, a proposal to alter how the playoffs are seeded, never came to a vote Wednesday, the final day of the meetings at The Breakers resort in Palm Beach, Fla.
When it was asked for those who wanted to consider the proposal to raise hands, so few responded that the proposal was withdrawn, said Atlanta Falcons President Rich McKay, co-chairman of the NFL's Competition Committee.
"I think we knew there would be opposition," McKay said Wednesday. "I think we discussed it a lot in the committee, and we were acknowledging that there were different points of view – one, the historical idea that the division champions should have a home game."
Those who spoke for the proposal typically did so because they felt it would provide more meaningful games at the end of the season. Those against typically believed division champions should be rewarded with at least one home playoff game.
"The whole focus was how can you avoid having games that aren't meaningful at the end of the year, and how do we you reduce that risk," Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy said. "I don't know that you're ever going to take it away. I wasn't convinced that reseeding would do that. That's why I wasn't for it."
The Competition Committee's proposal would have provided a wild-card team a chance to play host to a first-round playoff game. While the two division winners with the best records in each conference would still have had a first-round bye, the No. 3, 4, 5 and 6 seeds would have been determined by records.
Under the current system, the two division winners with the best record get a bye, with the other two division winners being seeded No. 3 and 4 and receiving a first-round home game. Under the existing system, the two wild-card teams get the No. 5 and 6 seeds and play on the road in the first round and – if they advance – in the second round, too.
Under the proposed system, the Nos. 3-6 seeds would have been slotted by record, with the three and four seeds hosting first-round games regardless of placement within the division.
The division winners would have a had tiebreaker edge over wild-card qualifiers, meaning a division-winning team with an 11-5 record would play host to a wild-card team with the same record.
"I look at this year in the AFC and what they were proposing would have lessened Pittsburgh's division title and the game that everyone was talking about – our game against Tennessee (in the regular-season finale) that would have impacted Cleveland – wouldn't have changed at all," Dungy said. "If we'd have passed the rule, I think it would have hurt Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh's fans and it wouldn't have helped the situation we were trying to overcome.
"I just think you're going to have those situations, just like you're going to have games that in the fourth quarter one game's going to be ahead by three touchdowns. You wish they weren't. You wish that every game was right down to the wire, but it's not. That's the nature of the beast."
McKay said the idea could be readdressed in the future.
"This is an idea we wanted to push this year to get discussion going," McKay said. "We think it's imant for the league to discuss the ability to keep as many games as competitive as we can throughout the year and the regular season. That's something we brought to discussion.
"We had a lot of discussion about it. We didn't have a lot of support for the proposal as it sits today. It doesn't mean we won't have a new proposal at some point in time in the future."
Jim Irsay, the Colts' Owner and Chief Executive Officer, said he generally favored the change, but that he saw both sides of the issue.
"I think it can go both ways," Irsay said. "I can see something positive with it, where at the end of the year it can help heated competition going into the 16th or 17th week.
"There's never a perfect way to do it, but I would be in favor of it. I think the positives may outweigh the negatives."
Also on Wednesday, owners also eliminated the so-called "force-out" rule. Previously, a reception was ruled if a player is forced out of bounds by a defender while making a catch.
Under the new rule, a player will have to get two feet in bounds regardless of any contact, with the exception of a defender carrying the opponent out of bounds.
"I think it was called not consistently enough,' Dungy said. "It was a hard rule to call. Even though there's going to be two or three plays in the course of the season where we say, 'Boy, the offense got penalized there,' I think at least we all know how it's going to be called."
The owners also this week extensively discussed issues regarding the Collective Bargaining Agreement with the NFL Players Association.
"We had a lot of dialogue," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said. "It was a very important issue for us. We spent the better part of Monday on it. It's certainly a priority for us right now. We're intensely focused on it."
Also on Wednesday, the owners passed four other rules changes, including:
• A rule under which some field goals can be reviewed by instant replay, including kicks bouncing off the uprights. Previously, no field goals could be reviewed.
• A rule allowing coaches to defer a decision on the opening coin toss, making the NFL rule similar to the college rule. Previously, the winner of the coin toss could only choose to receive or kick off.
• A rule under which a direct snap from center going backward will considered a fumble. Previously, it was a false start.
• A rule eliminating the five-yard facemask penalty. Now, all facemask penalties will be major violations and assessed as a 15-yard penalty.