Upstart AAF already showing NFL where it can improve the sport

The upstart Alliance of American Football in just one weekend has probably changed the NFL without being affiliated with it.

It showed that kickoffs and extra points aren’t necessary to enjoy a game. Kickoffs are dangerous when they are returned and a waste of time when they aren’t. And eliminating kicking extra points makes the two-point conversion more exciting.

And it takes away the necessity of coaches making mistakes when deciding when to go for two. Many of them go for two too soon. John Fox lost a Super Bowl in Carolina doing that. He twice went for two in the fourth quarter and didn’t make either one. That cost him two points. And then Bill Belichick, playing with free money because the Panthers had cost themselves two points, decided to go for two and made it. That is a three-point swing in a game decided by three points. If Fox would have just kicked the extra points, he would have had overtime and if he won the coin toss probably would have won the game.

And kicking the extra point is a boring play.

The NFL will probably eventually get rid of kicked extra points and kickoffs. It will just take time.

The NFL also needs to follow the lead of the AAF and start the play clock at 35 seconds if not 30. The fast-paced game showed how clunky the NFL games are these days.

Of course, the NFL can’t cut down on the commercials because that would cost them money and the NFL would never do that. But they could present them in different ways. Maybe have a quarter sponsored and have the sponsor have a ribbon across bottom of the screen in lieu of fewer commercials. The NFL has to start thinking outside the box.

It also needs to copy the idea of letting fans listen to the replay official. It is much more transparent. And they need to make decisions quicker if it is not an obvious overturn.

Of course, the AAF has a lot of work to do. Putting a team in an NFL city like Phoenix may have been a mistake. They didn’t announce the attendance, but Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic reported it appeared to be between 10,000 and 15,000.

The Atlanta team also has problems after Brad Childress quit before it played its first game for reasons that weren’t explained. And Michael Vick, who was to be involved with the team, apparently wasn’t eager to put the time in required for the job and may have a league role instead, according to founder Bill Polian.

The league also should consider delaying the start of its season to early March and have a northern team or two.

It also might play down the idea it is a developmental league for the NFL. The bottom line is that Kurt Warner was an exception to the rule. Very few of these players are going to make it in the NFL. It’s not that they just need reps to develop. Most don’t have the talent. But so what? They can still be entertaining.

It also has to be patient. It will take time to grow the audience since CBS Sports Network and the NFL Network, which will show most of the games, don’t have the audience that CBS has as a broadcast network. CBS showed the opening night but won’t televise another game until the title game in late April.

The league’s promotion and PR also need work. As Pro Football Talk pointed out, they don’t even issue box scores or game books like the NFL does.

There is also the question of what the financing is like. The NFL says it is not investing. What is the league’s budget? How much are they prepared to lose before they can turn a profit?

But that’s all for the future. For now, the AAF has already made an impact and shown the NFL needs to make some changes.

Pats fans should savor this one, because it was Tom Brady’s last hurrah

The night of the Super Bowl earlier this month would have been perfect time for Tom Brady to drop the mic and ride off into the sunset.

He has no more worlds left to conquer in the NFL. He is the only player to win six Super Bowl rings. He could have left the way John Elway did after winning back-to-back Super Bowls or the way Peyton Manning did after winning his last one.

Brady, though, is not the retiring type, even though it was obvious this year that he is starting to show his age.

The New England Patriots lost five games during the regular season on the road to teams that didn’t make the playoffs. They would have lost to Kansas City in the AFC title game with Brady throwing a game-deciding interception if Dee Ford hadn’t lined up offsides.

And they probably would have lost to the New Orleans Saints if not for the bad non-call against the Rams that cost Saints a Super Bowl berth. It is hard to imagine the Patriots holding Drew Brees to under 13 points.

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New book evokes 1980s golden era of NFL coaching greats

We are now in an era dominated by just one coach.                                                
While Bill Belichick of the Patriots goes for his sixth Super Bowl ring as a head coach Sunday, only one other coach, Tom Coughlin, has won more than one in this era. The former Giants coach beat Belichick twice in a five year span in the Super Bowl, but after the second one, he missed the playoffs four years in a row and was fired.
Since Mike Shanahan won back-to-back titles in 1997 and 1998 in Denver, 12 coaches – Dick Vermeil, Brian Billick, Jon Gruden Bill Cowher, Tony Dungy, Mike Tomlin Sean Peyton, Mike McCarthy, John Harbaugh, Pete Carroll, Gary Kubiak and Doug Pederson — have won one each. None of them has won a second one.
That is quite a contrast to the 1980s when three coaches dominated the decade and all made the Hall of Fame.
Bill Walsh of the 49ers and Joe Gibbs of the Redskins each won three Super Bowls  and Bill Parcells of the Giants won two in the 11-year span from 1981 to 1991. And the 49ers won another one in 1989 with basically his team after Walsh retired and added a fifth in 1994. So only two other teams – the Raiders in 1983 under Tom Flores and the Bears in 1985 under Mike Ditka – won titles in that 11-year span.

Wade Phillips relishes taking on another dynasty team in the Super Bowl

Wade Phillips is no stranger to coaching against dynasty teams and Hall of Fame quarterbacks with a Super Bowl on the line or in the Super Bowl.

The Pittsburgh Steelers were the team of the 1970s, the San Francisco 49ers were the team of the 1980s and the New England Patriots are the team of this era.

And they had all Hall of Fame quarterbacks in Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana and now Tom Brady.

And Phillips coached against all three.

He was a young coach working for his father in 1978-79 when the Houston Oilers lost to the Steelers in back-to-back AFC title games.  Five of the Steelers’ 11 offensive starters made the Hall of Fame.

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Title games showed how NFL legacies can come down to a single play

It is often said that most football games come down to just a half dozen plays.

The conference title games Sunday came down to fewer than that. Each game was decided by one play.

New Orleans would have beaten the Los Angeles Rams if the officials had called the Rams for pass interference. And Kansas City would have beaten New England if Dee Ford hadn’t lined up offsides.

And then we could have a KC-New Orleans Super Bowl.

And think of how many legacies were changed because of those two plays.

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