Roger Goodell understands what really drives the NFL. (Andrew Nelles/AP)
The NFL has many sayings, credos and mottos, but the one that drives the engine is simple: follow the money. And that's why the 32 team owners and commissioner Roger Goodell will do whatever they possibly can to stock more games in the schedule, no matter if it waters down the overall product or affects the league's avowed commitment to player safety. Goodell has been pushing for an 18-game schedule since before the signing of the last collective bargaining agreement in 2011, and the players and the NFLPA have pushed back at every turn.
So now, Goodell and the owners are trying a different tack, one that might be more attractive to NFL fans -- the idea of expanding the playoffs with two more teams in each conference.
"That is under serious consideration," Goodell said in a Tuesday interview at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan. "One of the great things about the NFL other than it's unscripted is that every team starts the season with hope."
Well, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones certainly thinks so. His team has finished each of the last three seasons at 8-8 and hasn't made a postseason since 2009, so that's a lot of residual embarrassment and missed ancillary income.
"From the standpoint of looking at how exciting it is for a city or a community to be involved in the playoffs and the fact that you can have a team that might have literally operated at .500 or in that area ... you can have that team win the Super Bowl," Jones said last Friday on Dallas radio station 105.3 The Fan. "That makes a big case for adding a couple of more cities or communities that have NFL teams to the playoffs."
Goodell mentioned that 13 of 16 games had playoff implications in the final week of the regular season, which was partially the result of the league's wise decision to point the last few weeks of every season's schedule in a more divisional direction. The next step, he said, will be to keep that competition compelling, even if more teams would wrap up playoff berths and first-round byes earlier.
"It's something that the competition committee looked at last year and thinks there are some real benefits from a competitive standpoint. They're going to study some aspects of that because when would those games occur and one team would get a bye in each conference and you'd have six games on the weekend. So would you have three on Saturday, and three on Sunday? Or do you get one on Friday and two on Saturday and two on Sunday and one on Monday? I think those are the kinds of things we want to evaluate."
On the other hand, the same man that has more influence on the owners than he might like to let on was ambivalent about improving the current playoff system, in which the Arizona Cardinals can miss the postseason at 10-6 because they play in the brutal NFC West, while the 8-7-1 Green Bay Packers can get a home playoff game against a 12-4 San Francisco 49ers team that has beaten them three times in the last year.
"I don't see the owners pushing for a big change on that, and that ultimately is where it has to come from," the Commish said.
As to the idea of another outdoor Super Bowl in cold-weather environs as there will be next month at New Jersey's MetLife Stadium, Goodell sounded less than optimistic about the matter.
"I think this is obviously innovative and it's something new, but it's also unique because it's New York. This is a stage, we have two teams here. Every city can't host a Super Bowl just because of the sheer enormity of this event. And it's not just a football game. We have a week full of events, we probably have well over 150,000 [people] coming in to the New York region for this event.
"Will we look at other Super Bowls in cold-weather sites? I think we'll wait and make that evaluation later."
As always, the league will follow the money. And if a cold-weather city manages to bankroll a new billion-dollar stadium, you can bet that Goodell will change his tune on that matter.