The National Football League’s television ratings are falling for the second year in a row, and if Roger Goodell and the suits at 345 Park Avenue are looking for a reason why, there’s no shortage of causes for the decline. I’ll explore a few of the things wrong with the NFL, but it’s impossible to go over all of them.
Concussions and CTE (Obviously): When the quarterback for one of the most successful teams in the league says that he won’t let his son play football because he’s scared of his brain being damaged, the NFL has a problem. With each new discovery about CTE, it becomes scarier to think about what’s going to happen to today’s NFL players in 20 to 30 years. Originally, people thought that it would take decades for CTE to affect people, but the recent suicide of Aaron Hernandez at the age of 27, after which it was discovered that he had CTE, has turned a lot of heads. The league’s concussion protocol has recently come under fire as well, with players who laid on the ground with their hands shaking or not able to walk to the sideline allowed to return to the game after only missing a few snaps. If the league doesn’t figure out how to stem the concussion problem, they will find themselves with a lot less people that are willing to play and watch football. To read more about the effects of CTE on former players, read this article.
Injuries (Not Just Concussions): Everyone who has ever seen a football game knows that it is an inherently violent sport, with people turning their bodies into weapons with the intent on doing damage to others. However, the recent rash of injuries this season has been abnormally high, especially to star players. Aaron Rodgers, JJ Watt, Odell Beckham Jr., and hundreds of other players suffered significant injuries this season, with just about every team losing one of their most important players. No other major sport has to deal with such huge losses of star power, and that has taken a toll on the NFL.
Treatment of Players: The most common sentiment found on an NFL sideline after a major injury is, “Next man up.” NFL coaches, administrators, and executives consider players to be interchangeable, which is reflected in the average length of an NFL career – slightly over 3 years. Unfortunately, the NFL’s treatment of current NFL players is far better than their treatment of past players, whose bodies have been ravaged by the sport. The lengths the league went to avoid compensating the players for their injuries is absolutely repulsive. To read more about the NFL’s treatment of former players, read this article. In addition, very few of the NFL players are recognizable when they’re not in uniform, an issue that none of the other major sports, except for hockey, have to deal with. A quick way to prove this is with a 3 question survey:
How many NFL players (not on your favorite team) could you recognize if they were walking past you on the street?
Now eliminate the quarterbacks from that list. How many players could you recognize now?
How many NBA players (not on your favorite team) could you recognize on the street?
Compare your answers to questions 1 and 2 with question 3, and you’ll understand the NFL’s dilemma.
College Football: Who would want to watch the “3 yards and a cloud of dust” football that is prevalent in the NFL, that ends in score like 10-3, like a recent playoff game, when they can watch wide-open spread football that racks up points like skee-ball machines? The Georgia-Oklahoma College Football Playoff semifinal that ended in overtime at 54-48 may have been the game of the year, either college or pro. Due to the offenses that are all the rage in the college game, yet still face resistance from NFL coaches, college games end with far higher scores, and the games move at a much faster clip with more exciting plays. The NFL teams scored an average of 21.7 points per game, while over 80% of the college teams in Division 1 scored more than that on average. The NFL will have a harder time getting fans to watch their games instead of the NCAA’s until they adjust the style of play.
Because there are too many problems with the NFL to explain in detail here, these are a couple more of the issues with the National Football League.
Weak offensive line play
Lack of actual game play compared to game length
Lack of diversity among the majority owners
There are far more problems than these, but it would take too long to list them all. Despite all of its flaws, the NFL will be fine for now. The Super Bowl is still the biggest event on TV each year, and NFL games still get far higher ratings than NBA games, the second most popular league in America. However, there are serious problems looming on the horizon for the NFL, and for the sport to maintain its popularity, it must adapt to the new circumstances.