Congrats, NFL, You Own Parity
As the 0-10 Raiders lead the 7-3 Chiefs 14-3 at halftime, it's apparent the NFL now has what it's always wanted: pure, refined parity. In the last six seasons there have been six different Super Bowl champs. In the last five, there have been ten different teams in that championship game. You'd have to go back to 2006 to get a repeat of a team with the draft's number one pick. In just one season, the Colts went from 2-14 to 11-5. Conversely, Houston went from 12-4 to 2-14. The NFL is any team's to win or lose.
Just look at the standings. After 11 weeks, Arizona has 9 wins, the Pats have 8, and then 22 teams are between 4 and 7 wins. So 75% of the teams are playing at least .400 ball. Taking a closer look, the AFC North is comprised of four teams above .500, and they're all within a game of each other. The NFC South is led by Atlanta and New Orleans, both 4-6. And remarkably, Buffalo - the team that can't even play a home game in its own stadium - is still in it.
— Gameday HQ (@GamedayHQ) November 17, 2014
So why does the NFL want parity? That's a lot of teams knocking on the door for the playoffs, which is a gold mine. When teams are eliminated early (right now the Cubs are avoiding my stare), the fans tend to have other priorities besides buying tickets, jerseys and foam fingers. So if you can convince, say, the Vikings fans that they still have a chance in November despite Adrian Peterson collecting dust on the shelf, then that means more revenue from the Twin Cities. Plus, there's that whole gambling thing as well.
So how does the NFL ensure parity? First: Schedule Loading. Easy teams play easy teams and hard teams play hard. So if you had a good 2013 - oh, let's look at you, San Francisco - then your 2014 schedule sucks.
— Primo_EHC (@Primo_EHC) November 19, 2014
Second: The NFL Draft. Yes, other leagues have drafts designed to rebuild crap teams, but think about what the NFL has done. Only the very best college football players come out early (in the NBA and MLB, guys get drafted before they get a drivers license), so they're all further along in growth, and most have all been publicly scouted for four years. So it's pretty hard to steal a player in the NFL draft.
Third: Lackluster Free Agency. An NFL player's career is relatively short, so doing well in the draft is better than spending a ransom on an older player in free agency (yes, players like Peyton Manning are a rare exception). And if a team loses a player to free agency, it gets a compensatory draft pick. So if it signs someone, it better be damn sure he's more valuable than a 21-year-old SEC stud. And it's the nature of NFL teams and their intricate, timed plays that it's advantageous to keep players together and eschew unnecessary change.
Lol at people thinking the NBA will be more popular than the NFL. NBA needs parity before it even touches the NFL.
— Brett Pickert (@B_Pickert) November 20, 2014
Then there's the salary cap. And revenue sharing. And... Well, you get the idea. Face it, the league and its rules have parity written in their DNA, and it won't change any time soon. So go ahead and buy your 2016 Super Bowl champion Tennessee Titans t-shirt before they sell out.
Photo via Getty
David Young has been a columnist for ESPN and Sports Illustrated, and is now one for SportsGrid.com. Follow him on Twitter @turkeysflying.
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