How can the NFL fix its declining TV ratings?

Francis Boeck, Reporter

This is the final installation of a four-part series that will focus on what changes the commissioner should do to improve their respective league. 

No league is perfect.

TV ratings are down this year, but the National Football League still remains the most popular league in the United States. However, there is still criticism; people say the NFL could use a bit of polishing. Among the areas of potential improvement for the NFL is the overtime rules, practice time, the Pro Bowl and the preseason.

Ties are not the end of the world, but boring overtime play is an issue.

The Seahawks/Cardinals tie in Week 7 of this season was not dull because the game ended in a tie, but because there was so little action. The final score was 6-6, and there were two missed field goals in overtime. Instead of complaining about a tied game, let’s fix the slow overtime pace.

In 2012, the NFL took a step toward improving overtime. The change allowed both teams to possess the ball at least once, unless the first team to possess the ball scores a touchdown.

I admit I used to think that college overtime belonged in college and high school, but now I feel that it is time for the NFL to adopt it as well.

Just like in college, each team would start on the opponent’s 25-yard line, and after the third overtime, teams would be forced to go for the two-point conversion. Further, I would restrict teams from attempting field goals after the third overtime. In the regular season, the game would end in a tie after five overtimes.

The new rules would bring needed action and excitement to overtime.

Another place that could use more action and excitement is the Pro Bowl.

People have long been complaining about the lack of action in the Pro Bowl, and many have been calling for the NFL to scrap the game completely. But rather then scrap the event, I think the event needs more added to it.

Throughout the series, I have been advising other leagues to take a page out of the NFL playbook. Now, I’m telling the NFL to take a page out of the NHL’s and NBA’s playbook.

The NFL Pro Bowl needs to be turned into a weekend event, just like in the NBA and NHL.

The weekend would be a combination of the televised sponsored camps for high school football players and the NHL and NBA All-Star weekends.

On Friday night, there would be a 7-on-7 game. Yes, 7-on-7 game with pro bowlers — the best skill players in the NFL showing off their skill and speed in open space on a real NFL field.

On Saturday night, I would have a skills competition. Take the challenges from the camps and have pro bowlers completing with each other in them. Imagine Ted Ginn Jr. and Patrick Peterson competing to claim the title as the ‘Fastest man in the NFL’ in the 40 yard dash. LeSean McCoy and C.J. Anderson could complete to see who has the best agility in the NFL in the L-drill. Cornerbacks and receivers would go at each other in the jam drill. There could be a field goal kickoff challenge.

A deep throwing and an accuracy throwing challenge for quarterbacks. Running Backs would have an obstacle course that they would try to get through. Lineman could even go one-on-one, as the league’s top defensive lineman would try to get past the league’s best guards and tackles.

I can easily see one day, the 40 yard dash becoming the next 3-point contest or slam dunk contest.

Sunday night would stay pretty much the same as the players would play the actual Pro Bowl, except I would cut the quarters to 10 minutes each.

Another issue facing the NFL is the regression of the offense this season, which can partially be blamed on sloppy play. One reason for this sloppy play is a lack of practice time during the offseason.

In the last collective bargaining agreement, offseason workouts were cut down by five weeks. Teams now have only have nine (partial) weeks of workouts, and only a maximum of seven can be organized team workouts.

Veterans cannot report to training camp until 15 days before their first preseason game. There can be only one padded practice a day and players cannot be on the field for more than four hours a day, including walkthroughs.

The players fought for the restrictions on offseason workouts and practice time to emphasize player safety, but it looks like the restrictions may have backfired for some players.

Not only has the amount of lower body injuries risen, but this lack of practice time has noticeably hurt the offense, especially the offensive line quality of play. This is because offense is based on timing, communication and chemistry, all things that take time to build. The great offensive play and the quarterbacks which the NFL has built its game around for the past 15 years is greatly hurting because of these changes.

In the next CBA, the NFL and its players should come up with separate rules for offensive and defensive players regarding offseason workouts and training camp.

The defensive practice time should stay the same because defense is based on mostly reaction and hitting, but the offenses, on the other hand, need more time to practice.

Quarterbacks and receivers need to more time to work on their timing for different throws and routes. The offensive lineman need to work on communication and chemistry in order to do their job well.

This will increase quality of play in the NFL and help to bring ratings back to where they should be.

Speaking of preparing for the season, another problem I want to take care of is the preseason.

Everyone hates the preseason almost as much as they hate Tom Brady, and many want to see it be done away with completely.

While the preseason can be awfully boring at times, I believe it still has some merit. Rather than shredding the August games, the preseason should be cut in half.

The preseason would still start five weekends before the regular season, but teams would only play two games (or three if they were in the Hall of Fame Game). Under this new format, the games would be at least two weeks apart.

Not only do preseason games risk player safety with meaningless contact, but they also slow down the team’s progression and preparing as they head into the regular season. The games take away practice time from the players and coaches as they travel and prepare for a game.

This change would cut the little amount of live action that starters have to run their schemes while increasing the amount of time players would have to practice and learn their schemes.

My changes to the offseason and preseason would greatly improve the quality of play in the regular and postseason in the NFL.

So, in this case ‘less is less’ for the NFL.

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