Jan 7, 2013; Miami, FL, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish linebacker Manti Te
1. The talent level is close and comparable on almost all 32 teams. There are no super teams in the NFL, just well coached teams with good game plans that cater to a specific strength. Other leagues the coach has nowhere near as much influence on the outcome of winning and losing as the NFL.
2.Age restrictions. The NFL requires it’s players to be 3+ years removed from high school. As a result they are more polished coming into a man’s game. Baseball has no age restrictions, and basketball has a 1 year restriction meaning many 18 or 19 year olds can become pro athletes. This waters down the league with players not ready to play in both sports, while the NFL has a better group of pro ready athletes at draft.
3.Draft process. The NFL has scouting combines, Senior Bowls, East-West Shrine Games, mountains of scouts watching film, interview processes, personal work outs. While all the other pro sports have this as well, none do it as well, as organized, or with as many layers as the NFL. It also helps the fans get to know the prospects where as other sports, particularly baseball, there isn’t as much fan interaction.
4.The team is bigger than the player. This is my main love for the NFL. The teams are always more important than the players. Baseball has monster contracts for players like A-Rod or Pujols. Basketball has max contracts. Football has a culture that always says the team is priority. Lebron James and Miami come to mind as transitory fans following a player. Football encourages team and city loyalty more than any other sport.
5.College degrees. While I am in no way saying a college degree makes you a better person, the NFL vastly outshines MLB, NHL, and NBA college graduates combined in players who have earned degrees. Players aside, NFL coaching staffs have more college degrees than MLB, NBA, or NHL as well. Players and coaches alike are more ahead of the field in the NFL. For an example, in 2010 880 NFL players were college grads compared to 80 in the NBA. Even though NBA has a 15 man roster and NFL has 50, if you multiplied the NBA college grads by 3 you would get 240-880 NFL over NBA. That’s just sad.
Jun 11, 2013; Florham Park, NJ, USA; New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez (6), New York Jets quarterback Greg McElroy (14) and New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith (7) during the New York Jets minicamp session at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
6.Hard salary cap. I never understood the reasoning for anything other than a hard cap. The hard cap in the NFL has made competition better, coaching more important, and planning a necessity. In baseball, teams like the Yankees can just throw money at the best players and afford it. As a result they almost always field a more competitive team than say the Minnesota Twins. In recent years the Dodgers and Red Sox have followed suit. In basketball there is a luxury tax which doesn’t affect the big market Lakers or Knicks from signing whoever they want because the players themselves generate enough revenue to pay for the luxury tax. This is a lose-lose situation. The only way to have a fair and competitive league for every team is a hard salary cap that forces teams to pay for specific outstanding players, rather than grab them all and kill the game for every other city in that league.
7.Year round interest. Off the top of my head I know mini camps are going on now, I know training camp will begin in July, I know preseason in August, I know regular season is Labor Day, the draft and combines will fill up February through April. The only really slow month in the NFL is May. The information about your team if you like NFL is coming out basically 11 months a year for a 6 month sport. No other pro league can generate year round interest, which is why the NFL will be king for the foreseeable future in my mind.
8.Sense of urgency. NFL players have a shelf life. Because of the turnover the product is better. Quarterbacks may play 10-12 years, whereas running backs may play 6-8. Each position has it’s own specific shelf life as to how long you can expect to play and it varies greatly. As a result, the NFL has more urgency in its players in the not for long league. In comparison, I can remember an almost ready to retire Ken Griffey Jr. sleeping in the club house before he decided to retire. You just can’t do things like that in football.
9.Playoffs. The design of the playoffs is the best in the NFL. For an example, in 2011 there were more people watching the regular season games for the NFL than the post season “playoffs” of MLB. Also consider that the NBA and NHL playoffs occur in the summer when there are other things going on, beaches, amusement parks, vacations, etc. Just by the nature of the time of year of these leagues playoffs fans may or may not watch them depending on what else they would rather be doing. The NFL has its playoff season in the dead of winter when fans prefer to be home huddled in front of a television, because what is better than a single game all or nothing elimination, on a cold day with bad weather? NFL wins in a landslide.
10.The players are not making the rules. I say this specifically with the idea that a few players can decide to join a single team, and say they will have the best chance of winning for themselves if they choose. This is a not so subtle shot at the Miami Heat, the Boston Celtics. Even now players like Chris Paul and Dwight Howard are deciding which team they will take over a non-existent cap because it will give them a chance to win a title. While I’m not against this specifically (every player deserves a shot to win), I am against the idea that the players and not the team is in control of its own destiny. If the player is allowed to play the games, define the rules, and dictate the marketplace of who goes where, all of the leverage is on one side of the fence. The NFL league and owners have always maintained a good balance of control, and that is why the revenue, interest, and PR continue to grow while the NBA, NHL, and MLB will never really compete.