Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Richard Sherman Is Right: The Playoff Seeding Is Stupid

He Keeps Being Right
"The NFC Champ- ionship was the Super Bowl. The 49ers were the second best team in the NFL." - America's best CB to Yahoo Sports

Now, the lovely things about this? Just don't stop. First, that he's clearly right on the merits. The Niners were a play away from winning in Seattle, of all places; the Broncos got their heads handed to them in a game that Seattle led for all but 12 seconds. Second, that it shows the willingness of the media to keep painting Sherman as the bad guy; in saying this, you see, he's kicking the Broncos when they are down, rather than, um, I don't know, praising a division rival. Third, that it just stokes the flames for the best rivalry in pro football right now, which is Seattle and San Fran, and everyone else is playing for a distant third place. Sure, there are other teams and fan bases that hate each other, but none with the combination of familiarity, gravitas, and consequence. Everyone else is playing to go to the playoffs, or maybe advance. The NFC West is playing for the Lombardi Trophy until proven otherwise. (Oh, and pity the poor Rams and Cardinals, both of whom could easily win other divisions, but for being stuck between these monsters.)

Finally, it leads to my favorite little tweak to the rules, which will never happen except for the fact that it should... and that's the end of conference seeding for the playoffs. There's no reason why the SB should always be, at best, a fight between teams that have little if any history with each other; the best you get is when regions have beef, a la New England and New York. Most years are Random Game between clubs that see each other maybe once every four years, and that, along with the bye week, helps to historically make the biggest game of the year more likely a snoozefest than not. Here's what the playoffs might have looked like if it had been seeded like, say, the NCAA's March Madness this year...

1) Seattle
2) Denver
3) San Francisco
4) Carolina
5) New England
6) New Orleans
7) Kansas City
8) Cincinnati
9) Indianapolis
10) Philadelphia
11) San Diego
12) Green Bay

Top four teams get the first round bye

Green Bay at New England
San Diego at New Orleans
Philadelphia at Kansas City
Indianapolis at Cincy

I'm going to assume that the home teams win those games, just for fun. Then, it's...

New England at Carolina
New Orleans at San Francisco
Kansas City at Denver
Cincy at Seattle

Third round, again with chalk ruling the day..,

Carolina at Seattle
San Francisco at Denver

And with the Niners presumably breaking through in Denver, your Super Bowl would have been

San Francisco vs. Seattle

Now, let's look at what you got from the shuffle. You got Philadelphia losing its mind over the idea of its first playoff game in the post Andy Reid era being against, well, Andy Reid. You got the third-place wild card team that shouldn't have been in the playoffs having to go to New Orleans for the virtual death sentence game, as is only right. You got Aaron Rodgers scaring the hell out of Patriot Fan, rather than the same-old same-old of AFC "rival" that they've clowned before. And you get a first round that's got a lot more interest, especially because no one is treating Week 17 like Coast Time, because there's a world of difference between being the #2 and #3 seeds, whereas now, if you don't get the top, it's eh, what the hell.

The second round is more theoretical, of course, since I''m calling for no upsets in the first round, and that never happens. But I still have a division game for big-time consequence with KC and Denver, and my top seeds are getting the protection they deserve by not just getting a bye, but that honor going to a dominant wild-card team (San Fran) for once. Third round is still a pretty great game -- hell, New England could have made it to Seattle, which might have made me happier than imaginable, had they played the game they played against Denver in the SB -- and hey presto, there's my damn near guaranteed competitive Super Bowl, between teams that could not know each other better.

Is this a panacea? Of course not; if my Eagles were to lose to Andy Reid in their first playoff game after his era, I'm not sure the hurting would stop for decades. And in some nightmare other world, where a division rival wins the SB over them and keeps the championship drought at My Whole Damned Life Plus Nine Years And Counting, Counting, Counting, the depression might be the final point that makes me stop watching sports.

But it's not about what's good for an individual fan; it's about what's best for the game. We've been very lucky in the last decade or so of SBs to have games that were fun to watch for more than squash fans, and I'd argue that it's been mostly luck that's done it. Seed the playoffs without regard to conference or division, and you are more likely to see the best teams go farther, and to make every game count even more. As big changes go, it makes sense, and once you go this way, you'll be amazed it was ever any other way.

1 comment:

snd_dsgnr said...

I'd take it a step farther. Keep the deal where every division winner gets a playoff spot so that the divisions still kind of matter, but after that just take the best teams for the Wild Cards. So the 10-6 Cardinals, who were clearly one of the best 12 teams in the league down the stretch, would get in over the 9-7 Chargers who fell ass backwards into a playoff spot when everyone else in the AFC lost.

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