Mazurek: Enjoy football while it lasts
Marek Mazurek | Monday, January 19, 2015
Attention, all of you football junkies who binge-watched all of the college bowl games and are currently enthralled by the NFL playoffs. Need a reason to justify your football addiction? Look no further than this column, for I am here with a very important message: watch football now.
I say this because we are currently in the golden age of football. The players are bigger and faster than they ever have been, traditions and rivalries are alive and well and most importantly, defense still matters. Enjoy it while it lasts, ladies and gentlemen, because within five years the football that you know and love may well be gone.
Now you may say, “How can this be? The NFL is making billions of dollars of profits and college football finally added a playoff system. Surely things are looking up.” While these things are true, the main reason that football will fall from its current height are the new rules that protect the offense. You hear about it every week with players being fined or suspended for late hits or hits to the helmet of a “defenseless” receiver or quarterback. In college, players can even be ejected for “targeting” another player. Furthermore, defensive backs around the country are hardly able to breathe on a receiver past the five-yard mark, allowing offenses to rack up record-breaking statistics on a regular basis.
Now, these new rules might be good if you enjoy fantasy football, but they only hurt real football by creating an imbalance of power between the offense and the defense. With receivers being able to run free in the secondary, football will continue to become a pass-first, -second and -third contest in which the winner will simply be the team with the ball last. Now, this is not the case yet, but it soon will be through a rather simple chain reaction.
Imagine, if you will, that you are a star high school recruit. You are tall, fast and athletic and can play either receiver or cornerback. As you watch the NFL and think about your future as a professional athlete, you begin to notice how defensive players are at a greater and greater disadvantage due to the new rule changes that favor the offense.
Receivers are getting more touchdowns, which leads to more media exposure and ultimately bigger contracts. More importantly, you notice that safety has become more of a concern for the NFL, so defensive players are fined more often, for $50,000 or sometimes $75,000 per hit. With all of this in mind, what position would you play? I know I would switch to receiver.
And with the most talented and athletic players on offense, defenses will be left with second-rate athletes, thus perpetuating the trend toward offenses. At first, this will occur at the high school and college levels, but slowly and surely, because of the new rules, offenses in the NFL will become more talented than the defenses, leading to shootouts as defensive coordinators look helplessly on.
If you’re a fan of college football in particular, another reason to watch football while you can is realignment. What makes college football so popular is tradition. Rivalries like Notre Dame-Michigan, the Backyard Brawl between West Virginia and Pittsburgh and Texas-Texas A&M used to be the lifeblood of the NCAA, yet these rivalries are all gone. The cause is realignment. Or, to put it another way — money.
Teams in smaller conferences are leaving for the promise of a bigger revenue pool and a better shot at a good bowl game, and in their wake, they leave behind decades of tradition. With Notre Dame joining the ACC (partially), it has chosen to discontinue its series with Michigan, as has Texas A&M by joining the SEC and West Virginia in joining the Big 12. As realignment continues, smaller conferences and teams will become irrelevant, making college football more and more like the NFL, which will in turn reduce its popularity, because if people want to watch the most talented players in an atmosphere devoid of tradition, they will turn to the NFL.
All in all, football in the future will look very different than it does now. Five years from now, there may be an NFL franchise in Los Angeles, there may be an 18 game season and who knows, maybe Jacksonville will win a Super Bowl. However, despite the changing landscape, both the NFL and the NCAA must be careful not to erode the defensive integrity of the game. That’s the NBA’s thing.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.