Rozelle’s realized dream of parity has given every fan hope


In the 1970s, former NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle didn’t like to see the league dominated by a handful of teams.  He’d love what has unfolded now.

Every fan of every team has hope.  In most cases, it’s plausible.  In some cases, it’s implausible.  Regardless, there’s hope.

There’s hope because, with four teams in each division, all any team has to do is have a better record than three other teams to make it to the postseason and host a playoff game.  In 2010, that’s precisely what the Seahawks did — with a losing record.  And they beat the defending Super Bowl champions in the wild-card round.

There’s hope because a trend of high turnover has emerged, with roughly half of all playoff teams not making it back, opening new spots for roughly a third of the teams who were left out the year before.  While the 2012 playoff field featured only 33-percent turnover, with four new teams joining the field, three of those franchises were among the six worst in the league the prior season.

The hope extends not only to making it to the playoffs but also to making it to the Super Bowl.  Over the last decade, multiple teams who barely made it to the playoffs made it all the way to the championship game — and won it.

In 2005, the Steelers scratched and clawed after having a fork stuck in them following an early December home loss to the Bengals.  Four wins to end the regular season were followed by four wins in the postseason — and the long-awaited one for the thumb.

In 2006, the Colts fell to the No. 3 seed, forcing them (for a change) to play during the wild-card round.  A subpar run defense caused many to presume they’d be pushed around by the Chiefs at home.  But Indy won, and three games later Peyton Manning finally hoisted a Vince Lombardi Trophy.

In 2007, the Giants entered the playoffs as the No. 5 seed in the NFC.  After wins at Tampa, Dallas, and Green Bay, the Giants pulled one of the biggest upsets in NFL history, blocking the Pats’ path to 19-0.

In 2010, the Packers squeezed out the sixth seed by beating the Bears in Week 17, then embarked on a run to Dallas that included a close win at Philly, a blowout of the top-seeded Falcons, and another win over the Bears on their own field.  Then the Packers prevented the Steelers from winning their third Super Bowl in six seasons.

In 2011, the Giants started 5-2 (as usual), lost four in a row, won three of four to capture the NFC East in Week 17, and then ran the table as the fourth seed, beating the Falcons at home, the Packers at Lambeau Field, the 49ers in San Francisco, and the favored Patriots (again) in the Super Bowl.

Even last year, the Ravens lost four of five down the stretch, fired their offensive coordinator in December, landed in the fourth seed, and got it together when it mattered, winning four straight postseason games to let Ray Lewis walk off into the sunset with his second Super Bowl ring — something few if any had predicted in September.

Recent history proves that the future (for at least the next four months) is impossible to accurately predict.  Anyone can get to the playoffs this year, even the Jets, Jaguars, and Raiders.  We’ve seen it happen, many times.  Come January, anyone who gets a seat at the table can run the table.  We’ve seen it happen, many times.

For now, everyone is still 0-0 (except the Ravens and Broncos).  Even the teams that fall to 0-1 will still have hope.  Even the teams that fall to 0-2 will still have hope.  Even at 0-3 or 0-4, the window will still be open, a little.

Come November or December, fans of teams barely hanging around the postseason chase will still have hope, because unexpected late-season turnarounds have happened.  Which means they can happen again.

Crazier things have indeed happened, and even crazier things will happen.  Pete Rozelle’s dream has come to fruition, which at this point serves only to make fans of the supposed frontrunners really nervous.

19 responses to “Rozelle’s realized dream of parity has given every fan hope

  1. My buddy is a Browns fan. He once claimed there would be world peace by 2015, and not even he thinks the Browns have a shot.

  2. Let me go pay $200 for a ticket and $8 for a beer and celebrate that hope while the players on the field blow each other’s knees out because Goodell told them that since retired football players whose quality of life was ruined by concussions sustained and subsequently lied about while Rozelle was commissioner took money from Goodell, then Goodell will take money from them if they hit in was that were legal two years ago.

    Or I could do that on my couch for free.

  3. on a side note, Rozelle probably got the inspiration for this dream from the AFL. they were already doings things like revenue sharing before the leagues merged.

  4. Parity is truly the reason why the NFL is the best professional sport in the U.S. Now, if baseball could only follow suit…

  5. For determining the best team, the 4-division /2-wild card format is the absolute worst, with garbage teams scrapping together 3 wins, but I’ve learned to accept this makes the NFL more exciting because so many more teams have a legitimate shot to win or at least come close every year. And the rising viewership every year proves its working.

    The NBA could learn some lessons from this …

  6. Whats with the negativety in the comments? Think some people need to step away from watching the NFL for a while. Or at least stop whining about it. Your team hasnt even lost yet, except ravens but they did just win the superbowl. Cry somewhere else

  7. While I will hang my hat on the ideas that parity in the NFL is the result of the salary cap, the lack of a team-financed developmental league, and a non-lottery draft system (the lottery btw trades a minimally exciting/watched TV moment for crippling the ability of bad teams to reliably get better- Clev Cavs vs Wash Nats) I would be interested to see some stat for parity logged relative the the average length of an NFL players career. My guess is that as players are in the league for less and less time on average due to increasing injury frequency (?) parity improves. A good nucleus of players only lasts so long (my beloved Eagles) and bad choices only affect a team so long (raiders having multiple bad choices). This then makes the coach and front office the deciding factor in the ability to be a dynasty (new england) vs other sports where players do (tim duncan, Kobe, arod/jeter). Plus my feel is that there are a lot of good nfl coaches where baseball and basketball seem a revolving door of interim crap. Not sure if that’s correct.

  8. I really think they screwed up the parity by having long periods of time with super high juiced rookie contracts that took a little away from the momentum of using draft advantages for the weaker teams to even things out. Baseball has impressive parity, and considering it doesn’t even have a salary cap. The NFL is way behind where it should be and that’s taking away from the overall experience for too many teams.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.