With the National Football League peaking in popularity while staring at a potential labor lockout within the next year, let's throw out some ideas with the potential to help improve and sustain the league's constantly growing popularity...
A completely different television angle. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell recently told the owners during their summer meetings that they must reevaluate fans' in-stadium experience, in lieu of the recent realization that fans are opting for a more cost effective Sunday to watch multiple games from the comfort of their own home or sports bar. However, the reason why football games are so exciting to see in person is simply that those who are present can actually see all the players throughout the entire field. On television, we usually only see the quarterback drop back in the pocket on passing plays, and are left with no choice but to watch the pass rush while wondering what's happening beyond the line of scrimmage downfield. The receivers and secondary are not on camera until the ball is thrown, and by then it's too late to figure out what was the play, how the receiver broke open, or how well the defenders were in position until we are shown replays. The television networks should adapt a camera hanging from behind the offense showing viewers a baseline or up field angle, similar to the view many are already used to in the beloved Madden video game series. This way, all 22 players are on camera at all times. Let's see Rex Ryan have all his defenders moving around prior to the snap, disguising different fronts and rushers. Let's see what Chris Johnson sees as he presses the hole and bounces it to the outside for another long run. Let's see what Peyton Manning looks at in as he makes his reads before audibling to hot routes and choreographing his receiver to an open space. Show us the entire field, NFL!
Cooperate with and establish the United Football League as the NFL's minor/developmental league. Like MLB and the NBA, the NFL should should establish a farm system for its teams to call up and/or demote players, while testing out new rules and developing coaches, referees, and front office officials. NFL Europe may have folded, but the UFL can succeed with the backing of other deep pocketed and powerful owners like Marc Cuban, Nancy Pelosi, and T. Boone Pickens who don't fail.
Scrap all these overtime rules and variations. Let's make it simple so the Donovan McNabbs will understand. If tied at the end of regulation, play one five minute period in its entirety. If still tied, a second five minute overtime period. If still tied, go home with a tie. This way we'll see more aggressive play calling and intense two point conversion attempts. You play to win the game!
Scrap the coin toss. Take a cue from the XFL, and let each team elect a player to run the 40-yard dash.
Scrap all restrictions on touchdown celebrations. I want to see group dances. I want to see props. If it's a problem, let teams sponsor their celebrations so the owners will I want to see Chad Johnson and Terrell Owens come up with Michael Bay like stunts. The NFL is, before anything else, entertainment.
Monday Night Football Doubleheaders. Kickoff Weekend is great not only because everyone is excited and hungry for football, but because it features a Thursday night game to wet our appetite and closes the weekend strong with a Monday night doubleheader. Why not continue this throughout the season?
Combine the Pro Bowl with the Senior Bowl. Moving it to a week before the Super Bowl helps, but the NFL still desperately needs to shake up its all-star game that is the least interesting among all the major sports. Let's allow future NFL rookies to get a chance to shine against the best. The Pro Bowlers will finally be motivated to play well as they won't want to get shown up by a bunch of 18-year olds looking to improve their draft stock. Sure, it might not be a very competitive game, but can anyone recall a memorable Pro Bowl? Imagine the draft hype generated if some young kid jacks up Ray Lewis, beats Darrell Revis for a touchdown catch, or tackles Adrian Peterson one on one...
International regular season games. The only clear cut advantage David Stern's NBA has over the NFL is in international markets, as basketball's popularity has been rapidly growing throughout Asia, Europe, and South America for decades now. If the NFL must add regular season games, then send a pair of teams to a neutral site in another country every week before their bye.
Rid of the measuring sticks with microchips in the football to measure first downs and touchdowns. It's 2010. If a satellite in outer space can give us driving directions, I'm sure the NFL can afford to modernize one of their most inaccurate and dated processes.
Make pass interference reviewable and the maximum penalty 15 yards. So everyone will quit whining about incedental contact on incomplete passes.
Allow the NFL Network and NFL Sunday Ticket to move to basic cable for all providers. The financial loss would be regained by the massive influx of advertising dollars.
Personalized NFL Redzone Channel for subscribers. NFL.com is already hinting at this, so it's certainly possible on television as well. Allow fans to program their own personalized television channel with their fantasy team's players and opponent's. The channel would then swing from game to game showing those selected players as they rack up yards and score.