Dear Mr. Goodell,
Though we appreciate Wednesday’s letter outlining your game plan for the NFL weathering this strengthening COVID-19 tsunami, some of us aren’t buying this sentence:
“I am convinced that if we remain focused and committed to adhering to our protocols, and to adjusting them as experience requires, we can play a full 2020 season that is not simply normal, but extraordinary.”
With all due respect, commissioner, you are Budda Baker and COVID-19 is D.K. Metcalf.
You’ve had a nice run. But you’re being caught from behind by a freakish force that’s faster than you.
It’s time to start thinking about moving the goal line closer than the first week in February.
NFL COVID-19 cases are rising along with the outbreaks throughout the country. Last week, there were 52 new confirmed positive tests, including 17 players.
This week, the Raiders placed seven more players on the COVID-19 list as “high risk” close contacts with teammate Clelin Ferrell, who tested positive. Most of them are defensive players who had to quarantine five days, missing all practices ahead of Sunday’s game against the Chiefs.
Meanwhile, the Broncos announced Wednesday that defensive coordinator Ed Donatell, who has missed three games, was hospitalized last week with coronavirus-related symptoms. He’s 63 years old, a high-risk COVID-19 patient.
Last Saturday, Goodell shifted all 32 teams into the NFL’s “intensive protocols” because of the surge in positive cases and the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. Teams have additional mask-wearing mandates and more team meetings held remotely, among other enhanced restrictions.
“We’ve been in the intensive protocol basically the whole year now,” said Vikings coach Mike Zimmer. “I can’t remember the last time we weren’t in it.”
Most experts say things are going to get worse before they get better. States like Minnesota are going into lockdown procedures all over again. Meanwhile, the Ravens, Eagles and Washington have reversed course on allowing fans into games and are joining the long list of teams that haven’t allowed spectators in all season. The Vikings can no longer have even 250 family and friends at U.S Bank Stadium, as has been the case in recent home games.
Can Goodell and the NFL continue to believe they actually will play a full season, make it through Feb. 7, hand over the Lombardi Trophy, drop some confetti and put a neat little bow on the messiest year of our lives?
They shouldn’t. But don’t fret, Roger.
Here’s some free advice that will end the season a month earlier, close half of the league’s team facilities on Dec. 7 and make December one of the most exciting months in the history of the NFL:
A 32-team tournament! December Madness! You’re welcome, Rog.
Play Weeks 11 and 12 and then seed each conference 1 through 16. The opening round would be Dec. 6.
Sixteen teams move on. Sixteen teams can stop trying to operate in a global pandemic and let their employees go home and bunker with loved ones.
The conference quarterfinals would be Dec. 13. Eight teams move on. Eight more facilities are safely shuttered.
The conference semifinals would be Dec. 20. Four teams move on.
The conference finals would be Dec. 27 followed by the Super Bowl a week later in Tampa. Sorry, Tampa, but two weeks of Super Bowl hype is intolerable even when there isn’t a global pandemic.
So, there you go.
Strange, but fun and ripe for stunning upsets. Using the conference seeds through Week 11’s Thursday night game as an example, the AFC matchups would look like this:
Jets (16) at Steelers (1)
Jaguars (15) at Chiefs (2)
Texans (14) at Bills (3)
Chargers (13) at Colts (4)
Bengals (12) at Raiders (5)
Broncos (11) at Dolphins (6)
Patriots (10) at Ravens (7)
Titans (9) at Browns (8)
In the NFC, the games would be:
Cowboys (16) at Packers (1)
Washington (15) at Saints (2)
Panthers (14) at Seahawks (3)
Giants (13) at Eagles (4)
Falcons (12) at Buccaneers (5)
49ers (11) at Rams (6)
Lions (10) at Cardinals (7)
and last but not least …
Vikings (9) at Bears (8).