Here’s the problem with the NFL, when you get right down to it: there is no penalty for losing. The money keeps rolling in. The franchise values keep going up. The goose keeps pumping out golden eggs as big as overinflated footballs.
Think about this the next time you wonder whether the Buffalo Bills or San Francisco 49ers have a clue, whether they are capable, on the highest levels, of hiring the right coaches and executives, of making decisions that will ultimately satisfy their fan bases.
The sad truth?
It really doesn’t matter.
Consider this, too: last July, according to Forbes, the five most valuable franchises in the NFL were the Dallas Cowboys, New England Patriots, Washington Redskins, New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers. Only two of those teams were coming off playoff appearances. None were in the Super Bowl. Two had just changed coaches and one (the Niners) is now doing so again. Watching NFL owners spin around in circles is nothing if not comical, and the utter ineptitude of many (most?) just proves how truly fail-proof the NFL is.
I’ll say it again: according to some estimates, roughly two-thirds of all league revenue in the NFL is from television contracts. Who cares if you win or lose? You get paid for just showing up.
The trickle-down from all this, of course, takes place on the football field. There may be no better example of this than the Niners, who are looking for a new head coach for the third consecutive season. The Niners had Jim Harbaugh and screwed it up, and have since hired Jim Tomsula and Chip Kelly, the last of whom was also dismissed. Kelly spent one year in San Francisco — one flipping year — and inherited a decrepit team coming off a 5-11 season. Love Kelly or hate him, but he really never got a chance.
And then, of course, there is Gus Bradley, the Jacksonville Jaguars coach who was fired with two weeks remaining in the 2016 campaign. How Bradley got that far is anybody’s guess. In his three full seasons with Jacksonville, Bradley went 4-12, 3-13 and 5-11. Incredibly, owner Shahid Khan brought him back for a fourth season, the result of which was a 2-12 record before Khan mercifully pulled the plug.
Add it all up, and Bradley went 14-48. And yet, the Jags kept following him out onto the field every Sunday.
In the end, here’s the ultimate point: how many owners in the NFL care about winning — and by that, I mean really care? Certainly, franchise values increase as a result of success? And without a doubt, NFL teams can independently generate revenue beyond the television contracts. But that is again missing the point. Ironically, despite possessing some of the wealthiest owners in the world, the NFL is socialism at work. The good and the bad are all being treated the same because, quite frankly, the American public is addicted to the product.
Don’t you see, people?
In many ways, you are the problem.
And you will continue to be, so long as you continue to plop yourself down on the sofa on Sunday to support your team, wins and losses be damned.
Tony Massarotti is an avid Boston sports fan and has covered sports in Boston for more than 15 years for both the Boston Herald and Boston Globe. He now serves as a co-host on afternoon drive on 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston. He was a two-time Massachusetts Sportswriter of the Year as voted by his peers and has written four books, including “Big Papi,” the New York Times-bestselling memoirs of David Ortiz. You can follow Tony @tonymassarotti.