With the NFL season over, real football is done until late August when college football makes its return, leaving hardcore football fans with a void in their life for the next six to seven months.
But what if there was a way for fans to get their football fix, and not have it be just a bunch of talking heads rambling about the off-season or the NFL Draft? Well I have come up with a way for the NFL to keep football on year-round.
That’s right, the NFL should buy the Arena Football League, and turn it into its developmental league.
Now you’re probably thinking, Ron, put down the bong that’s a stupid idea, but hear me out on this.
The NFL has declined to create a development league for years, stating that it’s too expensive (which makes no sense given that the NFL rakes in money), so why not buy one that is already established and would be dirt cheap? Currently the Arena Football League is down to four teams, seriously, that’s not a league, that’s just a group of guys who divided up players and get together once a week. All of the AFL branding, teams and whatever else cannot possibly be that much. Have all 32 NFL owners buy in and it would probably be pocket change for them.
So rather than starting NFL Europa or NFL D League or whatever other alphabet soup league you can think of, they get an established identity in the Arena Football League.
Add in that the players currently make nothing (~$1,000 a game), keep it at that but sell them on the potential of EVERY game having NFL scouts there, and players will line up knowing they are one step away from the NFL, and you have an affordable way to develop your own players while getting a chance to see more potential players.
Add in that the XFL is set to return in 2020, with an eye on the months directly after the Super Bowl, and boom, you suddenly have your own product that could beat them to the punch of filling that void.
How It Would Work
So obviously you couldn’t have a league with four teams. My idea would be to have 16 teams in the league, and like the early years of the NBA D League, two teams would share an AFL affiliate that is nearby, with each team getting to send up to five guys to their AFL team for more training/playing time to develop. This way you have a large number of NF-affiliated players, but plenty of open spots that any NFL team could sign should they impress enough.
Now obviously they aren’t sending their Round 1 picks there so you would have to have a rule in place that the players you can send to your AFL affiliate have 3 years or less of NFL experience, and were taking in the 5th round or later. This way NFL teams can develop players, and AFL teams can tout the fact that they have a direct connection to the NFL, which is a big boost for trying to draw in fans and players to the league.
And as for the teams, you try to pick big to mid-size markets that either don’t have an NFL team, or have an NFL team but are well-established in Arena Football. So you’d have something like this:
West Division: Phoenix, San Diego, Portland, Salt Lake City
South Division: Austin/San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Memphis, Birmingham
East Division: Orlando, Raleigh, Philadelphia, Hartford
Midwest Division: Columbus, St. Louis, Iowa, Milwaukee
Now these are not set in stone, but you get the idea, something so that there are divisional rivalries close by, and enough teams in each region so you cover the whole country, save for these square-shaped states that nobody lives in, and you’d try to make the AFL affiliates near their NFL feeders.
As for a schedule, you start it up two weeks after the Super Bowl and play on Friday/Saturday/Sunday, with a 14-week regular season, maybe take a mid-season Bye Week for the NFL Draft, and the Top-2 teams in each division making the playoffs, giving you three rounds of playoffs. So in total you’d have a 17 week season that runs from roughly mid-February through the Arena Bowl in mid to late June, aka, right before NFL training camps start so those AFL free agents who stood out can sign with an NFL team prior to camp starting. See how this all falls into place?
So in addition to a development league for the NFL, you’d also have 17 weeks of additional #content that could be shown on NFL Network, because the ratings for actual real football can’t be any worse than the talking head shows that are on there during the off-season.
You would also need to tweak the rules ever so slightly, we’re keeping the goalposts and walls and that, but maybe get rid of receivers in motion, the LB having to be in a box rule, and make it so it closer resembles NFL football so that you get a better idea of these players and their skills, and how they might translate to the outdoor game. But for the most part the idea remains the same.
This is a great idea and I think the NFL and AFL should get on it right now. Shut the AFL down for this season and get the ball rolling towards a 2019 start. If you need me to run all of this, I am available and can be reached on Twitter at @HotSprots or by email at HotSprots@gmail.com.
You’re welcome for this great idea, NFL and AFL.