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NFL: The Imperfect Meritocracy

Mill Woods

Posted on January 4, 2021 16:37

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The NFL is to be commended for completing the difficult 2020 regular season. In the end, however, we see that the world’s most level playing field still needs improvement. The Sunday finale laid the league’s flaws out for all to see. Hopefully, we’ll get a quick return to meritocracy when the playoffs begin on Saturday.

The NFL is both the world’s most successful sports league and the world’s greatest meritocracy. Players rise solely on abilities and hard work. Teams that finish last are given a leg up by getting the first pick of new talent. Nowhere else — not in any industry or society — does this occur. But even the world’s purest meritocracy has flaws.

One of the advantages of being an NFL outsider is I can say what I think, and I tell where I think change is needed. In other walks of life, we have to accept all kinds of inequity. But in football, I don’t accept any goofy “electoral college” rules, where lesser-performing candidates somehow come out on top — simply due to popularity, history, ancient customs or geography.

The NFL finale — involving two “NFC Least” teams — ended up stinking about as badly as I anticipated. Before the weekend, I warned fans that the NFL had moved the Washington-Philly game to the prime Sunday Night Football slot. (Huh?)

After a magical season — one that I wasn’t even sure could happen — the NFL inexplicably decided to drop the final curtain with what I called a “loser bowl”. The fact that I have dubbed that division the “NFC Least” does not make me a hater. A few years ago, I picked the Eagles to beat the then-NFC Champion Falcons in the playoffs and the Patriots in the Super Bowl — and I am not an Eagles fan; I just call ‘em like I see ‘em. Meritocracy.

In an earlier post, I expressed the hope that the nameless Washington team would win the division (which also deserves to be nameless right now). I am happy for HC Ron Rivera and QB Alex Smith, who have fought through an incredibly trying year. However, not even the division champ should be in the playoffs.

The old custom of dividing the 32 teams into two conferences and (tiny) divisions of four needs to change. The Cardinals (8-8) beat Washington (7-9) this season. The AFC's Dolphins (10-6) were even more deserving of playing in the postseason. I also find it unfair that the Bucs (11-5) will be the visiting team next weekend.

I see it as both my obligation as a writer and my right as a fan to point out where the NFL can improve (even if my advice is never taken). Note, however, that my criticisms come along with success at picking winners and losers each week. Last weekend, I went 12-4. For the season, I picked 158.5 games correctly, 97.5 incorrectly, and had a winning record in 14 of 17 weeks — not my best season, but not bad, especially considering the unusual circumstances. This season, I did not measure my record against other pundits (unlike me, they make it difficult), but in the past, I have beaten many well-known media types, former coaches, and players with my predictions (not to mention superior writing).

Meritocracy.

Soon, we'll tackle the playoffs.

Mill Woods

Posted on January 4, 2021 16:37

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