Every year, around week 2 or 3, sports commentators from all around like to bash the NFL and how awful the product is. This trend of disliking something just because it is trendy typically resides in hipsters and other ‘too cool for school’ folk. But nope, this attitude also exists in sports.
Some of this rhetoric comes from the old guard; the curmudgeons of the world who always think their time was better than the present. This is true throughout life. Some of this commentary comes from generic sports guy; parroting what he/she hears from another generic sports guy to sound smart. But the most interesting voices to this matter is the ones from the guys I expect better from. John Clayton, John Gruden, Chris Mortensen, etc. These guys actually know stuff and still they squawk about this ‘quality of play is down’ poo.
Look, I am no football guru. Sure, I have been watching this stuff for 35+ years and study it on my own time, but I don’t have the same football IQ as the professionals. But one thing I do have is a healthy sense of doubt.
Here are my issues with this:
What does quality of play mean?
Is this ‘quality’ really worse than it was 10 years ago? 20 years ago? 30?
When was the golden era of the NFL, and let’s compare that quality of play to now
OK, let’s answer these:
No one knows what ‘quality of play’ actually means. But from what I gather from these negative Nancy’s, they think of two things: points and close games. All across sports talk, people were saying this past week was so much better due to the quality of play, but really all we had were a few more points per game and closer games at the end. Is that really quality of play? And this type of week happens about a third of the time EVERY SEASON! As far as I am concerned, quality of play means are teams playing hard and smart, not both teams allowing 30+ points and have it go down to the wire. But I’m no expert.
Let’s watch some games from the 90’s and 80’s and compare. Oh no, not the games that were only on TV back then, equivalent games. See, the issue is we now have assess to ALL games; good and bad. And we watch them all (mainly due to fantasy), good and bad. So we remember these ‘bad’ games and file it under the ‘NFL is slipping’ tab. But trust me, in 1984 when the Jack Trudeau led Baltimore Colts played the Tony Eason led Patriots, that was not a stellar game. But you know what? It wasn’t on TV. So no one remembers those games. And man, there were a lot of those types of games back then.
When is the best era? Well, if you want close games, the best era is now. That is just simple math…and free agency. There is more parity now than ever in the NFL, and games are universally closer. But even beyond that tell me when the best time for football was, let’s watch that season, look at the stats, and see if there is a huge difference in this mythical ‘quality of play’ metric people love to boast about.
The reality is that the game now is about the same in terms of quality of play. There are more points now due to the rules, pass rushers have tipped the scales towards more sacks and rough o-line play, but this will see saw back soon enough. Remember the 70’s when the Gritz Blitz became a thing? How about Air Coryell? In the 80s’, remember the 46 defense? How about the West Coast offense? In the 90’s remember the K-gun? In the 2000’s the Tampa 2? And now we have the Seattle Cover 3. In other words, the game evolves over time and things change a bit, but the quality is all relative.
Just remember this whenever you think about the good ole’ days:
“Remembrance of things past is not necessarily the remembrance of things as they were.”
― Marcel Proust