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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

League Optimization: NFL    

Time to revive the series I never completed...

If you've ever had a boil between your buttocks (which I haven't) then you know that the only way to relieve the pain is to freeze the boil and chisel it off.  Today I will chisel the NFL's ass boils from betwixt its cheeks.

This is a toughie.  The NFL is not only exceedingly strong at the moment, but it's also configured in an ideal 32-team alignment, so contraction is off the table.  Also note that there are very few sick franchises in the league, and the ones that ail are ailing because they want to ail.  (Just ail, baby!)  Therefore I expect this to be a very short examination.  Turn your head and cough.  And try to relax... this will feel a little cold...

The Contestants

The only relocation target worth discussing is Los Angeles.  They could (and clearly would) support a team.  But with the league in such good health, you can't add an LA franchise without ripping the soul out from one of the following markets:

  • Arizona
  • Oakland
  • San Diego
  • Jacksonville
Arizona
Just because they've just christened their new stadium (the Pink Taco!) doesn't mean they stop being the Arizona Cardinals.  That having been said, I think it would be cruel to move the team from Phoenix now.  We have no idea whether the people of Arizona would support a real football team in a real stadium, because in 20 years they've never had that.  The one-time sad sacks of the league (Patriots, Bengals, Buccaneers) have shown that NFL football done right is a can't-miss proposition.  STAY

Oakland
Al Davis is the wildcard, or in his case the batshit-crazycard.  I could see him swooping down on LA (again) and taking the market away from Jacksonville, leaving Wayne Weaver an angry man with an angrier fanbase.  But I'm not touching them.  Keeping their idiot team and its idiot fans sequestered in Oakland keeps the rest of us clean and disease-free.  (Man, if I could put money on the inevitable North American flu pandemic starting because some dipshit Raider fan ate a sausage off the ground in the parking lot...)  STAY

San Diego
The Chargers always seem to come up, if only because of the proximity.  Like the Clippers before them, Los Angeles beckons, and provides San Diegans (?) with the best opportunity to remain loyal if they choose to do so.  I remember back when the Pats had a deal in place to move to Hartford... and I didn't give even a tiny, rabbit-sized nugget of shit about it.  Who would even care?  They'd still be on TV, and they're not, like, out of the area.  LA is not San Diego, but the same thinking is more likely to apply to Charger fans than to, say, Vikings fans.  Still... not the best move.  STAY

Jacksonville
Bingo.  The team is run well, they've had some good years, haven't had very many bad years at all.  A model franchise.  And the fans aren't coming out.  When even a last place team can (and will) sell out, that situation is downright unacceptable, even before factoring the tiny media market.  I'd love to bail them out, since I'm a sucker for teams in non-traditional markets... but it just makes too much sense.  MOVE

The New Alignment

Ah, the tricky part.  Picking the poor bastards who lose their team is the easy part... figuring out how to put a team in LA without breaking up the intense AFC West rivalries is the hard part.  The obvious move is to put the Chiefs in the south, where they can develop the same distaste for Indianapolis that the rest of us have.  But they have blood rivalries with the Raiders and Broncos that you don't really want to break up.

But let's also look at another team that nobody gives a rat's ass about: Atlanta.  Boy, do I love realigning and relocating their teams.  Maybe it makes me happy to think that a rotten city with no fans and a track record of playoff failures can be punished.  Regardless, the upside of having zero history is that there aren't any really worthwhile rivalries to concern ourselves with.  Atlanta could be just as happy in the AFC fighting for Southern supremacy against the Titans as they would be in the same battle with Carolina or Tampa or whatever.  And if they aren't... who'd care?  Their 23 fans?  Please.  Screw 'em.

So if we rotate the Falcons into Jacksonville's old spot... then stick the Los Angeles Jaguars in the NFC West... all we have to do is put the Rams in the Falcons' old NFC South spot (rekindling the Rams/Saints rivalry from the Rams' early-2000s "dynasty") and we have a workable new alignment.

AFC EAST
AFC NORTH
AFC SOUTH
AFC WEST
New England
Pittsburgh
Indianapolis
Denver
Buffalo
Cleveland
Houston
Oakland
Miami
Cincinnati
Tennessee
A Whale's Vagina
New York Jets
Baltimore
Atlanta
Kansas City

NFC EAST
NFC NORTH
NFC SOUTH
NFC WEST
New York Giants
Green Bay
New Orleans
San Francisco
Washington
Chicago
Carolina
Arizona
Philadelphia
Detroit
Tampa Bay
Seattle
Dallas
Minnesota
St. Louis Los Angeles

The only alternative I could see would be to move the Saints into the AFC South instead of the Falcons.  The Saints would have an instant blood feud with Houston, but St. Louis would be really screwed, with neither a geographic nor a competitive rival closer than Atlanta.  So that's out.

Conclusion

Is this much of an improvement?  Probably not.  Moving Atlanta away from Carolina is a realignment "minus."  But it's still outweighed by the "plus" of giving the Saints someone to play with, and putting Los Angeles in a geographically appropriate division.  And it's better than, say, the Vikings moving to LA, which would make Chris Berman cry a greasy, fat-laden tear at the thought of breaking up the NFC Norris.  But if the Jags were to move, I'd think this is better than leaving LA in Tennessee's division.

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