York Giants & Miami Dolphins Training Session

The NFL wants to tap that London market in the worst way. It’s like the nerdy kid in science class who get paired up with the hottest girl in school, and he’s doing everything he can to try to get her to like him. But unlike that kid, the NFL can’t bring its A game because certain owners are reluctant to go there, especially when it means giving up a home game. And the NFL certainly can’t move an existing franchise to London without laying more groundwork than the three games they’re currently doing there each year. There’s no indication that London would support that many games, and the pressure from other owners on having to deal with a London franchise logistically would be worse than the pressure that nerdy kid in science class would face if he actually tried to ask out his hot lab partner. It would be doomed for failure.

I’ve got the solution, and it goes way beyond just extending things to London.

Neutral site games.

Either remove a home game from each NFL team to add to the neutral site pool, or add one additional game to the schedule. Both options have merit, and while the one additional game would be a good way to avoid an 8-8 team reaching the post-season and would allow more easily for an extra bye week, the players association might not go for it.

So with each team having one extra “away” game, it t forces teams to not JUST rely on home games. The Super Bowl isn’t played in a team’s home stadium, so if they want to be the champions, they’re going to have to play at least ONE game in the playoffs outside their home turf. And this way, if a team only wins its home games, it couldn’t finish with a .500 record.

For those of you who are any good at math, you realize that with 32 NFL teams, things do divide out nicely to give London a full slate of 16 games.

That’s not what I’m proposing. Not at all.

In fact, I’d only give them 7 or 8 games in London each year (matching whatever number of home games NFL teams have, based on the decision made earlier). So what would I do with the rest of the teams and their neutral site games?

Test out other markets. Untapped fan-bases. Under-served populations.

If the NFL isn’t already there, how can you think that city would support the NFL enough to have a sold out game?

That’s a terrible question, but I’m glad I asked it.

Los Angeles, anyone?

Sure, that’s sort of an obvious answer, since the NFL is already talking about moving one – if not two franchises – there. What other spots would work? There are plenty of them:

Toronto. The Buffalo Bills already have a time-share there (or it felt like it from 2008 to 2012), and their population exceeding 2 million people speaks to the fact that they’d easily be able to support a couple games there each season, especially if the games don’t HAVE to feature the Bills. They’ve drawn 50,000 people for games on multiple occasions and don’t present ANY logistical nightmares in terms of location.

Las Vegas. Worried about potential gambling issues? I keep hearing that’s the reason why the NFL doesn’t have a full-time franchise there already, so how would this be different? Because a lot of NFL fans already make a trek to Vegas at least one weekend of the year when they can’t watch their team live, just to place some bets. If no team plays more than once a year in Vegas, I don’t see where the potential corruption comes into play any more than it already could. Not to mention the fact that, while its 600,000 residents makes Las Vegas a smaller market than the likes of Jacksonville and Indianapolis, it’s still roughly the same size as Seattle, Green Bay and Carolina, and it’s larger than Oakland’s population.

11572236-essayPortland. While it might not get as heated as the Boston vs New York rivalry, there’s certainly a good rivalry between Portland and Seattle, and if the Seahawks had to play one game in Portland each season, it could turn into a lot of fun to watch. When properly motivated, Portlanders come up with some creative ways for their fanbase to come together and let their voices be heard. If the game could avoid having more than 50% of the audience as Seahawks fans, it could be quite the spectacle. Given that they have 600,000 residents, they could almost support a team of their own.

Tokyo, Japan. There have been five games played in Japan since the start of 2000. While it presents some of the same challenges as games in London, and a couple others, it would likely be well attended.

Mexico City. Back in 2005, the Arizona Cardinals played a regular season game against the San Francisco 49ers in Estadio Azteca… and it only drew 103,000 fans.

Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Sure, the Crimson Tide probably provide enough football for area fans to where they wouldn’t need an NFL franchise. But how many of them would be interested enough to see an NFL game played in Bryant-Denny Stadium to where it would be worth bringing one or two games there each year?

Oklahoma City. Their population of 600,000 people makes them way more viable than Tuscaloosa, and they’ve already shown that they’re willing and able to support a team transplanted there (see the Oklahoma City Thunder). And with multiple well-supported NCAA football programs in the state, it’s easy to see that the sport has roots in the area.

6970522Honolulu, Hawaii. The Pro Bowl has some success there, primarily because the players enjoy the trip. Their population of 400,000 people isn’t quite where it would need to be in order to host a team full time, but owners would likely jump at the chance to add Hawaii to their schedule.

Lincoln, Nebraska. They’re three hours away from the nearest NFL team, and the Cornhusker faithful pack Memorial Stadium with more fans than most NFL stadiums get for home games.

Tallahassee, Florida. Another strong college town three hours from the nearest NFL team.

Salt Lake City. Their population isn’t as big as the other potential spots listed above, but area schools support fairly significant college football programs.

San Antonio. Remember when the Saints couldn’t play in New Orleans because of Hurricane Katrina? They played in San Antonio, and it was supported well enough that the NFL was rumored to be considering moving the team there full time.

The potential for games in cities listed above is undeniable, and it doesn’t even include having Lions games at Michigan’s Big House, the Bengals playing at Ohio State, the Bears setting up shop at Wrigley Field or the Patriots going to Fenway.

Success for the NFL doesn’t have to mean that a team lands in London full time in the next five years – if at all. Just like the nerdy kid in science class, finding a way to spend time there and have it be a mutually beneficial situation for both parties should be enough, especially if other hopefuls can follow their lead.