A Case Of Piling On??

By Paola Boivin
Updated: April 30, 2009

ARIZONA – Are you ready for some football?!!

And more football. And more football. And more football . . .

Far be it for me to question the NFL’s marketing moxie. No one sells itself, and sometimes its soul, better than this league, but the NFL’s latest consideration makes me think thou doth request too much.

Commissioner Roger Goodell acknowledged Monday that the league is considering carrying the first round of the 2010 draft on a Thursday evening, the second and third round on Friday evening and the final four rounds on Saturday.

Feeling a little self-important are we?

First-round coverage is terrific. It lands monster ratings because it lures fans of all teams and supporters of both college and professional football. The other rounds? Scroll worthy at best. Can’t imagine a lot of people staying in Friday evening to see who the Detroit Lions land with the 65th pick.

Promotion of the later rounds feels so . . . manufactured. Seriously? As much as I make fun of Mel Kiper Jr. and his oddly coifed hair, I do respect his connections and the work he puts into the draft. But even someone as prepared as Kiper can’t get it right.

Heading into the 1991 draft, he had Southern Mississippi’s Brett Favre and San Diego State’s Dan McGwire ranked evenly. McGwire went in the first round, Favre in the second. McGwire started only five games in his career. Favre retired in February, a sure Hall of Famer.

In 2001, he had Texas Christian’s LaDainian Tomlinson the third-best running back in the draft, behind Mississippi’s Deuce McAllister and Wisconsin’s Michael Bennett.

We’re not dogging Kiper here, we’re just uncomfortable about making an inexact science a primetime event. Just ask Tom Brady, who was drafted in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL Draft, 199 picks into the process.

It’s weird enough watching a Ryan Leaf or Tony Mandarich or Brian Bosworth put on his new team’s hat in front of a national TV audience one day and then see his NFL career spiral downward the next.

The draft is right where it belongs: on the weekend on a network that provides a continuous feed of analysis and scrolls for the diehards.

It is another example of the too-much-of-a-good-thing approach that seems to have plagued the NFL lately.

You like it so you’ll like more of it. Uh, not necessarily.

The NFL acknowledged in March that it was looking at expanding its regular-season schedule by one or two games and eliminating the same amount of preseason games. Well, it got it half right. It’s ridiculous that fans have to pay full price to watch backups in exhibition games, but tacking on more regular-season contests isn’t the solution.

16 games feel right. 18 is overkill. Imagine how a team that’s 3-14 will draw in its season finale. The intention of expansion is understandable.

More regular-season games would result in more money from the television pool and many owners are looking for enhanced revenue streams thanks to the construction of new stadiums.

Some coaches aren’t sold, however, because they worry how it would impact the health of players.

The NFL does so many things right. It’s America’s sport. It markets itself brilliantly and knows how to tap into its ever-expanding fan base. It has cleaned up a lot of its shortcomings, including improved player-conduct policies.

But it shouldn’t feel infallible. Owners and players need to reach a labor agreement before the 2010 season or we may see a league without spending limits. It’s a huge deal. Before he died, former NFLPA Executive Director Gene Upshaw said if teams went a season without a cap, players would never return to a salary-cap system.

New director DeMaurice Smith has his work cut out for him.

The NFL does a sound job of sending out feelers before it makes a decision, so maybe it will realize this overblown draft coverage is a silly thing.

I would hate to see this golden goose lay an egg.