- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Don’t look for big changes when NFL owners gather in Philadelphia today for their annual May meetings. The developing Los Angeles situation was a late addition to the agenda, the highlight of which will be tomorrow’s vote on whether to expand the playoffs. However, the former will be just a topic of discussion, and the latter has about as much chance of passing as Los Angeles does of preventing a ninth straight fall without pro football.

The proposal by Kansas City’s Lamar Hunt and New England’s Robert Kraft to add a playoff team in each conference for a total of 14 was tabled at the March meetings in Phoenix, and the odds are long for its passage tomorrow. The competition committee, comprised of general managers and coaches, recently voted 8-0 against expanding the playoffs. It takes only nine negative votes among the 32 owners to defeat a proposal.

No team with a 10-6 record or better has missed the playoffs since 1991, while nine of the 26 teams that would have qualified as a seventh seed in the AFC or NFC since 1990 — when the playoffs expanded from 10 to 12 teams — were 8-8 or worse.

Also, when the NFL voted to expand to 32 teams, realign to eight divisions of four teams and implement a balanced schedule for 2002, it agreed to try the system for two years.

“The feeling of the committee was that there wasn’t a compelling reason to change that plan at this point,” said Texans GM Charley Casserly, a committee member.

Casserly also pointed out that no sixth seed has been to the Super Bowl, so adding a lesser team wouldn’t be adding a realistic championship contender.

“My feeling is if something’s not broke, don’t try to fix it,” said Eagles coach Andy Reid, whose team’s three straight playoff berths are topped only by Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay’s four.

Another problem with seven playoff teams in each conference is that only one would get a bye, which many NFL personnel consider an unfair advantage. Hunt’s remedy would be to eliminate byes and have eight playoff teams in each conference. Under that scenario, Washington would have reached the postseason with its 7-9 record in 2002. However, the networks would find it difficult to schedule eight playoff games on the opening weekend.

Still, supporters of expanded playoffs note that 14 of 32 teams in the postseason works out to 44 percent, similar to the 43 percent when 12 of 28 qualified for postseason before the additions of franchises in Carolina, Jacksonville, Cleveland and Houston in the past eight years.

Concerning Los Angeles, which was abandoned by the Rams and Raiders in 1995 and beaten out by Houston in the last expansion round, three local groups are vying to bring the NFL back to the area, while the Vikings, Colts and Chargers have indicated interest in moving to the nation’s No.2 market.

More discussion is also expected on the possibility of playing the Super Bowl outdoors in New York or Washington in 2008. Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, who has spent most of his life in those two cities, is strongly behind the concept, but it seems to have little support beyond the Giants, Jets and Redskins because of concerns about the winter weather.

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