- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 22, 2003

PHILADELPHIA — A proposal to expand the field for the NFL playoffs this season was dropped yesterday in the face of near-certain defeat at a meeting of the league’s owners.

The owners decided to wait until at least the end of the year to address playoff expansion. The proposal, co-sponsored by the Kansas City Chiefs and New England Patriots, called for an additional playoff team in each conference that would have increased the league’s postseason field to 14.

The Chiefs withdrew the proposal before the owners could vote on it.

Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said he sees no reason to change the playoff format any time soon.

“It’s hard to say that you learned something on the basis of two seasons that you didn’t learn in the past [32] seasons,” said Tagliabue, who suggested the league will only seriously look at playoff expansion after its TV contracts expire in three years. “Are we going to say after we get a second season under our belt that we’re going to [change the system]? It might take two, three, four, five seasons. Who knows?

“There’s no urgency to try to fix something that’s not broken. It’s not only not broken, it’s the best in sports. We had more teams than ever vying for the playoffs in the last week of the [2002] season.”

Tagliabue said the decision to go from 10 to 12 qualifiers in 1990 was based in part on an expected expansion of the league from 28 to 32 teams. The NFL got its 32nd team last year with the addition of the Houston Texans. He also noted the addition of a sixth playoff team per conference allowed the NFL to go from two to four first-round games. Adding a seventh team would add a lesser team and make television scheduling more complicated.

Reaching the postseason generally assures job security, but not all coaches are in favor of playoff expansion.

Jeff Fisher of the Tennessee Titans and Mike Holmgren of the Seattle Seahawks serve on the competition committee, which recently voted 8-0 against the proposal.

Colts coach Tony Dungy, who has guided Indianapolis and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the postseason in five of his seven years, is opposed in part because he doesn’t like one team per conference — instead of the current two — being rewarded with a first-round bye.

In contrast, John Fox of the Carolina Panthers, who went 7-9 during his debut in 2002, believes the more the merrier.

“One of the measuring sticks of a successful season is making the playoffs, so the more playoff teams the better, but I don’t see it happening in the near future,” Fox said.

The meeting featured a symposium that included the hiring-diversity panel of Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney, Baltimore Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome, Fox and fellow coaches Bill Cowher of the Steelers and Herman Edwards of the New York Jets, Miami Dolphins cornerback Troy Vincent and Steelers tight end Mark Bruener.

“As Ozzie has been saying, the same kind of intense evaluation of multiple candidates that goes into who’s going to be your first pick of the draft should apply to the selection of coaching and front-office talent,” Tagliabue said. “The talent on the field is selected based on merit. That should also be true in coaching and the front office.”

Chairman Rooney said he expects a decision next month on whether the Detroit Lions will be penalized for failing to follow diversity guidelines in its hiring of coach Steve Mariucci.

Pennsylvania Gov. Edward Rendell and Pottsville, Pa., Mayor John Reilly made a presentation defending the 1925 Pottsville Maroons. The NFL will look into their contention that the Maroons were wrongly deprived of the 1925 championship — in those pre-playoff days — after the team played Notre Dame in the territory of the league rival Frankford Yellow Jackets. The title was awarded to the Chicago Cardinals, whom the Maroons had beaten 21-7.

And Tagliabue also pointed out the new NFL Network will enable fans to watch every preseason game. Currently, most preseason games are shown only on a local basis.


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