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Parity in the NFL Gone? Blame Tagliabue, not Goodell.

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The shield is stronger for some than others in todays Tagliabue altered NFL.

BucsFanLostInIowa left an interesting comment in an article in here, about how he read a piece on Yahoo talking about how parity has been destroyed, and that the new commissioner is to blame. Well Yahoo is correct, but dont blame that on Goodell, put the blame if you want squarely on the former Commish, Paul Tagliabue. 

Before we play the blame game, let me set up the point and my description of it.

Point at hand is the recent evidence of Parity disapearing; We have so many undefeated teams so late in the season, and so many winless teams equally as late. Last year we had the first 0-16 team ever, and there hasnt been an winless team since the Bucs in 1976 as an expansion team. Then you have the previous year, where a 16-0 undefeated season hasnt been accomplished since 1972 by the Miami Dolphins. Parity was the envisionment of former great NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle (1960-1989), who reigned over the Leage during most of its enormous growth. Parity in' sports is defined as an attempt to make an even playing field for all teams. Rozell enacted measures to reward poorer teams with higher draft picks (this is why the worst team gets the top draft pick), as well as other measures designed to create a league where on the last day of the season, you would have the most amount of playoff spots available. The  more even the league, the happier Pete Rozelle would be.

Truth to the matter is, if you want to create a more fair, even playing field, today's system designed by Tagliabue is much more so. This is where it gets tricky, so I will try to explain.

Want to point out to a professional media member they are an idiot? Wait for them to talk about a current team having a good record because of their "last place Schedule". That is a joke. Do you know what you get for finishing last place since 2002?

2 games against weak teams. That's it!  That's how media members (some) have been explaining why NFC South teams manage to always finish first after finishing last the year before, because they get a last place schedule. Whoopee, that is a whole whopping two games against equally week teams.

Its been this way since realignment starting with the 2002 season in which the 3 divisions of 5 teams (one had 6) made way to 4 divisions of 4 teams in each conference. Then, they changed the scheduling; every team in the NFL would play every other team Home and Away every 8 years. This is why the Bucs played at Buffalo this year for the first time ever. They will play there again in 8 years. They will play Buffalo again, at home, guaranteed in 4 years. In fact, every teams schedule, minus those two variable games that get decided based on where you place in your division, are made up in advance.

You play the same opposite conference (AFC) divisions once every 4 years. You play every same conference (NFC) divisions every 3 years (Because you play each team in your OWN division each year twice, so thats why its every three years).  Next year, the Bucs already know they will play Atlanta, Carolina and New Orleans Home and Away, plus they will play home games vs Seattle, San Francisco,Pittsburgh and Cleveland, and away games vs St. Louis, Arizona, Baltimore and Cincinnati. The two wild games depend on where we finish in the division. This can get complicated...so follow if you can, if not dont worry about it! All you need to know is we play two games against teams that finish in the same place in their division as we do in ours.

If your following; If we finish in last place, which is where it looks like, we will play the last place team from the NFC Central at Home, and last place team from the NFC East on the road. So Detroit at home, and Washington on the road from what it looks like (Unless Dallas finishes last, its possible). Those last two games rotate each year based on the rotating schedule..since 2010 features games vs the NFC West, the other two teams are from the other divisions. Every 4 years, they swap home and away. So when you are playing everyone in the East, the two parity games would be vs the North and West same placed teams. 

So how has this removed parity? Well, it's a more fair way of scheduling, but that does NOT even out teams records! Under the old system before 2002, Teams that finished in last place played FAR more than just two games against similar opponents.

For starters, the Bucs had 8 games vs Division opponents. That left 8 to go in a 16 game schedule. A last place schedule back then meant you only had to play 2 games against the other conference, and those were against two last place teams. You played every team in one of other divisions which rotated each year kind of like it does now. So that is either 4 or 5 more games depending on which division you played. Then, you were given 2 games, thats right, TWO games against another last place team in your conference! This is why sometimes you look back at the old Bucs schedules, and you see them playing Washington Home and Away, or the Cardinals Home and Away.

The system was set up to give weaker teams more games vs weaker teams, so they could have a better record. Then put the best teams vs the best teams, and have them bring DOWN their record. This way, a weak team could have as much of a chance as possible in a division race vs a better team. 

The end result, is now we have more teams with better or poorer records, and less teams in the middle of the pack. 

The fair part of the new system, is everyone plays the same teams in your division. Everyone in the NFC South will play the same teams, except for those two. This is why the "record vs similar teams" has been increased in importance in the tie breaking system.

The end result is more teams with a chance to go 15-1 or 16-0, and 1-15 or 0-16, especially when you happen to be scheduled against a tough division, or maybe two tough divisions.

The one thing people are not considering when they say this will remove interest from football, is that in todays NFL, teams have free agency and you see many teams improving from year to year, where as back in the early 90s and prior, it was very common for an NFL franchise to take 3-4 years to rebuild.

In no way do I try to insinuate that Paul Tagliabue was out to sabotage Rozelle's plan for parity, or that he was a poor commissioner. The re-alignment was needed and was actually done as good as could be expected, maintaining classic rivalries as well as helping out the geographical ridiculousness of having Atlanta in the same division as Los Angeles and San Francisco, while resisting breaking up the NFC East because they could find closer teams than Washington and Philadelphia to play Dallas. That would have been a disaster, as much as breaking up the Dolphins, Bills, Pats, and Jets. Do I prefer the NFC South to the NFC Central? No. I really enjoyed those games vs Packers, Bears, Vikes and Lions every year, and I think the Bucs should play those teams in preseason, that would help add a little excitement to preseason. But thats just the old man in me who likes things the way they were sometimes, and it turns out the Bucs and Panthers are really working up a good rivalry.  Heres hoping we never live in an NFL where everyone is 8-8, or half the teams are 15-1 while the others are 1-15.