The Return of the Rambling Idiot: 7 on 7 spring football, overhauling the Pro Bowl and the circus known as recruiting

Tom Hanken, KC SportsNation

It is July and football season is, right around the corner. Even though we all love baseball, we still get that football itch before the coals from the Fourth of July barbeque cool. This led me to a think why the NFL offseason seems so long, when comparing to the other major sports, it certainly is. The NBA begins at the end of October and runs until Mid-June (roughly eight months, four months of off-season and pre-season). The NBA also feels longer because the moment the finals are over we jump right into the draft and free agency. So, one could say that it runs into July because there is no break from season to offseason action – basically a nine-month season.  MLB runs from very end of February to the middle of October, nearly eight months. NHL runs from October until July; roughly 10 months with a two-month of off-season. Two. The NFL runs from August (training camp opens in late July) until the beginning of February, a little over six months. Six very, very short months. When we stack these up and compare them:

  • NHL 10 months
  • NBA 9 months
  • MLB 8 months
  • NFL 6 months

It is interesting that they are listed in order of length of season and in reverse order of popularity. I am not here to say that the NFL season should be longer. I think the 16-game schedule is perfect and should not be any longer, neither should the playoffs. That is not what I am going to propose. I am, however, proposing that we should get to watch football in the spring.

I think it would be entertaining and profitable for the NFL to feature a spring football 7 on 7 league. This league could take place in NFL cities, or cities close to those cities – such as their training camp sites. Teams could use players on their 85 roster, practice rosters, or potentially camp signees. Coaches could be offensive or defensive assistants. This would give NFL teams a chance to evaluate players that are on the fringe. The silver lining for a player? It would give them a chance to showcase their talents and maybe earn a spot in a NFL camp – if not for their current team, but another. Teams could also have a look at a young QB in real situations. It also gives a player that is rehabbing or coming back from an injury a chance to get into live action and see how he is progressing. They would be in shorts and playing 7-7 flag football. So, it will not give the best insight into a player’s ability to win on the big stage. But, what it can do is help give a player a better understanding of the playbook, better route running, and ball skills.

Another advantage for this league would be we could finally cut a preseason game, or two.  Some positions battles could be won or lost in the 7-7 league. Does it solve all position battles? No, because there is no place for lineman in this league. It also would provide coaches a perspective into how a player competes, an area I think is much underrated and how to judge from watching OTAs and mini camps. Are there draw backs? Of course. A player could get hurt, but, a player could get hurt washing his car or carrying groceries up the stairs (both which have happened). Another advantage would be it would keep some players busy, and would maybe cut down on the current NFL off-season activity of appearing in court.

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Watching the Mid-Summer classic this week reminded of how bad the Pro Bowl really is. It is harder for football to put on the show that baseball does because football is a harder sport to play when you are trying not to play it. I have a few suggestions that will improve the pro bowl. They may not be great suggestions and they do not have to be to “improve” the game. Kate Upton in a bikini changing baby’s diapers at mid-field during the game would count as an improvement.

Make the game a 7-on-7.

Setup ‘hot spots’ around the field. For example. If the qb throws a td from a certain spot it adds x-amount of points to the score. If a running back hits a certain spot he loses 5 yards. Shenanigans like that. For example, the hot spots could be between the 40 and 45-yard lines.

Once inside the redzone, all skill position players (WR, RB, DB, and QB) are replaced by lineman. Yes, the big uglies have a place in my Bizarro Pro Bowl as well.

Fans can vote for special rules or call plays on Twitter.

Make part of the game a skills competition. Have opponents run drills against each other and the winning team receives bonus points.

I think these five changes could make the pro bowl at least worth watching. Let’s face it, they are really playing football as the game stands right now. Why not spice it up and at least make it fun for us to watch.

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Anybody else tired of this show that high school football recruiting has become? I sure am. I blame that on a four-letter company back east for broadcasting these events. I am an old school guy and have old school ways but, I missed the days when a guy would just make a decision with family, coaches, teammates, etc. No hats in a bag, no pep rallies with TV crews, just a guy making a tough decision with the people that helped him make it. Not only is the ceremony itself disappointing and overblown but recruits often change their minds after such a ceremony, as they enjoy the attention and notoriety that comes with being a top recruit. But, like anything else, it should be enjoyed in moderation and with caution. This past week an Omaha, NE (Millard West) prospect announced his intentions Twitter to attend Stanford. This is the way it should be done. Should it be allowed to have a pep rally and celebrate their hard work and achievement? Yes. But, only after signing day once they have signed their LOI. But, in today’s world of prima donna athletes, there’s still too many recruits trying to get out of their LOI before they step on campus.

I think a way to eliminate this would be to have an early signing period, and to stop the coverage of kids who are not ready for the pressure, exposure, and commitment that is required of them to be in such a spotlight. Another suggestion would be for everyone to realize that they are just kids. Stop putting pressure on them to visit and commit. I am not surprised when a kid decommits, and neither should you. We all put too much pressure on these kids to make up their minds when they are not ready to. We are all excited when the next hot prospect says he wants to play for your team but, just remember, that they are just kids and nothing is guaranteed in the mess that is recruiting. From now on let’s take it easy when following recruits and if we stop building them up and watching their every move, maybe they will stop pulling hats out of bags (the hat fake out is the worst of them all) to show us where they are going to spend the next 3-5 years.

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