Innovation, Leadership

Strategy and Marketing Changes for the NFL

5 Sep , 2018  

With the 2018 NFL season about to begin, I want to share the changes that I most recommend for improving the NFL. Many of these would make the game more exciting and add strategy to the game. Some are about improving the NFL’s much beleaguered image.

Strategy and Rule Changes:

  1. Goal Line On Side Possession: If a team wants the ball after a kickoff, let them take it at their goal line. No more bouncy balls. If you can drive 99 yards, hats off to you, man. I’d like to see a coach swallow that call.
  2. 3 Point Conversion: If you need 9 points on a TD, kick a 55-yard extra point. It would really make long kickers more valuable.
  3. Kickoffs Changed: This year’s change to kickoffs is interesting. Why do we have kick-offs at all? Most are returned within a few yards of the 20-yard line. The kickers are all too strong and the coverage teams all too fast for much of anything else to happen. Have the option of taking the ball at the 20 or 25 and get back to real action.
  4. Change Penalties Enforced on Kick-offs: Penalties enforced on kickoffs, enforced against the receiving team, are useless. This just result in more touchbacks. Yeah! No – just more boring. Make the penalty be taken on the possession after the receiving team takes possession after the kick, or at least let the kicking team decide when to enforce the penalty.
  5. Kickoffs through the Uprights – It is super rare that a kicker can get the ball through the uprights on a kickoff. Should this be worth something? A bonus point? Or having the receiving team start closer to their end zone? Seems the kickoff is a great chance for some innovation. CFL ball gives a points for kicks through the end zone.
  6. Change Punts: Even more boring than a kickoff is the punt. Kick, catch, run 6 yards. Otherwise, fair catch, or no catch at all. All boring. Punts are for taking a break from the game. Maybe a punt can be thrown (like we did in school). It would be great to see a QB thrown the ball down field in something like a Hail Mary for a possession turn over. Maybe the “punting team” can even take possession in such a play. Punts are a real downer.
  7. Outlaw Fake Punts: Fake punts are not exactly cheating, but they are like the first baseman faking a throw back to the pitcher to tag a runner out. Fake punts, like fake throws in baseball, have nothing to do with talent or skill, it is just trickery, which is akin to winning without any skill or effort. If you could not get 10 yards in 3 downs and need to punt, you should not get to fake it. Of course, you can just man up and go for it on fourth down. Does anyone like anything that is fake anyhow? I can’t think of one fake thing that is honorable.
  8. 4 Point Field Goals: 60-yard field goals are still rare, but really exciting with return options and blocks, and the wind, and rarefied air of Denver. Maybe they should be encouraged with an extra point added. Basically, you set the ball at mid field or further back, you get an extra point on the try. Big legs are worthy of something, especially if we take away kickoffs from kickers.
  9. Possession Made Clearer: It seems possession of a catch still is a problem. Why is this so hard? What is a football move anyhow? You catch the ball once you have it under control. It seems the easiest change.
  10. No More Half the Distance Penalties: I have always disliked the discounting of the impact of penalties just because the penalty occurs with the red zone. A 15 yard penalty at the 21 yard line goes back 15 yards. If it happens at the 20, it goes back only 10 yards. Totally foolishness. Life does not offer half distance penalties. Take this weakness out of the NFL. Bad things happen in the red zone, and when they do, take the full penalty, down to the goal line if need be. It is a great way to add scoring and make players think twice about penalties.
  11. Put Flags on QBs – Given their importance, QBs should not be touched. Let’s call them down when their flags are pulled. Just joking! The QB protection has gotten out of control. Change the rules to allow defensive players a fair shot at the QB. We don’t protect LBs, CBs, or RBs. There are back up QBs, right?
  12. Pre-season Sucks – Do a Road Show Instead: Do something different. If these games don’t count, why play them? Just have some scrimmage games. Take the games to other cities that might love these. Consider games in Salt Lake City, Portland, Richmond, Syracuse, Sacramento, Birmingham, San Antonio, Toronto, Vancouver, Oakland, Tucson, Oklahoma City, El Paso, Orlando, Columbus, Raleigh, Boise, Memphis, and St. Louis. The fans would really love the chance to see an NFL game up close. Play in some great college stadiums and fill up the big bowls in Michigan, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, FSU, Texas, Penn State, and the like. Plus, it would be fun to watch the games played around the US.

Changes to NFL Marketing and Reputation

  1. Honor America Properly or Stop Trying: This week, we honored a real American hero in Senator John McCain. How many people do you know would accept more years of torture, when offered a free key out of jail pass? What an act of sacrifice! I mention this because the NFL can’t decide if its employees should stand, kneel, or not participate in the national anthem. Yet, most Americans could lose their job for not having a proper uniform or for taking an extended break. Work involves some rules. If the NFL wants to wrap itself in red, white, and blue, there is no room for disrespect when showing patriotism. The current situation just breeds discontent on all sides. Own it or take a pass. The controversy divides people in an unnecessary way. In college hockey games, we even stood for Oh’ Canada. Nice lyrics, we stood for that, ‘eh.
  2. Respect Women and Everyone Else: The NFL has to show it has compassion for others. Players are citizens. If they harm others, let them pay the price. No more soft treatment of special players. Playing is a privilege. Respect the society and fans that enable that.
  3. Involve Charity: It seems to me that each game is a major economic event. Millions in dollars to players. Millions in advertisement. The NFL should adopt a charity or set of them for each game. Bring some humility and generosity to the game. It would remind everyone that with wealth and success comes the opportunity to give back. Show it on your mighty stage.
  4. Change the Name of the Washington Football Team: Although this issue has lost the heat it had some years ago, I don’t know anyone that refers to Native Americans (or any person) by the color in their skin. It is divisive, offensive, and cruel. If you want to honor native Americans, take a play from Florida State University and name your team for a great Native American Nation, and contribute back to their people, as FSU does. Although FSU gets some push back from groups on this issue, they involve the Seminole nation, contribute to the Seminole people, and invoke the Seminole name for its virtues without being degrading. It is still a difficult line to carefully walk. Otherwise, pick an animal or human group and go with that. Mocking birds seem available and appropriate for DC.

I root for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 49ers, Dolphins, Seahawks, and opponents of the Cowboys.

Super Bowl Prediction: Packers over Patriots in Super Bowl. Rogers and Brady. It would be wonderful and one for the ages!

Professor Walker provides keynote talks, seminars presentations, executive training programs, and executive briefings.

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About Russell Walker, Ph.D.

Professor Russell Walker helps companies develop strategies to manage risk and harness value through analytics and Big Data. He is Clinical Professor of Managerial Economics and Decision Sciences at the Kellogg School of Management of Northwestern University. His most recent book, From Big Data to Big Profits: Success with Data and Analytics is published by Oxford University Press (2015), which explores how firms can best monetize Big Data. He is the author of the text Winning with Risk Management (World Scientific Publishing, 2013), which examines the principles and practice of risk management through business case studies.

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By  -      
Russell Walker helps companies develop strategies to manage Risk and harness value through Analytics and Big Data. As Clinical Professor at the Kellogg School of Management of Northwestern University, Russell Walker has developed and taught leading executive programs on Big Data and Analytics, Strategic Data-Driven Marketing, Enterprise Risk, Operational Risk, and Global Leadership. He founded and teaches the popular Analytical Consulting Lab and Risk Lab, experiential classes, which bring Kellogg MBAs together with real-world projects in Analytics and risk evaluation. His is the author of the book From Big Data to Big Profits: Success with Data and Analytics (Oxford University Press, 2015) which examines data monetization strategies and the development of data-centric business models in the new digital economy. He is also the author of the award-winning text Winning with Risk Management (World Scientific Publishing, 2013), which examines the principles and practice of risk management as a competitive advantage. Dr. Walker consults with firms on the topics of Big Data and Analytics, Risk Management, and International Business Strategy. Russell Walker can be reached at: russell-walker@kellogg.northwestern.edu @RussWalker1492 russellwalkerphd.com



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