The Commissioner is expected to have plenty of discretion when it comes to issues regarding COVID-19. In exercising it, he’ll potentially be relying not on the Competition Committee but on a committee of outside advisors.
Mark Maske of the Washington Post reports that the league likely will provide an external advisory committee to assist with questions like shutting down teams, cancelling games, etc. The goal in using outsiders will be to avoid potential conflicts of interests that would potentially cloud the opinions of Competition Committee members whose teams would potentially be affected by such decisions.
Peter King first suggested this possibility in his most recent Football Morning in America column.
It’s an intriguing possibility, and it’s appropriate to not put Competition Committee members in an awkward spot. Whatever the mechanism, however, it’s critical that the decisions flow from a clear set of standards that can be applied fairly and consistently. For example, whether a game will be played among a group of other games at 1:00 p.m. ET on a Sunday or whether it’s a stand-alone prime-time contest should not be a factor in whether a game is or isn’t canceled or postponed.
Also, to the extent that an outbreak within a given team potentially justifies postponement or cancellation of a game, at what point should the team experiencing the outbreak be held responsible for it? In other words, would a forfeit make more sense than a postponement or a cancellation if, for example, all offensive linemen are on the COVID-19 list? Should the opposing team lose a chance to win a game when it has a full complement of healthy players?
All that said, football is and always has been the ultimately next-man-up endeavor. Teams routinely are ravaged by injuries. They’re still expected to show up and play. Rather than create a mechanism for giving a team a pass on playing, why not ensure that every team will have 46 healthy players on every given Sunday, Thursday, and/or Monday?
If that means having practice squads in excess of 16, so be it. If that means creating extra rosters of game-ready players (like the XFL had) who can be signed at a moment’s notice, so be it.
Just before the world turned upside down, a 43-year-old Zamboni driver stepped in to play goalie for the Carolina Hurricanes on a moment’s notice. The show must go on, and instead of figuring out when and where the show won’t go on, the NFL’s interests would be better served by addressing how it will ensure that enough players will be available for all 256 regular-season games so that the show will go on.