FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The NFL is not sending the tanking problem to a think tank.
Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league is enjoying peak competitiveness, despite five teams winning one game or fewer through the first six weeks of the season.
“I don’t think the league has ever been more competitive than it is today,” Goodell said from the NFL fall meetings at the Ritz-Carlton Fort Lauderdale. “You see that in teams going from last to first in dramatic fashion. I think that’s unique to the National Football League.
“… For us, the competitiveness of our game is obviously critical. I don’t think that is solved with a [draft] lottery, I think that is solved by all the issues we try to deal with on a regular basis through the competition committee and the league in trying to make sure our league is competitive.”
The concept of tanking has gained traction with teams such as the Cleveland Browns (one win from 2016 to ’17) and the Miami Dolphins (0-5) trading several prime assets in exchange for draft capital and long-term hope.
The Cincinnati Bengals (0-6) and Washington Redskins (1-5) face major rebuilding efforts over the next few years.
But games are still close leaguewide. Atlanta Falcons president Rich McKay, who’s a leader on the competition committee, said 51 games have been decided by seven or fewer points, the most in NFL history during the same span.
The San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers combined for a 10-21-1 record a year ago; they sit atop their divisions at 5-0 and 5-1, respectively.
“We’ve got a lot of good trends from a numbers standpoint,” McKay said.
As bad teams position themselves for a No. 1 pick to get a top quarterback, the league won’t be changing its draft format to a lottery anytime soon.
“From our standpoint, we find a draft to be successful on many fronts,” Goodell said. “One, the competitive side. But also the event itself has grown dramatically. It’s not under active consideration. It hasn’t been raised by either the committees or the clubs at this stage.”
In other NFL news, owners discussed a 17-game season as part of negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement. Though Steelers president Art Rooney II said he’ll keep details at the table, he pointed out that he’s old enough to remember 12-game seasons.
“You have to adjust and do what’s best for the game,” Rooney said.
A 17-game season would still begin the weekend after Labor Day but would go one week longer.
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