The State of the Game: 5 issues the NFL Must Address to Improve the Quality of the Game

Photo: USA TODAY FTW

“I want to grow. I want to be better. You grow. We all grow. We’re made to grow. You either evolve or you disappear.” Tupac Shakur

Super Bowl Sunday is an exciting time; at the same time it is bittersweet. Another year come and gone. The countdown to the NFL draft starts Monday morning and begins the long wait until training camp in August.

Each year, Super Bowl week is an opportunity to reflect on the past year, and look forward to the future.

Here are five areas that NFL executives need to address:

1. Officiating: Fans want two things from officials: equality and consistency. The NFC Championship proved to the world that officials need to be held more accountable. Currently, fans are losing trust in the officials and their effect on the outcome of the game. The non-call on Nickell Robey-Coleman left a bitter taste for football fans everywhere. The NFL still hasn’t addressed the error.          

Earlier in the year officiating crews were suspended for poor performance. In addition, official Roy Ellison was placed on administrative leave after an altercation with Buffalo Bills DE Jerry Hughes (Source: Democrat and Chronicle). Thus, it is clear the NFL higher ups are finally addressing the problem and working to restore the trust with their fanbase. The review process also took a step forward, though it is nowhere near where it should be.

2. Sexual Violence: One step forward, one step back. Unfortunately, this problem is not going away anytime soon. After the Ray Rice fiasco, there was hope that this problem would be addressed swiftly and adequately. But, here we are talking about Kareem Hunt and revisiting the old wounds. We all wish we could turn the corner, but progress is never linear and we need to keep addressing this issue before we can move forward.

3. Mental Health: Josh Gordon needs help. That is ok. Everybody at some point will go to a dark place and need time to heal and recover. We are not here to judge him or his struggle. But, there needs to be more accountability with NFL franchises to provide systemic help for their players. Look at all the wasted potential in Johnny Manziel, Josh Gordon, or many others. It appears progress is being made and society as a whole is still figuring out the best way to move forward in addressing Mental Health. Hopefully the NFL can spearhead a campaign to provide more support for their employees. Reports show that the Patriots are paying for Josh Gordon’s treatmentHopefully that is true and things can continue to improve.

4. Marijuana Use: Going hand in hand with Mental Health is marijuana use. Sure, there are debates about the long-term effects of THC on the brain, but if a player knows the risks and chooses to smoke, it should be allowed. World class athletes need some escape to deal with the pressures and intensity of a brutally physical sport like football. Marijuana is not a performance-enhancing drug. Of course there needs to be accountability, but many believe weed is less harmful than alcohol. Alcohol is not on the banned substance list, but I digress.

5. Political Involvement: Anthem protests did not steal the spotlight the way they did in 2017, however, the problem is not fixed. If players choose to engage in political discussions or make political statements they are shunned by fans and scrutinized by the media (i.e. Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid). This year Eric Reid called Malcom Jenkins a “sellout” because he felt Jenkins did not support his anthem protest stance.  Of course, players are employees, and have to follow the rules of their employers. But, if they cannot act like human beings addressing societal issues, the problem will only get worse. Hopefully the NFLPA can work hand in hand with the NFL executives.

Matthew Benedict

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