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NFL Europe 2: Electric Boogaloo?

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One issue that is currently under discussion at the NFL Owners Meetings in California is the topic of regular season expansion.  For the fans, this would be fantastic.  Who wouldn’t want an additional game to watch?  I’m sure the players have to qualms with this topic, but that’s to be expected.  For the owners, again, this is a winning situation; another game to reign in the profits.  If this were to move forward, the preseason would be reduced.  This would result in some of the younger players not seeing as much action (as they normally find the bulk of their playing time during preseason games).  So what’s the solution?  Why the resurrection of NFL Europe (or some sort of developmental league), of course.

Don’t get me wrong, I think a developmental league is a great idea as long as it’s run correctly.  Let’s talk about NFL Europe for a second though.  Some version of American football was in existence in Europe from 1991 until 2007.  It went through a few different name changes, but at this point, everyone knows it as NFL Europe.  The premise was to have a league where NFL teams could send players during the offseason to get an increased number of snaps and work on specific shortcomings in their game.  Unfortunately, the league became a way for the NFL to try to expand its football monopoly to a relatively untapped market that, arguably, didn’t want it on a regular basis.  The goal of the league became profit, with development as a hopefully fulfilled byproduct.  NFL Europe folded in 2007, with the owners citing yearly losses in excess of $30 million.

 

As I said, some incarnation of a developmental league is something the NFL should have, but it needs to be done the right way.  Presently, the NFL is the only major American sporting league (MLB, NBA, NHL, NFL) without some kind of formal developmental league.  Players that have enormous amounts of potential fall through the cracks because they are not polished enough.  The only way for these individuals to develop is to find some playing time.  Currently, the practice squad is the place where this occurs.  While the practice squad is all well and good, it probably isn’t enough.  Re-establishing a league that functions during the offseason would be vital to the development of players.  The goal of this league needs to remain development and not profit.  It should be established in the US and any profit that is actually made should be seen as a blessing.  It seems as if Roger Goodell shares this perspective as well.

“If it was a developmental league, it should be done for that purpose, for the purpose of developing players,” Goodell said. “So the commercial aspects, the international aspects, I think those would become secondary. That was my issue primarily with NFL Europe was that, what objective was it trying to meet? Was it trying to develop players? Was it trying to grow our game internationally, trying to be a commercial success?

An environment like this would be perfect for players like King Dunlap, Bryan Smith, and probably even Winston Justice to work on their game in a situation where they would see constant playing time for a few months.  I, for one, would welcome some type of development league.  I’m not sure most fans would care very much or the league would be profitable, but that shouldn’t be the goal.