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Ratings, rule changes, and CTE: Why this is the worst NFL season of all time

The National Football League has been under a lot of scrutiny for its low viewership ratings this year. But in what many are calling the worst season in NFL history, there are several underlying factors that have contributed to the poor state of the NFL this year.

These factors have ranged from a lack of competitive games to injuries to the biggest star players, and rule changes that make no sense to of course racial inequality protests.

Excitement and competition are two values that represent the NFL because of the unprecedented swing in the standings of the league. Fans strive for upsets of big name teams because of the excitement it brings to the game and playoff time.

There just hasn’t been that much excitement this season as many NFL stadiums looked like this in 2017 despite postseason implications.

Four out of the eight conferences have a three-game margin or higher between first and second place teams. That’s a pretty wide gap when analyzing the standings at this time of the year considering the league is right around the corner from playoff time.

This is a contributing factor to a decline in viewership because the fans just aren’t excited like they have been in previous years. It doesn’t help that stars like Aaron Rodgers, JJ Watt, Odell Beckham, Carson Wentz, and many, many more got injured too.

It’s safe to say that players protesting racial inequality is still the leading factor in why the NFL is being scrutinized for its worst season in league history though. Hundreds of thousands of fans have expressed that they refuse to support a league where its players “disrespect” the American flag and the history behind it.

But what people continue to fail to realize is that this isn’t a football matter; but an ongoing political issue of discrimination and police brutality against African-Americans.

Donald Trump’s comments and the ongoing police brutality of African-Americans speak volumes to the society that the people of the United States live in today, and that is supporting evidence for why so many of the league’s players refuse to stand for, or protest during, the National Anthem.

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However, the main point I want to focus in on here are the rule changes of the National Football League in regards to the physicality of the game. There has been significant emphasis on player safety and eliminating head to head hits. This stems from the outbreak of CTE.

CTE has been discovered in multiple former players of the league, most recently retired Kansas City Chiefs Running Back, Larry Johnson. Johnson has stated that he suffers from constant migraines and even worse, aggressive mood swings. He describes intense headaches, violence, and loss of memory in a feature with the Washington Post.

The former 2002 Heisman finalist states that “demons” push him in the direction of rooftop decks, urging him to jump down.

“One is telling you to do it; one is telling you don’t. One is telling you it’d be fun,” Johnson mentions.

The league is doing everything in its power to reduce collisions in the direction of the head to reduce the possibility of contracting this deadly brain disease.

Several players have spoken out regarding the “softness” of the league in terms of the implementation of certain rule changes. Fifteen yard penalties, excessive fines, and suspensions have bene put in place in order to negate head to head hits. Steelers’ safety Mike Mitchell spoke more to this issue as he says,

“But now I don’t gotta wear heavy sh-t. But give us flags for me to pull off, because that way I know what we’re playing. I signed up to play full-speed, contact football, and we’re not doing that. I feel like I gotta ask a guy, ‘Hey, are you ready for me to hit you right now? Before I hit you.”

Mitchell is very passionate regarding the league’s new protocol because he feels there is a failure of consistency and clarity regarding what is a clean hit and what is not. This is a prime example of why many believe this is the worst NFL season ever, because of a complete swing in rule changes to the league.

Mitchell goes on further to explain,

“We gotta get better leadership as who’s running the league, because obviously everybody from the fans, owners, players are all disappointed in Roger Gooddell.”

Mitchell makes very strong points in his interview because he himself feels the league is collapsing. Fans do not want to watch a game or support an organization that is implementing rule changes affecting the physicality and foundation of the sport.

The game of football was founded on a set of values, and those values are being disobeyed and completely reversed by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.