Proposed playoff expansion likely alters Bears, NFL history

Proposed playoff expansion likely alters Bears, NFL history
January 24, 2014, 3:00 pm
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The NFL has not come to a known decision on whether to expand the playoff field from six teams in each conference to seven, a structure that would grant only the No. 1 seed in the AFC and NFC a first-round bye.

If it is approved – and there is support for the change – it projects to alter more than just NFL postseason history.

If a seventh team is in recent playoff brackets, is Lovie Smith still coach of the Chicago Bears? Jerry Angelo still the general manager? And how many other coaches and high-end staff remain in their jobs by virtue of making the playoffs, particularly with a win or two?

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The seventh team in the 2012 playoffs would have been Smith’s Bears. The seventh team in the 2011 playoffs, even with an 8-8 record after Jay Cutler and Matt Forte were hurt, would have been the Angelo/Smith Bears or Arizona Cardinals (a fifth-level tiebreaker would have been required to decide).

If the Bears make the 2011 and 2012 playoffs, which a seven-team field would have allowed based on their records, Angelo and Smith may still be in place.

The issue remains to be decided, possibly at the owners’ meetings in March. The Bears are withholding comment in advance of those discussions, and more than a few others have not made their voting inclinations known, as Mark Maske reported out at the Washington Post. This projects as one of those situations that likely will not be a done deal before the conversations begin, and may not be even afterwards.

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Green Bay President Mark Murphy said in an interview with WSCO radio in Appleton, Wisc., that he is favor of adding the playoff team and perhaps tying it in with cancelling out a preseason game.

“If we could [add two wild-card teams],” Murphy said, “and make changes in the preseason, maybe eliminate a preseason game, something along those lines, because our preseason, really, is not of a high quality anymore. So, I think that trade-off would be really positive for the fans.”