It is remarkable how much the NFL has achieved regarding competitive balance. The NFL has a relevant regular season, an annual playoff turnover rate around 50percent, and at least one Super Bowl appearance for every team except four. Furthermore, the embarrassing franchises are kept out of the spotlight barring epic futility (the winless 2008 Detroit Lions) or public relations disasters (Bottle-Gate in Cleveland in 2001). No other pro sports league has attained that balance.
But that success does not come cheaply. Parity has a price, even a subtle one. The difference between efforts to generate parity in the NFL versus the NBA is visibility of costs. The NBA’s competitive dysfunction is on display for public viewing. This is not true for the NFL where the benefits of parity appear in the standings and the costs are obscured. Indeed, any discussion of costs needs to turn away from the standings and toward this question. Can pro football still change dramatically and thus elevate competition higher?