While the NBA has succeeded in keeping COVID-19 at bay, the NFL has failed to do so. In particular, the Tennessee Titans have been hit hardest by the coronavirus.
With Mike Vrabel’s team in the midst of a COVID-19 crisis, the NFL is reportedly considering making an unprecedented change. But given the Titans’ culpability in their outbreak, Roger Goodell needs to dole out a strict punishment rather than make a drastic alteration to the season.
The Tennessee Titans are in the mist of a COVID-19 crisis
Early on, it appeared as though the NFL had done a solid job of preventing the spread of COVID-19. Yet, the Titans have completely destroyed that narrative.
According to ESPN, Tennessee had another player test positive for the coronavirus on Thursday morning. In addition, an inconclusive positive test from Wednesday was confirmed positive. In total, the Titans organization has had 23 members test positive for COVID-19 since Sept. 24.
The outbreak in Tennessee forced the NFL to postpone the team’s Week 4 matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers. And with more players testing positive, that puts Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Bills in jeopardy.
However, longtime Titans reporter Paul Kuharsky exposed the team’s culpability in the outbreak when he posted photos from one of his sources that depicted Titans players working out at Montgomery Bell Academy on Sept. 30.
Of course, the NFL had instructed Tennessee to refrain from in-person meetings or workouts of any kind. Naturally, that has led to speculation about how the NFL should punish the Titans for breaching protocol.
The NFL is considering making a radical change to the season
The recent outbreak of COVID-19 has forced the NFL to make several schedule changes. Besides postponing the Titans’ Week 4 matchup, the league also moved the matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs and the New England Patriots from Sunday afternoon to Monday night. That occurred after Cam Newton and Chiefs practice squad QB Jordan Ta’amu tested positive for COVID-19.
But with the Titans continuing to lose players, and other NFL teams dealing with more positive cases, the league may resort to making an unprecedented change to the season. On Thursday, Adam Schefter revealed on ESPN’s Get Up that the league is considering a number of alternative scenarios as a result of COVID-19.
“One of those that has come up is that the playoffs won’t be based on a number of wins as it has been every year that the NFL has existed,” Schefter explained. “It could just simply be that it’s based on win percentage. That if the Tennessee Titans go 10-3 this year, or whatever their record is, if their win percentage is better, they go to the playoffs.”
He further added, “But I think that in the end, with some of these positive tests, some of these facilities shutting down, some of these games being in jeopardy and we’re just now entering Week 5 tonight, it may well be that the league has no choice but to make the playoffs based on win percentage.”
Roger Goodell should punish the Titans rather than change the NFL playoffs
For Roger Goodell, his focus shouldn’t be on the NFL playoffs. At least, not right now. Rather, the NFL commissioner needs to conduct a thorough investigation of the Titans and deliver a strict punishment in order to send a message.
That isn’t to say the NFL playoffs aren’t important. However, changing the seeding structure to accommodate a team that appears to have committed serious violations and put many people at risk seems unwise. Instead, if the league wants to avoid a repeat situation, Goodell needs to lay the hammer down on Tennessee.
Forcing Mike Vrabel’s team to forfeit at least two games would certainly send a clear message to other franchises that failure to follow league protocol will not be tolerated.
In addition, the league should consider taking away draft picks from Tennessee. Goodell stripped the Patriots of first- and fourth-round draft picks for Deflategate—a situation that involved air and footballs, not people’s lives. That penalty seems like a reasonable starting point for the Titans given they jeopardized the health and safety of the countless people involved in football operations.
Then again, Goodell’s history of doling out discipline makes his next move a complete unknown. Will he make an example of the Titans with a historic punishment? Or will he focus more on changing the playoff seeding to ensure the postseason still takes place despite the challenges brought on by COVID-19?
Your move, commissioner.