April 1, 2023

PHILADELPHIA | The NFL is toying with the idea of ​​playing both conference finals on neutral ground in future years, rather than the current formula of home-court advantage to teams with the best record. This prospect is far from pleasing to the players.

• Read also: NFL: Eagles fans will make life tough for 49ers

• Read also: On the road to the Super Bowl: the defense will have the last word

Since 1975, the league has awarded home-court advantage to the division champions with the most regular season wins. Thus this year, the Chiefs (14-3) and Eagles (14-3) are the hosts of the two conference finals.

Due to the canceled game between the Bills and Bengals in Week 17 following the Damar Hamlin incident, the NFL had to improvise a formula in the event that the Bills found themselves facing the Chiefs in the American Conference Finals. .

The scenario never materialized, but the league would have moved this game to Atlanta and already, 50,000 tickets in just 24 hours had been reserved (and refunded since). It was enough for the bigwigs of the circuit to realize that they could do big business with finals on neutral ground.

In Philadelphia, on the eve of a conference final in their backyard, the players are not enthusiastic about the idea of ​​seeing the formula change eventually.

“I’m clearly not a fan of that idea. One of the coolest things about football is that the regular season becomes so important. We have very few opportunities to recover in the event of a defeat, unlike sports where there are 82 games or baseball where there are twice as many, ”said veteran Eagles center Jason Kelce. .

More revenue

For the NFL, moving games to neutral ground would generate revenue as different markets bid high for a final.

Naming rights could be sold at a high price and the league would also control the sale of tickets, like the Super Bowl.

The economic argument will weigh heavily in the balance, but the competitive aspect would take a hard hit.

Shaking his head and guffawing in spite, tackle Fletcher Cox pleaded for the status quo.

Fletcher Cox, a respected voice for the Eagles, echoes several players in the league who don't welcome the idea of ​​staging the conference finals on neutral ground.


Fletcher Cox, a respected voice for the Eagles, echoes several players in the league who don’t welcome the idea of ​​staging the conference finals on neutral ground.

“Teams work so hard to get home-field advantage. Honestly, when you look at the season we’ve had, that’s what allows us to play this conference final at home. We don’t have to travel. We play in our stadium, in front of the fans who have supported us all year.

“No matter what the NFL decides, as players, we will have to deal with it. At the moment, this match is taking place on Sunday (tomorrow) at our house and we are very happy that this is the case, ”he said.

Mild weather

Another point the NFL would like to make is that late in January, weather conditions would no longer be a determining factor for the Conference Finals, as they would be moved to cities with mild weather. or indoor stadiums

“I still remember the Super Bowl in New York and everyone was freaking out because it could be cold and snowy. Yet the elements are part of our sport. I do not believe that a football match should always be played under the sun or in a controlled environment,” Jason Kelce said.

Supports needed?

The NFL can always push this idea down the throat of the players, but it still needs the support of the owners. At least 24 of them must vote in favor of any change to the regulations. And it is not won yet.

“I hate the idea. My feeling is that if it were put to a vote today, it wouldn’t pass, but who knows? ”, commented this week the influential owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Art Rooney II.

DeMeco Ryans: teammate turned rival coach

DeMeco Ryans quickly garnered accolades as they rose through the coaching ranks in San Francisco.

Getty Images via AFP

DeMeco Ryans quickly garnered accolades as they rose through the coaching ranks in San Francisco.

49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans has had such a rapid rise as a coach that he’s set to coach some of his former Eagles teammates across the court on Sunday.

Ryans rose to prominence in the NFL in his debut with the Houston Texans, winning Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2006. After six seasons, the linebacker moved to Philadelphia in 2012.

Three years later, at only 31, he retired as a player, but his post-career in football was all mapped out.

In 2017, the 49ers opened the doors of coaching to him, as the coach responsible for quality control in defense. He quickly evolved as an inside linebackers coach, then as a defensive coordinator last year.

Now, at 38, he would be the main candidate to become the next head coach of the Texans, which would bring him back to his roots. His former Eagles teammates who are still active are the least surprised in the world.

“I felt, and I was far from the only one, that this was an avenue for him. He has always been an impeccable leader and a very cerebral player. It’s absolutely no surprise that he is having success as a coach,” commented center Jason Kelce, who worked with him for four seasons.

A good soccer IQ

From his first seasons as a linebacker in the NFL, Ryans teammates liked to nickname him “Cap”, for captain.

In his last years in Philadelphia, his teammates appreciated him as much for his intelligence in game situations as for his human qualities.

“On the pitch, you could see he was the smartest player. He often knew what game was coming and told us to be wary of this or that trick.

“I was watching the 49ers game against the Cowboys last week and you could see the defense adjusting to some looks on offense. The guys seemed to see what was coming and that’s DeMeco’s fingerprint. He was always the leader of the defense,” praised defensive end Brandon Graham, who is four years his junior.

Youth Counselor

Tackling Fletcher Cox arrived as a rookie in 2012, when Ryans came to Philadelphia. He quickly found a mentor in him.

“When I arrived here, I watched him a lot and it struck me how much he had the ability to lead. Just being around DeMeco taught me how to be a real pro. When I had a problem, I went to him to show me the right way. I felt he cared about everyone. He always wanted the best from each of the players around him,” he said.

When Ryans took over the 49ers defense, she was staying at 17e step for points awarded. She climbed to ninth place last year, then to the top this season.

No wonder he was considered by several teams for a position as head coach and his promotion would not be long in coming.

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