The NFL's Quarterback Problem
Following Super Bowl LV's disappointing ratings, a number of factors spell potential problems for the NFL moving forward. As the pandemic continues, so does the damaging effect of crowd-less competition and non-communal consumption. And of course, America's current cultural divide only hinders the league's quest for mass appeal as organizational social stances (or lack thereof) cause some former viewers to "cancel" the league altogether. But even if this season of cultural turmoil and mass quarantine comes to a close, one problem promises to persist for the National Football League. In a quarterback-driven league, the biggest team brands in the biggest markets lack the biggest stars at the most important position. And whereas the NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement / free agency model drives stars like LeBron James to teams like the Lakers, the NFL's infrastructure seems primed to keep a quarterback like Patrick Mahomes in Kansas City forever. The current league structure promises more parity than a league such as the NBA. But it also gives way to Super Bowl matchups featuring markets like Kansas City and Tampa Bay rather than major markets like Dallas and New York. With the league's next generation of quarterbacks (Mahomes, Jackson, Watson, Murray, Burrow, etc.) set to lead some of the brands that regularly rank amongst the bottom in Professor Mike Lewis's fandom rankings, the NFL has a decision to make. Does it adjust a system that brings about parity to incentivize its biggest stars to play for its biggest brands? Or does the league leave money on the table to maintain a balanced competitive landscape. Professor Mike Lewis and I discuss this and much more in this week's podcast. Listen here: Also streaming on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Stitcher. Register for our upcoming webinar with Yahoo Sports senior writer Jay Busbee here.