The NFL remains the only team without a tried and true developmental league and having one would really come in handy for the Cleveland Browns.
The MLB has the minor leagues, the NBA has the G-League, or the D-League, or the Vicks Cold and Vapor League; whatever it’s called this year. The NHL has the AHL, NASCAR has the Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck Series. The WWE has NXT and even the UFC has (unofficially) Invicta FC and Legacy Fighting Alliance. Even the MLS has a player development system. The only major league in the United States that doesn’t have a developmental league is the National Football League and the Cleveland Browns could really use one.
The Browns and the other 31 teams too, of course. Obviously.
This has thought has been ratting around for weeks, ever since the end of training camp when the Browns were in desperate need of more time and more opportunities for guys to play, so they could figure out what the team should look like. That prompted a question, “Why doesn’t the NFL have a developmental system?” Sure, they have the spring league, but no one cares about that. It’s for two weeks, pretty sure you’re allowed to drink in the huddle and it’s possible one of the kickers last year was Ryan Leaf’s parole officer; don’t fact check that.
Developing a real minor league is a great idea. There are so many great reasons why a developmental league works for the NFL. Firstly, you already have the infrastructure in place. So you’re not having to put up tons of start up cash to start the league. All you’d need to do is expand teams to 106 players, and have 53 on the NFL roster and 53 on the Developmental Football League roster. You’re securing twice as many jobs for players and twice as many jobs for coaches as well. Not just that, but htink about the extra television revenue too.
You can set these games up on Thursdays (or Tuesdays) on the NFL network and different program providers everywhere. You could easily get Fox Sports 1, CBS Sports Network, or even smaller channels like AXS TV and Pop TV to host some games. Maybe even TNT and TBS. Live sports is still lucrative.
There have been other leagues that saw television success, but due to circumstances out of their control, couldn’t get things off the ground long term. Leagues like the defunt AAF, soon-to-be-revived-again-XFL and even the CFL for the Grey Cup have pulled in solid ratings. Fans will watch pro football that isn’t the NFL.
Speaking of fans, the location of the home games would be geographically reasonable. You could put the Chiefs DFL team in St. Louis, Cleveland’s in Canton. Erie could get Pittsburgh’s team. New York….well New York would just outsource theirs to Jersey anyway so who cares about them.
The point is you can start to cultivate new cities for possible expansion. Speaking of, you’d also be able to develop more talent. Guys like Jordan Ta’amu, who broke out in the XFL’s first reboot season (that ended prematurely) could actually see playing time and not just sit behind Patrick Mahomes and Chad Henne.
You’d have more revenue, more chances to develop players, and more opportunities for players with big names, but little talent to be profitable for the league. Imagine guys like Tim Tebow, Johnny Manziel, and others tearing up (or folding) the competition in the DFL. Plus, you can probably get some collegiate bad boys into the system earlier than others.
Sure, it’ll be mostly 4th through 7th round picks every year making up a bolk of the rosters, but still. Who knows? Maybe the next great innovation could come from a developmental league. If anything, it’ll make sure that if the Browns or anyone is in need of seasoning a player without sacrificing him on the altar of expectations, then they’ll be able to do so at their own pace.