Former New York Giants head coach Jim Fassel may have revealed a curious development in the NFL on Tuesday. Speaking with SiriusXM NFL radio, Fassel said there could be "a very good spring league opening next year in the NFL."
What this would entail is difficult to say. Would spring league teams be associated with current NFL teams? Would players essentially be additional members to the teams' currently mandated 90-man offseason rosters? How would it comply with the NFL's current rules about limited contact during offseason practices? Would this mean that some football players could play a couple dozen, or more, games in a calendar year?
Players currently employed by the NFL wouldn't be able to participate without violating the collective bargaining agreement, so presumably the league would be an opportunity for veteran free agents and undrafted rookies to show off for teams in a makeshift farm league. Pretty good idea, right? More football, the better? Except for the fact that one-off football leagues, even the NFL-backed NFL Europe, have a pretty poor track record of success.
The league may also compete directly with the Canadian Football League, which has its season during the summer and is one of the few off-brand professional football leagues to have any sustainability. Presumably one or both leagues would suffer because of diminished talent pools and attention.
Fassel's last coaching gig was as the head coach of the Las Vegas Locomotives of the United Football League, which was once thought of as a potential developmental league for the NFL before folding in 2012. He also served as the league's president of football operations. Presumably his experience explains his giddiness about an NFL spring league, but his enthusiasm alone won't make the product palatable.
That's not to say that a spring league couldn't be successful. The NBA's summer league has a following from diehard fans. College football fans would be interested in seeing their undrafted graduates compete to get signed by NFL teams, and Tim Tebow hucking a football will be a big draw even if it's in a funny uniform for low stakes. The league would be a continuation of the NFL's other measures to give players second opportunities to succeed, too, in addition to regional and veteran combines.
So, I guess, why not?
Audio from the show: