The Seattle Seahawks made history last season by winning the NFC West with a 7-9 record, the first team to ever win their division with a losing record. They earned a playoff berth while the New York Giants and Tampa Bay Buccaneers missed the NFC postseason cut despite 10-6 records.
The NFL has bigger things to worry about than reseeding the playoffs to prevent another division winner from qualifying with a losing record.
The Atlanta Falcons’ Rich McKay, chairman of the competition committee, told reporters during a conference call Wednesday the issue could be losing support. As a result, the issue is off the agenda for the 2011 owners’ meetings, which begin next week.
The Giants and Bucs had reason to be frustrated with their fates last season. Both teams defeated Seattle convincingly during the regular season. Both teams finished three games ahead of Seattle in the overall NFC standings.
My feeling, however, was that winning a division should still count for something significant — a guaranteed home playoff game, in this case — or else why have divisions at all? Also, why revamp the playoff system in reaction to something so historically rare?
It’s a question that could beg for revisiting in the future. Realignment into four-team divisions has increased the likelihood that losing teams will prevail.
As noted last month, the NFL produced four losing teams within the division on four occasions between 1990 and 2001, the years immediately prior to realignment. Those divisions had more than four teams, however.