What if the NFL didn't employ revenue sharing?

Originally Published: February 1, 2007
ESPN.com

The NFL staff has identified plays or events that may have altered the course of history. Each Tuesday and Saturday throughout the offseason, we will be tackling a different scenario and speculate on how things might have gone differently.

When the 2007 NFL season kicks off in September, virtually every team will feel it has at least an outside chance of reaching Super Bowl XLII in Arizona. The person most responsible for such widespread belief is former NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle.

Pete Rozelle
Pete Rozelle was simply unable to prevent the long work stoppage.

Upon taking over in 1960, Rozelle persuaded NFL team owners -- most notably Carroll Rosenbloom of the Colts, and George Preston Marshall of the Redskins -- to agree to share revenues between teams. His business model was essentially a system that benefited all teams equally, from revenue sharing to the player draft.

Rozelle's vision was only strengthened by his successor, Paul Tagliabue, who instituted the strictest salary cap system of any of the major leagues, and further enhanced the revenue sharing system. Both revenue sharing and the salary cap have contributed to competitive balance, in the face of a growing imbalance between high-revenue and low-revenue teams.

Unlike in baseball, for instance, small-market teams have a strong financial foundation and are better positioned to pay the increasing player salaries. While some believe the NFL has gone too far in its quest for parity, the league clearly believes its approach is a big reason for the sport's unrivaled success.

Nevertheless, it is fair to wonder what the NFL would look like today without revenue sharing? Would a player like Brett Favre have been able to spend virtually his entire career in Green Bay, or would he have been snatched by one of the New York teams in free agency? Most importantly, would the NFL be as popular as it is today?

-- David Mosse

Mailbag: What if the NFL did not employ revenue sharing? Send in your comments.

WHAT YOU'RE SAYING

Jim (Charleston): There would be a select few powerhouses in the league that compete in the big markets like Chicago and Dallas. The NFL wouldn't be as successful because there wouldn't be the great stories of bad teams turning into champions.

E-Dogg (DC): Without revenue sharing, the NFL would be anti-climatic and an utter bore, much like the MLB is and has been for decades. That's the greatest thing ABOUT the NFL... it's ability to share revenue and give opportunities to small market franchises. Of course, the NFL's sharing plan needs to be revised, what with the Barons of the NFL (Jerry Jones, Daniel Snyder etc) creating new revenue streams that for some reason, aren't included in the overall sharing scheme. Still though, even WITH it's faults, it's the best thing going in pro sports in this area.

Zach (Charleston): The small market teams such as Indy and Green Bay would be unable to pay for top talent such as Manning and Favre. The league would not have expanded to the current 32 teams and it would not be the premier league in North America.

Kevin (Tampa): There is no way Brett Favre could afford to stay in Green Bay, I cant stand what Baseball has turned into, its a miracle when a lower market team makes it to the playoffs and actually advances.

Joe (Baltimore): I think the Revenue Sharing and Salary Cap in football and the lack thereof in baseball (along with steroids all over the news) is why football's popularity is continuing to climb and baseball's is falling. If they can get an offensive line, even the Raiders have a chance at the playoffs next year because other teams have to cut players or trade players away so that they can operate under the cap. A team is always a contender in August. But with baseball, its always the same teams and small team stars get pulled to big city teams and the small team always suffers.

Paul Emery (Southampton, UK): The NFL without revenue sharing would be just like English Soccer. The Premier League even before the season starts will have the same teams in the top four - Chelsea, Man U, Liverpool and Arsenal. The chances of someone turning around from a poor record to winning the whole thing are zero.

Here are more of the best responses.