Somewhere in Greensboro, N.C., BCS coordinator John Swofford is smiling. He'd say, "I told you so," but he knows better. He knows the BCS isn't perfect, but as we're finding out this year in the NFL, neither is a playoff.
Wait, what? The NFL playoffs aren't perfect?
Well, no, not if regular season results mean anything to you.
For years the biggest argument against a playoff in college football was that it would diminish college football's regular season, which as it stands now is a pseudo playoff in which a loss in September or October could knock you out of national title contention (well, unless you're Florida or Oklahoma).
It's still a very flawed system and I will always contend that an eight-team playoff would continue to give college football's regular season more meaning than any other sport while awarding a deserving champion, although I am beginning to wonder how perfect a playoff really is.
Does anyone really think that the Eagles (9-6-1) and the Cardinals (9-7), two teams that couldn't even crack 10 wins, are the two best teams in the NFC and two of the top four teams in the NFL? Simply based on their records, they're not even in the league's top 10. In fact, the Cardinals could have won their division and hosted the NFC Championship Game on Sunday even if they had lost to St. Louis and Seattle towards the end of the season and finished the regular season at 7-9. That's right -- a below-.500 team could have been one home win away from the Super Bowl. The Chargers, who won the AFC West with an 8-8 record, were one win away from hosting the AFC Championship Game and going to the Super Bowl with a .500 regular-season record.
While this past college football season proved that the BCS is flawed by awarding two one-loss teams with a shot at the national championship while leaving out five other one-loss teams and two undefeated teams, this year's NFL postseason is proving that even the playoffs are flawed.
No one has knocked the BCS more than I have this year, but I'll give them this much; they try to match the two best teams at the end of the regular season. The Super Bowl? Well, it's been 15 years since two No. 1 seeds met in the Super Bowl and only one No. 1 seed has won the Super Bowl since 2000. If the Eagles, Cardinals or Ravens win the Super Bowl this year, it will have been five years since a team that hasn't played a wild-card game has won the Super Bowl.
Amazingly, the NFL regular season, with only 16 games, has almost become as meaningless as the NBA, which plays more than five times as many games. At least in the NBA, home-court advantage still means something and the top two teams usually face each other in the Finals. Sure, a few average teams sneak into the playoffs every year but how many of them are playing for the championship in June? In the NFL playoffs this year, the road teams have a better record and, again, the two best teams haven't played each other in the Super Bowl since 1993.
The best system I have seen in awarding a champion while keeping the regular season relevant is the "top tier" soccer leagues in Europe, such as the English Premier League and Italian Serie A, where each team plays against each other twice, once at home and once away, and at the end of the season, the team with the most points (three points for a win, one point for a tie) wins the league championship.
What a novel idea, right? Award the championship to the team that was the best from the beginning of the season to the end of the season. That obviously will never happen in college football or the NFL where we'll still have to settle for crowning a champion that a computer and voters like or one that's playing the best in January regardless of what it did during the regular season.