PHOENIX -- Around this time last year, playoff expansion sounded like an inevitability, but Commissioner Roger Goodell appeared less enthused on Friday during his state of the league press conference.
"There are positives to it, but there are concerns as well, among them being the risk of diluting our regular season and conflicting with college football in January," Goodell said.
Dilution was a relatively strong term for the Commissioner to use, especially given his previous optimism. Last May at the Spring League Meeting, the Commissioner said he expected the expansion to be approved as soon as the 2015 season.
Now? Extra teams might devalue a playoff race. Perhaps the NFC South provided a simple opportunity to pivot away from an increased field, even though the Panthers ended up winning their wild-card game.
The NFL will not likely head into the next league year without some major changes on the table, though. Goodell confirmed that the league is exploring the coach's ability to challenge penalties called by officials, which could have resulted in a vastly different playoff picture in 2014, especially in both Dallas games.
"We are looking at other ways to enhance replay and officiating -- that includes potentially expanding replay to penalties -- if it can be done without more disruption to the pace of the game," Goodell said. "And we are discussing rotating members of the officiating crews during the season as a way to improve consistency throughout our regular season and benefit our crews in the postseason. In officiating, consistency is our No. 1 objective."
When it comes to the ability to challenge a bad pass interference call vs. the ability for a 9-7 team to limp into the playoffs, the tradeoff seems reasonable. The quality of officiating in playoff games needs to be perfected before the playoff itself can expand.