By Fergus Head
WOOOOOOW! Look how big he is. A common enough exclamation while watching the football unfold every weekend. OOOOOH! Look how fast he is. Perhaps even more common. Players in the NFL today are bigger than ever. In the 1920s, the average NFL offensive lineman was 6’0” and 211 lbs, which is remarkably small, but that was a different time, so let’s skip forward. In the 1960s, with the birth of the Superbowl era, the big men were the same size as the average linebacker today; 6’3”, 251 lbs. That’s still a pretty big man let’s not get silly. Winding forward again, the 90's see the rise of raves, hard drugs, and an average sized lineman of 300 lbs. In today’s NFL, the average is an inch taller, and 12 pounds heavier. To get ahead of the game, players are getting bigger and bigger.
This is what the progression of the size of all players looks like on a visual level, a study well-constructed by Noah Veltman:
That top right distribution of player simply didn’t exist until recent times.
At last year’s combine we saw the 40-yard dash time broken by John Ross with a mind-boggling 4.22. Only in 2015 we saw a world record broken by Byron Jones for his 12’3” standing broad jump. Of course, combine stats don’t give the whole story, but the point stands, players are getting bigger, faster and better. Even without the numbers, it’s a fairly reasonable assertion that the things we are lucky enough to witness every Sunday are becoming more and more athletically astounding.
So what’s the point of all this? Well, while the game has changed and developed, the rules, the way its played, and of course as discussed, the players have morphed, one thing has remained constant. The field. It is simply and utterly absurd that the field has remained 100 yards throughout all of these cataclysmic changes in size. 2018 has been an explosion of offense, and don’t get me wrong that’s lots of fun, but seeing Tyreek Hill cover the length of the field and Patrick Mahomes flick it to him as though they were on a tennis court, not a football field, got me thinking . Annoyingly, Brock Osweiler got me thinking too. He’s 6’7”. All he has to do is lie down with the ball in his hands a few times and he’s made it to the goal line.
But enough of the silly stuff. I am well aware that this will not be a popular opinion. But it at least needs to be considered. I’d suggest adding 20 yards in length, and 10 in width. The end zones remain the same as they are, 10 yards, because once the plain is crossed their length is irrelevant, and the difficulty of the Redzone is not having lots of space to play with, and this is a suggestion designed to make football more competitive. I appreciate that the stat book would likely have to be thrown out, and that pains me more than you can imagine; stats got me into the sport, and the history a close second, so of course that would be a monumental loss. But I don’t watch arena football, it doesn’t look right, and with the size and speed and raw ability to do better stuff than before, players are dwarfing the field. Changes to the rules have (rightly in the interest of safety) forced, to some degree, defensive players to slow down, they can’t fly in and pummel anything that moves with their brain being used as a handy airbag anymore. So there needs to be something to redress the balance, and I think this is it.
All a complete waste of time of course, no way Goodell is making the field bigger, not with the ratings through the roof as offensive football paves the way for an insatiable market, clamouring for more. I just don’t want the day to come where it looks like I’m watching a Madden game with sliders way out of tilt, and a longer field might just help.
Mowlem is a sports writer from Reading, United Kingdom. All articles are written by Reece Mowlem (unless stated otherwise).