The biggest week of the NFL calendar is here. Super Bowl LVIII is Feb. 11 in Las Vegas, and the build-up continues over the course of the next seven days.
The contenders, the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers, report for “Opening Night” on Monday at Allegiant Stadium. Daily practices and media obligations follow throughout the week.
But first, commissioner Roger Goodell will hold his annual state of the league address and news conference Monday at 6 p.m. ET.
This is a change from prior years, when Goodell held his news conference later in Super Bowl week. Also different this year: The address is invite-only, for about 125 media members, rather than open to anyone credentialed to cover the Super Bowl. Goodell will take questions after his address in the Raiders’ locker room.
Goodell and the 32 team owners have a number of areas to address this offseason, but these are the key topics on which we might expect updates from the commissioner Monday.
Why Super Bowl 2024 tickets are most expensive on record
Protecting the integrity of the game is one of the highest priorities of NFL leadership, which is why Goodell and team owners must address officiating. Questionable calls or non-calls, rather than player heroics, dominated Monday morning conversations at an alarming rate. That’s not what the league wants, yet leaders have resisted the idea of implementing additional technology to help in the review of calls. Something has to give, though, amid heightened stakes thanks to the legalization of sports betting.
To be clear, officiating such a fast-paced game is hard. Decisions must be made in a fraction of a second. Fans often get a better look at plays than do the officials whose calls can decide the outcome of contests. Is it time for the NFL to implement a sky judge system to provide the officiating crews more effective support? Are other solutions under consideration?
The lack of consistency in NFL playing surfaces is a real concern for players, who often blame serious injuries on artificial surfaces and have lobbied for the league to force all teams to switch to natural grass. The league said last week that lower-body injuries declined from 2022 to 2023, but concussions were up slightly.
In the fall, Goodell said the league wanted to rely on “science” as it continued to evaluate playing on artificial surfaces versus grass, and even said some players prefer playing on turf. The NFLPA, meanwhile, continues to point to studies that cite higher injury rates on turf compared to grass. The NFLPA isn’t yielding in its quest for change in this department, so it will be interesting to see what eventually transpires.
Inside the fight over NFL playing surfaces
The NFL’s competition committee is expected to consider a number of rules modifications this offseason, and while Goodell might not have much insight on what changes could be looming, he’ll still likely field questions on the topic.
Two big areas expected to prompt discussion this offseason include the hip-drop tackle, which has resulted in serious injury to several players, and the dreaded fumble out of the end zone. That call results in a loss of possession for the team attempting to score and a touchback for the opposing team, something many around the league would like to see changed. There also has been discussion about modifying kickoff and onside kick rules.
Continued diversity efforts
The NFL’s mission to improve diversity hiring practices in the front office and coaching ranks is ongoing, and Goodell has repeatedly expressed a commitment to growth on this front. The league now has a record nine head coaches of color after this most recent hiring cycle, which represents real progress. Representation has also improved at the team president and general manager levels in recent years.
The league’s diversity and inclusion team, which works closely with Goodell, remains concerned about limited opportunities and a lack of longevity for offensive coordinators of color, however. In 2023, four men of color — Eric Bieniemy, Brian Johnson, Thomas Brown and Dave Canales — held offensive coordinator positions. But a year later, Bieniemy, Johnson and Brown are out due to firings. The owners of the Washington Commanders and Carolina Panthers fired their head coaches, which ended short runs with those teams for Bieniemy and Brown. Philadelphia Eagles coach Nick Sirianni fired Johnson a year after promoting him from quarterbacks coach to coordinator. Canales is the only one who got promoted, winning the head-coaching job in Carolina.
The NFL has made an effort to create more entry-level offensive positions for Black coaches. Officials hope that strengthens the pipeline for quarterback coaches of color, leading to promotions to coordinator and head coach. But progress remains slow.
Efforts to expand the NFL’s reach beyond the United States are ongoing. Owners voted in December to increase the number of international games, from four to up to eight, in 2025. Last month, the NFL announced that the Chicago Bears, Minnesota Vikings and Jacksonville Jaguars will play games in London this year. The Panthers, meanwhile, will play a game in Munich, Germany. Brazil will host a game as well in 2024, with participating teams to be announced later. Monday, Goodell could offer more insight on the league’s plans for the annual international series.
(Photo: Gregory Shamus / Getty Images)