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Yahoo Sports’ Senior NFL Writer Charles Robinson and Yahoo Sports’ Columnist Dan Wetzel discuss the NFL’s 10% increase in ratings over the 2020 season. During the 2021 NFL regular season, there were several controversial developments in the league, but that didn’t slow television viewership as NFL games ranked as the top 16, 48 of the top 50 and 91 of the top 100 telecasts on TV. Hear the full conversation on the You Pod to Win the Game podcast. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher or wherever you listen.
CHARLES ROBINSON: The NFL's ratings this season, in totality, the best since the league has seen since 2015. And I made the point in my monologue. I think this is proof positive, that in a season where Jon Gruden occurs, right? The whole Jon Gruden mess. The Washington Football Team investigation. You know, the Henry Ruggs tragedy. Any number of negative overarching storylines around the NFL, at the end of the day, it is the product that trumps everything in this league.
And the parity, I think, also, this season, created a windfall for the league that I think, looking forward, it has to feel really, really good. And, by the way, all those television partners that signed the massive $100 billion plus TV deals have to feel really good about what happened this year.
DAN WETZEL: Total juggernaut. More powerful than ever, with all due respect to those stories, particularly the Ruggs one. I think a lot of those controversies, yeah, they just don't resonate-- the average fan doesn't care. I mean, it's just, they can become huge media stories, but the average person who's sitting there on Sunday afternoon and says, oh, Aaron Rodgers is on, you know? Don't really care about his vaccination status or something like that, right? Like, I don't-- oh, you know, Washington's playing Dallas. I don't really care if Dan Snyder-- I don't care about Jon Gruden. They just want to watch the games.
CHARLES ROBINSON: Right.
DAN WETZEL: And this is the ultimate-- you know, I think a lot of those things get a ton of attention, but do they have any real-world impact or matter? No. I mean, the NFL has got 10 million controversies and, if anything, the controversies drum up more business than anything. It's just it's part of the soap opera. And even when real-world issues come in, the people don't really care. So it's more of a media story than actually anything that that impacts whether someone wants to watch football or not.
CHARLES ROBINSON: I think it says something that we began the season with the Tampa Bay-- what was it, Tampa Bay-Dallas, right? Was that the season opener?
DAN WETZEL: Yeah.
CHARLES ROBINSON: Tampa Bay-Dallas opened. It was amazing, right?
DAN WETZEL: Great game.
CHARLES ROBINSON: And then you end it with the Raiders and Chargers game, which was just unbelievable. Like, every-- it was insane the amount of people that were completely attached to that game. Even Dawn had gone to bed. She had to be in the hospital early next morning. But even Dawn, who could care less about the Raiders and the Chargers, she was like, what happened? She like-- it was so suspenseful heading to overtime that she had to know.
And then also, another thing, too, I talked about the parity and everything that happened in between the weeks where anybody could beat anybody. I think the Jaguars did the league a big solid in the last week of the season. And what I mean by that is, for a team that got the living [BLEEP] kicked out of it all season long, had the Urban Meyer stuff, had plenty hanging over it, all the fans show up in clown-- you know, clown wigs, the whole, hey--
DAN WETZEL: Great.
CHARLES ROBINSON: --fire Trent Baalke on the stadium scoreboard during the trivia moment. All that stuff. And yet the Jaguars come out and they beat the snot out of the Indianapolis Colts. And in that game, you sit there-- and if I'm in the league office, if I'm Roger Goodell, I'm like [BLEEP] damn right. Like, this is great. This is awesome for us, that this team had every reason to just say screw it. Everything's going wrong. We just need to restart this and-- but instead, it was the opposite. It was the selling point of what coaches tell you all the time.
What Dan Campbell is selling every second in Detroit. Which is, you know what? Every single person, we all care. We have pride. We want to go out for, if not for ourselves, for the team and not just get kicked in the teeth. And the Jaguars on one day stood up on a team that had everything to beat the crap out of Jacksonville and just stoned them. And, like, to me, in a weird way, I was sort of like, as much as we were happy about the Raiders and Chargers game, I will bet you the league office was just as happy with that Jaguars game. Because they were like, we had a bad team that could have packed it in. And instead they did the opposite and it became the story of the day until that game Sunday night.