By GARY MYERS
DAILY NEWS SPORTS WRITER
The NFL playoffs, primarily for the league's elite, are expected to stay that way for now. Expanding the postseason to 14 teams from 12 is extremely unlikely after the league's influential competition committee voted unanimously against letting any more teams in for the 2003 season.
The vote goes to NFL owners at next week's league meetings in Philadelphia.
"There is almost no way I can see it passing," Giants vice president John Mara, a member of the committee, said yesterday. "I think it's doomed for this year."
The main fears: making the road to the Super Bowl too easy for the No. 1 seeds in each conference, which would be the only teams to get first-round byes in the new format, and diluting the product by potentially adding 8-8 teams.
The committee, which makes recommendations to league owners, voted 8-0 on a conference call two weeks ago against adding one wild-card team per conference for this season.
"It's very rare a 10-win team fails to get in the playoffs," Mara said. "To me, with the current system, it's still a meaningful achievement."
The vote of no-support by the competition committee combined with commissioner Paul Tagliabue's stance at the league meetings in March not to mess with a good thing is virtually certain to result in the proposal being defeated.
Owners tabled the vote at the March meetings in Phoenix. The proposal had picked up surprising support, but more study was ordered. The competition committee did its homework and deemed it a bad idea for this season. That doesn't mean it won't pass in the future, especially with more games equaling more money.
The committee will give owners a memo next week detailing why it's against expanding the playoffs this season. There are three objections:
When the league realigned for the '02 season, the decision was made to wait two seasons to see how it played out before considering more playoff teams.
Adding a seventh playoff team to each conference would give only the No. 1 seed a bye, as opposed to the current format, in which the top two seeds get byes. "Nobody wants to give that big an advantage to the No.1 seed," Mara said.
Allowing a third wild card to qualify in each conference invites mediocrity. Studies going back to the early '90s show that "more than a third of the time, you will get 8-8 teams. Most of the time they will be 9-7," Mara said. "Nobody thinks that's a good thing. I think the system is good the way it is now. I don't think it needs to be changed."
The supporters say more playoff teams will bring more exciting races as well as the prestige and marketing possibilities that come with being a playoff team.