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NANCY ARMOUR
NFL

This cursed season should finally put the 'NFL is scripted' conspiracies to rest

The writers crafting the scripts for the NFL are definitely getting fired after this week.

They’d already ruined the year’s biggest storyline by having Aaron Rodgers get hurt less than five minutes into the New York Jets' season. After they’d framed it up so nicely, too, with him running onto the field on Sept. 11 with the American flag and the Manhattan skyline in the background.

Didn’t help their case by writing off primary characters Kirk Cousins and Nick Chubb, along with promising new cast member Anthony Richardson, and giving Justin Jefferson a diminished role.

This latest plot twist, though, is simply too much. In addition to decimating nearly an entire division in a matter of days, they chose to take out one of the league’s biggest villains, Deshaun Watson, and one of its favorite heroes, Joe Burrow. Not even beloved character actor Mark Andrews survived.

At this rate, Roger Goodell better up his security detail because the next script surely includes him getting kidnapped and spirited away to an island controlled by the ultimate bad guy. Though Jerry Jones might fight his role being taken so far in that direction.

NFL STATS CENTRAL: during warmups while wearing dorky, orthopedic-looking shoes. A scripted NFL would not have had Richardson, who was already showing promise of being one of the league’s next young stars, shelved before anyone outside the Midwest got to know him.

A scripted NFL would have had Watson’s injury occur in Houston, the scene of both his early triumphs and the sexual violence that ultimately led to him being shipped out of town, not Baltimore.

And a scripted NFL most certainly would have featured a feel-good story of a backup quarterback coming in and playing so well he rescues both his injury-tested team and his own stalled career. Or at least had Zach Wilson doing a serviceable impression of an NFL quarterback. Which, as we all know, hasn’t happened. Though 'the Passtronaut' has promise.

The NFL is hardly the only league whose legitimacy gets questioned. The NBA hears it all the time, especially during the playoffs. But over the years it’s become, if not accepted, at least plausible that the NFL is playing out according to something of a plan. Calls can often seem to be tilted in a direction that benefits the league’s favored teams. More often than not, the big stars manage to salvage a game, and sometimes a season, with a spectacular play.

Even the offseason storylines look awfully convenient. The Cincinnati Bengals just happened to have the No. 1 pick the year Ohio native Burrow was coming out of school. Rodgers’ favorite offensive coordinator just happened to be in New York City.

The NFL used to fight the suggestion, knowing how ludicrous it was to think a game involving a ball and a lot of really large, really fast humans could somehow be staged. Or that a league with revenues to rival the GDP of some small nations would need to rely on subterfuge for its success.

At some point, however, the NFL realized it was never going to win over the conspiracy theorists and leaned into the joke. It rolled out a ahead of this season featuring Keegan-Michael Key as a producer going over script ideas with some of the league’s biggest stars.

The tagline? “You can’t make this stuff up.”

It was funny both because it’s so obviously not true and because there are still some people who remain absolutely convinced it is. But this season should erase all doubts that the NFL is an elaborate setup. If the NFL was scripting things, it wouldn’t have made Dolphins-Jets its first-ever Black Friday game. Or put the Saints and Rams on "Thursday Night Football." Or given the Giants and Bears a combined nine prime-time TV slots.

And it certainly wouldn’t have put Kansas City and New England on "Monday Night Football" next month. Imagine anyone coming up with the idea of the NFL’s resident curmudgeon, Bill Belichick, after years of winning, getting humbled on national TV by the heir apparent to the Patriots dynasty, Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. With Taylor Swift likely in attendance, too.

C'mon. No one's going to believe that.

Right?

Follow ӣƵ ӣƵ columnist Nancy Armour on social media @nrarmour.

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