By MATT STEVENS ESPN Staff Writer It’s a sentiment echoed by many people in the industry: There are still big issues to be worked out.
In the aftermath of the 2012 Super Bowl, for instance, there was a lot of talk about whether the game’s marquee play — the first-ever “suck-off” on a professional football field — had a long-term impact on the NFL’s popularity.
And it wasn’t just the fans who were critical of the game.
The league’s executives were also facing scrutiny for what some saw as questionable decisions that left them with a lagging fan base and an increasingly-negative reputation.
“I think people have come to a place where they can say, ‘No, no, no.
This is not what we want,'” said Michael Oher, a former president of the National Football League Players Association.
“But I think we have a really tough job ahead of us to fix this, and I think it’s time we get on with it.”
The issue of the Super Bowl has never been more pressing.
With Super Bowl LI on Sunday night, the league has to find ways to keep its viewership healthy in a world in which online streaming services and social media have exploded.
There are already signs of a shakeup ahead.
ESPN’s Sunday Night Football has seen viewership drop over the last year.
This past season, the network reported a 27 percent drop in viewership from the season prior.
“We’re not going to do that again,” said Oher.
And the NFL and the NFL Players Association are still trying to work out the specifics of a new agreement that would provide a boost to the league’s finances and allow them to hire more stars to replace retiring players.
“If we get back on the path that we want to go, we’ll be in a much better position to continue to compete with the world,” said NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith.
And that means the league will need to get the ball rolling on the next big event, such as the 2020 Olympics, which would be the first time in 50 years that an Olympic sport is not played in the Superdome.
“The way that we look at it, there’s a lot more that we can do to make sure that the fans have a better experience than they have at any other time in history,” said commissioner Roger Goodell.
“There’s a great need out there right now.”
So what’s in store for the future?
“I’m really excited to see how the league reacts to this next step,” said David DeBartolo, an NFL spokesman.
“You know, this is something that really matters to the NFL as it moves forward.
We’ve been in this position a lot.
It’s not something that’s always going to be easy.
We have a lot to do.”
That’s why the NFL has been looking for ways to get fans back to the games that matter.
“At this point, it’s important for us to be careful with our words, but we have to be really honest,” said Goodell.
The NFL and its players have been looking at the potential of an expanded television deal and a possible return to the big game in 2020.
They are also looking at ways to expand their reach beyond the league and their fans.
One thing is certain: The NFL is not going away.
“As we look ahead, we are going to continue the conversations we’ve had with the leagues players, coaches, owners and players to see if we can get them on board with a new deal, which is what I would like to see,” said Commissioner Roger Goodell in the release.
But, he added, “we’re going to work on it together.
There’s a long way to go.”
And that’s the biggest challenge the league faces heading into next year’s Super Bowl.
“This is a new thing for us,” said Smith.
“It’s a new generation.
It has never before been done.
There will be some people who say we need to fix everything.
But this is our job, and this is what we have done.”
“There are still a lot questions that need to be answered,” said John Clayton, a retired NFL coach.
“They will be answered.”
A year on, what has changed?
The NFL was in the middle of an expensive renovation that took six months to complete and was completed in September 2013.
The renovation included replacing the stadium, the locker rooms and the locker room facilities, as well as upgrading the scoreboard and other elements.
“Once it’s done, it becomes a lot easier for us, and that’s something we’re really proud of,” said Greg Byrne, the former chief financial officer of the NFL.
“That was a big part of the reason we built the stadium.
It was a huge investment.
It took a lot out of us, but that’s what we’re all about.”
The renovation was completed, but not before the league faced a number