My evil side thought What if your team could get banished from the NFL?
Think about it! Not just players for acts criminal and/or dumbassed, but whole teams! How motivating would that be? The Detroit Lions would've either shaped up, or been sent across the U.S.-Canadian border and into the wilderness years before hiring Joey Harrington. "Go," they'd be told. "Here's some flint and knives. If you can make it there, you can be the CFL team for Banff." The math geniuses at the NFL, or at least their computers that can remember all those freakin' stats (team wins in games with X% humidity; correlation of points won with each team's cumulative body weight; number of drives that result in helmets popping off), can calculate the brackets for a 31- or 29-team league. A team could be symbolically "buried" and a shroud hung over its stadium (or it could just be blown up), with fans finally put out of their misery and given a chance to focus their fan energy elsewhere. Cut-loose, journeyman teams could wander the country, playing for beer and nuts and maybe teaming up with wrestlers for extra showmanship. (C'mon, admit it, you want to see some football players do double somersaults off the ropes. 3-D football: it WILL happen someday!) They could even form super-teams, unexpectedly storming Lambeau Field during a Packers-Bears game and saying "We CHALLENGE!" That'd be like the three-team Big Game of Jakh in Robert Asprin's Myth novels. And if things get really brutal, the league can declare the end game: "the Highlander option." Yes, at that point, there can be only one...NFL team.
It could be like the gladiator arenas, without the deaths, lions or eating!