Load management in the NFL? Think again
Ideas are always welcome in any business. The latest from NFL owners regarding improving their product is welcomed in a sense but the welcome mat is most certainly not out from the NFL Players Association.
Andrew Beaton of The Wall Street Journal reported in an in-depth story this past week that the NFL is considering an 18-game regular season schedule.
The concept is not new.
Back in 2011, the NFL owners put the concept of an 18-game regular season on the table as part of the collective bargaining agreement. It had been discussed several times prior to then as well.
The impasse over fixing an obviously flawed system in which there are four extraordinarily boring, virtually meaningless preseason games and reducing that by two is a sound thought process.
No one who is forced to purchase the two home game exhibition game tickets as part of season ticket packaging at full cost is happy, nor should they be. In a nutshell, it is a rip-off and everyone knows it.
By the third quarter of preseason games, the empty seats at sold out venues such as the Mercedes-Benz Superdome often outnumber the occupied seats.
That said, the NFL Players Association has been strongly opposed to adding two regular season games, citing the wear and tear on bodies from the grind and physicality of an already long regular season.
You would think that the NFLPA would give some consideration to the number of jobs added via certain roster expansion if the new idea was implemented. So far, that has not factored into the thought process of the union.
Remember—the NFL increased the number of regular season games from 14 to 16 in 1978 while reducing the number of preseason games to four. Through 1977, there were 14 regular season games and six dreadful preseason games.
Teams used to approach the preseason differently, playing starters more frequently.
As things have evolved, coaches have changed their thinking. A few starters do not even play a down in the preseason now while others play sparingly, at most.
Does the latest concept have any chance at passing?
While I was taught at a young age to never say never, can I just say never this time?
Back in 2017, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell stated that the 18-game regular season schedule proposal was virtually dead on arrival, going nowhere, thanks to the stance of the players.
Goodell will attempt to sell the current proposal based on the reduction in concussions, 30 percent last season, according to the Wall Street Journal report. He will cite rule changes as being a primary culprit for the injury reductions.
If the league went to 18 games in the regular season, the NFLPA would no doubt ask for higher player salaries and rightfully so. Additionally, the NFLPA would most certainly lobby for roster expansion and rightfully so.
So why would NFL owners wish to expand their payrolls?
It is simple as profit.
The Wall Street Journal report stated that adding two regular season games to the schedule annually would result in a $2.5 billion increase in revenue, far more than the cost of increasing salaries.
That said, would any group of players sign off on a deal which has them sitting for two games that count? There is the thought of counting two games off for players with injuries (major or minor), which inevitably occur.
Talk about load management!
In the NBA, players do sit at times but it is an 82-game schedule with several back-to-back games included.
In Major League Baseball, a player, particularly catchers, will sit out day games after night games, especially during the heat of summer. Then again, baseball is a grueling 162-game schedule where teams play six or seven games per week on average.
With all due respect to Teddy Bridgewater, can you imagine the Saints, in the midst of a battle to make the playoffs, win an NFC South title and fighting for a No. 1 seed sitting Drew Brees in games that count?
With all due respect, can you fathom voluntarily benching Michael Thomas, Alvin Kamara, Cam Jordan, Demaripo Davis or Marshon Lattimore?
Then, there is this.
Would each team have to carry two kickers, two punters and two long-snappers?
Finally, consider the thought of tanking.
The NBA has had a serious problem with the issue and has taken measures to address it.
Tanking would undoubtedly occur with this concept.
Teams that are out of the playoff chase would play starters for 16 weeks and sit them the final two weeks, playing other teams at full strength with a group of reserves.
Consider the impact on gambling.
The league has recently embraced the previous no-fly zone of sportsbook and fantasy football.
Can you imagine oddsmakers trying to set morning lines trying to figure out who is playing?
As is always the case, the devil is in the details. While I understand the concept, it is terribly flawed and will not work.
While fans hate preseason games, poll them on the thought of benching starters for two real games and see how lopsided the vote turns out.
With collective bargaining agreement talks set to resume later this month, expect this to be a primary topic of conversation. The current CBA between the players and owners expires at the end of the 2020 season, by March of 2021.
Then, there is this. NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith reacted to the proposal with ESPN last Friday.
“I don’t see an 18-game schedule, under any circumstance, being in the best interest of our players,” Smith said.
In baseball terminology, I doubt that it gets to first base. In basketball terminology, I doubt that it makes it to tip-off. In football terminology, it will never see the light of day (or night) at kickoff.
Thanks to NFL owners for continuing to try to find a remedy for a bad product, preseason football, but it is back to the drawing board or should I say iPad?
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE Owner and CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Football Foundation, College…