The NFL owners met and decided not to adopt unilaterally the 18 game schedule they want, according to Christine Brennan in USA Today. They await more player input. Brennan argues this is wise and shrewd on the owners’ part. She’s probably right.
The issue is stark: Preseason games are a necessary evil. They are necessary to build up the team and get real game practice. The games also give a team the opportunity to evaluate second and third string players and new signees.
But players can get hurt in preseason games: Here’s an article about the Hall of Fame game where there were several injuries.
I personally do not like the 18 game season. It’s too long. Brennan sums up the matter nicely:
The possibility of increased injuries in two more games among a generation of players who already have become the walking wounded has to be discussed. The players also understandably are concerned about how the prospective increased revenue would be shared between themselves and the owners. Everything from bigger roster sizes to the meaning of a two-game preseason to the future of OTAs — organized team activities — should be a topic of conversation.
Expanded season would also either bring the NFL before Labor Day or the Super Bowl would interfere with NASCAR and even Olympics. What about those teams out of the playoffs or have already done all they can:
Then there are the issues of lengthening a season some already find too long, especially if a team has clinched, or is long since out of the playoff chase. The league can backload the schedule with division games, but nonetheless, some of those January regular-season games would not only be cold, but lonely.
One NFL player in this AP article made the prevailing suggestion:
“I would vote to eliminate two preseason games and then keep it at a 16-game season because the longer you’re out there playing, the more your body breaks down,” Chicago Bears tight end Desmond Clark said. “When you get into December, you’re like walking zombies. You can’t feel your joints.”
Here’s the solution for the preseason without the 18 game schedule: Make the preseason count in the standings, BUT only as a tie breaker. Let head-to-head be the first tie-breaker, then if they go to the second one, let that be the preseason record.
This would not break down the salary structure, it would keep the calendar the same, but make the necessary preseason games count for something in the season. The last two pre-season games would be as they should be – tune ups for the season and they may be significant:
Suppose the Saints and Falcons are favored to contend for the division title in 2014. (Note to Falcons: Forget it! Saints rule!) Coming into the last preseason game for the Saints, the Falcons have a 3-1 record. The Saints are 3-0 with one game to play.
That game will be a barn-burner because if the Saints win, they get that second tie breaker throughout the season. The Falcons would have to beat the Saints twice in the regular season to negate that tiebreaker.