NFL Football and the Possibility of the 18-Game Schedule

By Kevin Goodwin

NFL fans had to endure the possibility of no season last year as the owners and players worked out a new collective bargaining agreement. One chip that the owners had on the table was extending the regular season to 18 games. The players were obviously against the expanding of the season because the wear-and-tear on their bodies would be much greater. I don't blame the players for wanting to keep the season the way it is. I know the NFL used to play a 14-game regular season before moving to the current scheduling system that we have today. I think 16 games are enough games before the postseason.

The reasoning to make the season 18 games is an easy answer: money. The owners want to make more money and they can do that by adding two more games to the schedule. One scenario is taking two of the preseason games and just adding them into the regular season, so in essence the players aren't over exerting themselves. The thing is many of the starters don't see action in every game, giving rookies and some veterans a good shake at making the roster.

The NFL is a business, so the owners have every right to want to make as much money as possible. But at the same time, football players endure much more contact than other professional athletes and have a shorter shelf life to make their money and be able to experience a healthy existence after their playing days are done. Concussions have cut some players' career short. There are also studies on athletes after their career is over to see how concussions and some surgical procedures affect athletes. With football being such a physical sport, adding two more games per year could shorten some players' careers.

Even now, after the two sides have agreed on the new CBA, some owners still want to see the NFL go to 18 games. Others, however, seem to be jumping sides as the new season approaches. Packers CEO Mark Murphy has recently stated he prefers two preseason games to go with the current 16-game season. He admits that the 18-game option was just a bargaining chip for the owners to get the advantage over the players on more important things. It worked as the CBA was agreed on, but don't you think for a second the players will let this topic pigeon hole them in the future. Just like former President Bush said: "Fool me once..." The bottom line is the more games that are played, the better chance a player has to get injured. And like I said, the NFL is a business and if a star player is injured, the rest of the team and the franchise could take a hit for that season; especially for the lower market teams.

Jacksonville owner, Shahid Khan
Jacksonville owner, Shahid Khan, has his hands
full with the Jaguars. He'll need to work
some magic to get fans in the seats.

Even when Tom Brady was injured to start the season, New England fans still came out and supported the team. Granted they were still competitive, which always helps. But let's say Maurice Jones-Drew is injured and doesn't play for the Jaguars - a team that already has trouble putting fans in the seats. That would be a huge hit financially to Jacksonville and new owner Shahid Khan. And I'm sure commissioner Roger Goodell doesn't want any games blacked out this year, which means not enough tickets to the games are being sold.

I don't see adding two more games being the right direction for the NFL. I know other leagues play more games in their respective season, but the NFL is a different animal. On paper it seems simple; just convert two preseason games into regular season games. Despite that looking extremely easy, it's not. Besides there are other ways to draw people to games in markets that don't always sell out. Americans love free stuff, so other some free swag to fans that purchase tickets in a certain section. How about having a family fun day, offering a free BBQ to families that purchase three or more tickets? Better yet, how about giving youngsters a discount on ticket price so they can enjoy a game with their parents and not break the bank. Let's face it, without younger fans attending games now and getting hooked, there won't be anyone to go to games down the road. They'd rather watch from home or pay attention to another sport altogether.

So my advice to owners in the NFL is this. Don't worry about adding more games to the schedule. Things are great the way they are. You'd be better off keeping current fans happy and trying to get fans for the future excited about football. It is America's sport and at the height of its popularity - in my opinion - so don't mess with perfection. Plus there are other things owners and commissioner Goodell should be worried about. Getting the referees back on board. Right now, Goodell is comfortable using replacement refs for preseason games, but there is no guarantee the regular refs will be back after that.

I know I've gone in one big circle, but the bottom line is this. Leave the NFL season the way it is. There is nothing wrong with the current format and everyone - but a few owners are happy with it. They'll continue to get richer; players will keep getting there big contracts; and fans will be happy with the product on the field as long as things stay the way they are.

What do you think?

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