We used to be in there, now we’re out here
Roger Goodell has done some great things in four years as commissioner of the NFL – particularly clamping down on bad behavior by the denizens of the league — but his latest initiative to expand to 18 games makes little sense and is sure to face much opposition from players.
Goodell says the four-game preseason is unnecessarily long and too boring for fans, and the league wants to convert two preseason games into counters, expanding the season length for the first time since the NFL went from 14 games to 16 in 1978.
Goodell calls it a logical evolution. But it’s backed by plenty of illogic.
Expanding the season would fly in the face of two other league concerns, which are themselves in direct opposition: players getting hurt and teams resting players at the end of the season.
Teams already lose about 10 players apiece to injured reserve each season; over the last three years, an average of 305 players leaguewide have been placed on IR.
Add two more games, and you’re talking about losing another player per team for the year. All that would do is water down the product even more, which is the opposite of what the NFL hopes to achieve.
That’s why teams that have wrapped up playoff positioning opt to rest their best players at the end of the season. The Colts eschewed a potential perfect season in 2009 in favor of sitting Peyton Manning and other stars in the final two games, which turned out to be the Colts’ only two losses of the season.
It’s absolutely a case of the owners wanting to have their cake and eat it, too. How can you be concerned about injuries and then complain about winning teams resting players to avoid injuries? And, against the backdrop of that paradoxical ideology, then propose adding two more games in which more players can get hurt or more teams can rest players?
Can’t Goodell and the boys see that converting two preseason games into real games will only add more “rest” games to the end of the season for some teams? Instead of Manning resting for two games, he would sit out most of the final four games.
To try to avoid teams resting their players at the end of the year this season, the league decided to make every game in Week 17 a division contest. That will accomplish very little. Teams that dominate like the Colts and Saints did in 2009 will still be able to sit their starters in the final two or three weeks, if they wish.
Goodell and the boys apparently don’t see the conflict, probably because they’re blinded by dollar signs. (You know every team would raise ticket prices to reflect the “improved quality” of the sport, not to mention the money teams would make off increased concessions as more fans showed up to see the real games.)
Goodell admits there are many other factors to consider, such as roster size, scheduling and a possible developmental league. But he apparently just doesn’t see the fundamental conflict inherent in the idea.
Of course, the major hurdle to an 18-game season will be the players. Some of them have already said they would not be willing to play two more games unless they were paid more. The players already receive 60 percent of league football revenue, a number the owners want to reduce as they negotiate a new CBA for 2011 and beyond. But how can the owners reduce the money they’re paying players while at the same time asking them to play two more games? Sounds like a recipe for a work stoppage.
In Philadelphia on Tuesday, Goodell told reporters, “The game has changed; we need to change with it. This is an opportunity for us to make the game better and improve the quality of what we do, bring a better quality product to our fans. I think when people understand that and understand how you want to do it, I think there’s a realization that this could be smart.”
More injuries, more end-of-season games that don’t matter, more conflict between the owners and players …
Huh. It sure doesn’t seem smart.
Two former sports reporters freed from the constraints of traditional print media write about the hot topics on both the Seattle and national sports scene. No deadlines, no word count, no press box decorum — we're Outside The Press Box.