Negotiations have started between the NFL and the NFL Players Association on a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA), as the current one ends after the 2020 season. There are many reasons for both sides to start the negotiations this early and hope a new deal is struck soon. The TV deals are about to expire and will demand a hefty number. The NFL will eventually partner with a gambling entity and make untold profits from that deal.
One of the first nuggets of information to leak to the media during these early negotiations is not surprising. The NFL wants an 18-game schedule but with a twist: 18-game schedules with players permitted to play in only 16 of them, presumably for safety.
They’ve been clamoring for an addition to the NFL schedule for years now. When Roger Goodell set the goal of $25 billion in revenue for 2027, this was the way to achieve it. While NFL revenues have continued to grow, they’d grow even faster with 18 games and new TV deals that would allow Goodell, and the owners, to reach this lofty goal.
The NFLPA has continually said “no” to 18 games. After this new development, the players association, and all fans, should absolutely reject it.
This is a garbage proposal for various reasons, and judging by the reaction on social media, almost everyone is in agreement with me.
Football, whether in college or the NFL, has a sense of urgency that the fans appreciate. Every single game matters, no matter the time of the year. If this new proposal becomes the new normal, we’d begin to lose that urgency. I’ll explain how.
Those extra two games would feel like the preseason
Ever notice in a preseason game that when the starting left tackle is sitting, the starting quarterback is often sitting out as well? That relationship is vital to success and coaches aren’t going to risk a starting QB getting injured. This same theory would apply in the regular season.
If the starting quarterback is going to miss two games of an 18-game schedule, so is the left tackle. And guess what, so are the top offensive weapons. A coach will want his entire cast to stay together for the 16 games to increase the chance of winning those games.
The combination of a backup quarterback and top offense weapons isn’t winning many football games. The combination of a starting quarterback and a mismatch group of offensive weapons, including random offensive linemen, isn’t a recipe for much success either. A starting quarterback plus all the weapons, well, that’s a winning strategy on paper.
So you’d see why coaches would lump-sit the starters, like the fourth preseason game. Teams would be throwing away two games every season. Two regular-season games would look like preseason games. Is that what the NFL wants? That sense of urgency to disappear for regular season games? Heck no.
Every coach would have trouble figuring out which games to sit the starters
Let’s just say coaches didn’t want to sit all the starters and wanted to find a way to stagger the rest games for players. Do you trust the coaches to figure that out? All of them? I don’t.
This would benefit the top coaches, at least in theory. But even a coach like Bill Belichick would struggle with this. Your offensive line is playing well, but oops, you need to sit some linemen. Which ones do you sit? How do you choose? Do you sit them against inferior opponents? Well, those inferior opponents might play well against the backups and possibly cost your team the game.
Just move away from offensive line and the same applies at any position. You’d be at risk for a loss against a bad team when you’d probably win the game. And I know, every single team would be dealing with this. It doesn’t make it any better. Every team would be playing backups at random times. Yikes.
And could you imagine the outrage if a backup kicker missed kicks leading to a loss? It would be devastating.
It’s hard to find ways to make this idea acceptable
Could the 18/16 model be a negotiation tactic? Sure. The NFL floats out this idea and it gets universal pushback. The NFL owners can reevaluate their position on the 18-game schedule and how to properly come to the table.
While I’m strongly against the 18-game schedule, there are ways to soften up the players. Clearly, the owners would need to make giant concessions, like guaranteeing more money and longer post-career health care.
With 18 games, you’d need two bye weeks. Preseason would be shortened to two games, with the possibility of a third game for all the players who aren’t likely to make the roster. While 46-48 spots on the roster are mostly fixed before training camp, those last few spots need practice time and especially game time. With only two preseason games, that takes away those reps from players looking to get film since starters would take a bigger share of the game reps.
Remember, everyone is watching the film. If you’re a fringe player, you’re playing for your team but also to get film out to everyone else. So I’d be in favor of adding that third preseason game in this scenario for that reason.
Overall though, it’s an awful idea that’s universally disliked. While the NFL wants to move the schedule from 16 to 18 games, this isn’t the way to make it happen. I hope this suggestion is flushed down the toilet.