roger-goodell-banks-story

18 Games? Bag It, Commissioner

For his reputation, and the good of the NFL, Roger Goodell needs to forget about expanding the schedule

As we’ve been reminded time and again in recent years, the world’s most powerful sports league and its forward-leaning commissioner, Roger Goodell, are not afraid of bold new ideas. But here’s a novel concept for the NFL, rarely broached, whose time has come: Less is more.

Not really new, is it? Except in the bigger-always-equals-better mindset with which the NFL operates. In the NFL, the arrow always points in the direction of more. More revenue streams. More exposure and content. More popularity and higher ratings. More is the league’s unofficial mantra, driven by cash-hungry owners.

But the time feels right for a recalibration, and that shift should emanate from the very top, in Goodell’s powerful Park Avenue office. In short, the 18-game regular-season idea needs to go away. For good. And for the good of the game.

Goodell is the man who can make it happen. For several years now he has been the concept’s biggest proponent, and no one’s voice will carry more weight when he reverses field and withdraws his support for the dubious idea of extending the NFL’s four-month regular season to four and a half. His words and actions can put an end to the debate, and he’d be wise to do so.

Here’s why: The players are watching this issue more closely than any other in terms of how they view the commissioner with the iron fist. Two years removed from the bitterness of the 2011 labor standoff, Goodell has an opportunity this season to tack back to the center and counter the players’ widespread perception that his top priority is to do the owners’ bidding and grow the league’s ever-expanding financial pie.

Whether Goodell admits it or not, the push for the 18-game schedule, awkwardly juxtaposed as it is against the backdrop of the league’s player safety initiatives, is seen as a litmus test of whether he truly cares as much as he claims about the good of the game and its players. The high-profile focus on taking better care of players while asking them to put their bodies on the line for two more real games will never make sense to most of the men who suit up, and explaining that contradiction in any terms other than the league’s financial benefit is a challenge Goodell has yet to successfully meet.

The commissioner, of course, can’t put the quest for popularity among players above all else. But in this case, perceptions matter, because they can become reality. Goodell can’t care too much about what the players think, but he can’t care too little, either. Both approaches are dangerous.

That’s why this is a defining issue for Goodell. By standing up to the owners, he will prove that his intentions are good and his principles in tact. Whatever the problems that exist with the NFL’s four-game preseason—and there are some—the risks outweigh the potential rewards of adding another two games to the war of attrition that unfolds from September through December.

Goodell could win over players and re-earn their respect by showing a willingness to re-consider the 18-game schedule, and I’m convinced that if he misses this opportunity, he’ll have a devil of a time ever finding another issue as big and meaningful in which to send the same powerful message.  It would be a bold and decisive statement to the players that his mind remains open.

The image of Goodell as the league’s heavy-handed enforcer is too one-dimensional. Goodell’s reputation for discipline is well-established, but now he needs to show he can develop another part of his game. In the narrative of battle that has grown between Goodell and the NFL’s players of late, it would represent an act of sportsmanship on the commissioner’s part. You won this one, he could say; I concede.

Even better for the commissioner, he has built up the clout and the capital with the owners to afford such a call, and survive it. Easily. He won’t make the owners happy with the move, because an 18-game regular season would make them all wealthier, but they would live with his decision and follow his lead. There could be some anonymous sniping about a sizable opportunity lost, but no one is going to seriously rock the boat or stage a mutiny over the 18-game schedule.

And frankly, abandoning the idea is the right thing to do not just for Goodell’s reputation; it’s the right thing to do, period. It’s time he gets back on ground that’s both defensible and reasonable, and the NFL’s quest for greater safety makes it all the more imperative that he err on the side of caution. The tie should go to the players on this one—it’s their bodies at stake with the addition of two more games.

Goodell is quick to point out that fans constantly tell him they don’t like the watered-down product on display in the preseason and that the four-week schedule of exhibitions is too long. But what’s always missed with that logic is that complaining about the NFL’s current preseason isn’t the same as asking for two more games to be added to the regular season.

It’s the absurdity of charging full ticket prices for these games—a showcase for backups, fringe players and guys who will never make a roster—that fans truly revolt against. Charge a fraction of the current price, and most fans will rightly see the preseason for what it is: a month-long necessity that helps a team whittle its squad, grow some chemistry and prepare for the long NFL regular season. But the league would never seriously consider doing away with the sham of full-price preseason tickets, obviously. Too much money lost.

When it comes to the 18-game initiative, the NFL needs a grown-up in the room, and that person has to be Goodell. We all know losing revenue doesn’t come naturally in the bigger-is-better NFL. But in this case, less would be more. And Goodell would be the commissioner for the common good.

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112 comments
BeastQuake
BeastQuake

I disagree, there's a simple workaround to expand the season to 18 games or more, you simply expand roster sizes and limit each player to 16 games of eligibility.. There's a lot of reasons it would be beneficial, it would of course lead to more pro football jobs, more dates that $500m+ stadiums empty 80-90% of the year have something going on, less need for taxpayer funding of new stadiums, reward teams that have roster depth, including at QB, rather than hit the lottery of sorts in the draft, more TV money, more strategy for coaches to employ when it comes to which players to activate, more chances for stars to play 16 game seasons with additional weeks of eligibility in case of short-term injury. Football is by far the shortest season of the major sports, extending it 2-4 weeks it still would be, with all the advantages to doing it, the one reason against, injury, can be alleviated with expanded rosters.

JMillerNC
JMillerNC

18 games would be too much.  Most players miss at least one game during the season as it is; this will only decrease the quality of the product on the field.

Roger, we don't want an 18 game regular season.  Just drop it already!

bruced2000
bruced2000

Here's an idea.  18 game regular season, zero preseason games.  If coaches need to evaluate talent, schedule a scrimmage with another team.  College and high school teams don't play preseason games and the coaches still manage to figure out who can play and who can't.  18 games and all of them count, no preseason games.  I don't think the players union would have a problem with that.

Rich19
Rich19

I've been an NFL fan for over thirty years. There are two NFL events I don't bother with: the Pro Bowl and the preseason games. Dump two preseason games, add a couple more scrimmages, and chop 20 percent off the ticket prices for the former, and everyone will be happy except for some of the owners. As for an 18-game season, more football isn't necessarily better football. Come January, I'm ready for playoffs, not week 18 games consisting of a bunch of worn-out players playing half-hearted football. 

Spedman24
Spedman24

Shocker Peter wasn't the one writing the story that had a negative slant to it pertaining the owner...

jasonrak
jasonrak

Main reason why my father and I are getting rid of our Giants PSL/season tix? You guessed it - full-priced pre-season tickets. They're worthless. Games stink. No one plays. No one wants to go. We can't give them away basically. Yet we are forced to pay $100 a ticket x4 (2 tix @ 2 games). That's $400 I could better spend, well, anywhere. It's such crass bull**it.

woodysc
woodysc

If 18 games should be opposed because of player safety then why is there not an outcry to change it to 14 games?  or 10 games?  Why is 16 considered the perfect number of games for an NFL season?  If 16 is better than 18 only because of player safety then 14 is better than 16, and 12 is better than 14, etc.

Is it possible that the increased risk to players from an 18 game schedule is offset by the increased money to players?  I don't know if it is or isn't, just that if the argument is based solely on player safety then the author should be advocating for a shorter schedule. 


CraigSimpson
CraigSimpson

The cost of injuries in a 18 game schedule would increase exponentially from the present 16 game schedule and shorten careers. Adding more bye weeks would reduce the impact and might make it feasible. If you extend the season, do you start it in August or end it in January? Weather becomes an issue (>100 degrees in Miami or minus 20 in Chicago) Would the fans want these conditions?

grasspike
grasspike

Why not a compromise and go to a 19 week season with an extra bye week, then ditch one pre season game. Each team would then play 17 regular season games, 8 at home, 8 road games at another NFL teams home stadium and another game in a special stadium in a large college football stadium in a city that does not have a NFL team or in Canada or Mexico.

Since there are 32 NFL teams you would have 16 special games. Keep the season opener on Thursday night with the Super Bowl winner playing at home but then have the special games starting in week 2 on Thursday nights making the Thursday games special. The Thursday night special games would then be over for the last 2 weeks of the season which is the finial push for the playoffs

As a fan I would love this, and the extra bye week would be welcomes by the players and coaches

JimKirkwood1
JimKirkwood1

I totally agree. By the end of the season, most of the players are playing with injuries as it is. Tack on two more games will only serve to shorten their careers and exacerbate their later health problems. I know many owners don't think this way, but the integrity of the game and the welfare of the players should supersede the goal of making the mega rich even more welthy

randomdeletion
randomdeletion

The 18 game schedule is talked about primarily because the NFL created their own marketing nightmare by forcing season ticket holders to buy the two preseason games at full price.  That was the wrong thing to do to their customers from the beginning and a greedy money grab and fans are sick of it.  The problem is that it is about on average $12 million in extra revenue per team with no financial payout of any significance for these games as the players are not paid regular season salary for these games.  That is about $384 million for the league and they are not going to let go of that revenue easily so to make fans better accept being screwed they want to make one of those games a regular season game and they are trying to pitch it as making the fans happy and that they are listening to the fans.  The fans don't want 18 regular season games, they just don't want to be screwed by the league anymore. 

Ciscos
Ciscos

The idea of an 18 game regular season was ludicrous from the start.  Born from new NFL ownership looking to expand their profit margin, 18 games has nothing to do with "improving the experience for the fans."  That's been one line, in a long line of Roger Goodell hogwash.

Here's some "back office" thoughts to chew on.

1. Going to an 18 game season is going to cost ownership more money.  Why? Coaches will demand a larger roster and if they can't get it, they'll want to increase the size of their developmental squad.  Why?

2.  Anyone that has ever played the game on any level above Pop Warner will tell you even at a high school 10 game, plus playoffs, or college 12 game, plus bowl game schedule - by the end of the season you're beat to crap.  Playing 18 games will no doubt increase the level of injuries sustained by players from wear and tear on the body, but the fatigue factor increases exponentially.

3.  If Goodell, as the mouthpiece for ownership, continued to push the issue, as the perfect counter to it the NFLPA should demand (yes demand) NBA styled guaranteed contracts.  That alone, given the temperament of NFL owners is a nonstarter.

Of course we're only talking two more games.  Yup.  I've heard that argument before.  Yet that argument comes from people sitting in in luxury boxes or sitting in the cheap seats (do they still have those?) that have consumed too many beers during the game.  Take note that you haven't heard, dare I say, any players come out in support of an 18 game schedule.  And I doubt you will.

Beej
Beej

A few years back the owners (via the Competition Committee) refused to allow a full extra quarter in case of a tie game because "the extra plays put the players at risk of injury." That same year they started talking about an 18-game season. How hypocritical is that? An extra quarter for one or two games a season is too dangerous, but making EVERY player play an extra two full games isn't?


The real difference is that the owners don't get any extra money for that extra quarter (parking is already paid for, no extra TV revenue, and no extra concession money since they usually shut down in the 4th), but they'll get lots of extra money for an 18-game season. Owners, just admit that it's a money grab.


And Goodell? Every time I hear you say, "Every where I go I hear a call for an 18-game season," I want to throw my remote at the TV. You must only be going to owner's boxes! Yes, it's a small sample, but how many people on this site today are asking for a straight 18-game season? I haven't seen one, at least not without conditions (adding players, sitting players, paying players more money, etc.) The ONLY people who really want it are the owners.

DavidHarte
DavidHarte

Goodell is the Captain of a sinking ship, whistling as he drowns, very slowly.  Football creates irreversible brain trauma, causing many who play to die brutal deaths from Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, ALS, and various other forms of dementia.  And yet the Captain wants more.

Good luck with that argument, Rog.  And don't think for a second those feel-good commercials about tackling with your head up changes the subject.

This sport is doomed, and a definitive study from UCSF on traumatic brain injury, due out in the next year, will shake you to your Brooks Brothers socks.  Whistling just won't help.  And 18 games for these gladiators is the most ridiculous idea since "winnable" nuclear war.

Love the delusions, Rog.

amolad
amolad

There's no way they can protect the players anymore. They're too big and too fast. No equipment, no external thing they make will be able to protect the brain from moving inside their skulls. The "play at your own risk" aspect of the game is going to have to be emphasized and probably litigated. More games? You gotta be kidding.....

misterdeltoid
misterdeltoid

I'm sure that the teams in the NFL will have no problem paying the players an additional 11% over their salary for the additional 11% of time they're going to be asked to play.

Natalie1
Natalie1

The real goal of the 18 game season is increased television revenue by extending the season for two weeks.  To reach this goal, you don't need an actual 18 game season, you just need to extend the current 16 game season by two weeks.  This can be done by adding additional by weeks for each team.  This will extend the season for television revenue while simultaneously aiding in player safety by providing players additional recovery time during the season.  Likewise, it is also a bigger revenue generator for owners, as the owners do not need to pay players more as there will not be additional game checks, just additional weeks of television revenue.

Anyway food for thought and an easy way to please almost everyone, players, TV networks, owners, and the league.

Geomack62
Geomack62

Whatever they ultimately decide please cut back on preseason games! 4 is way too many and for season ticket holders forced to pay for these "games" is blatantly unfair. Perhaps a good compromise would be2 preseason games and 17 game schedule with every team playing 1 neutral site game. And add a second bye week that falls the week after the neutral site game. They could make say week 8 or 9 the neutral site week for the entire league and have the entire league take the following week off.  The NFL is experimenting with European games but why not play some in Canada, Mexico and South America too? Not to mention some secondary markets in the U.S. like San Antonio, OKC, Orlando and similar domestic markets.  I know this will never happen, it would be a logistical nightmare but it would be a good way to get more exposure at home and abroad and not make season ticket holders pay for 4 preseason games. 

Centrale1
Centrale1

Rather than add two more games to every team's schedule, why not focus on expanding the existing schedule to include games on one or two more days per week? Fans could see more games each week, owners would get more advertising revenue, and the players would still be playing the same number of games. The main complication is that teams would need an additional bye due to the change in schedule.

TheFFInformer
TheFFInformer

Here is one thing that the casual NFL fan has to consider. Preseason games are not games at all but an extension of NFL training camp. Preseason, especially the first two games of preseason, is about who can make an impact when called but also can carry their weight on special teams. Those players have their own storylines and most NFL fans could care less who is going to added to the practice squad. Now unless you're a complete idiot and pay the regular season ticket price for an exhibition game you have no right to complain. However if you purchase season tickets and are required to purchase those two games of exhibition football that you end up giving to your neighbor, friends, and someone you owe a favor too I understand your complaint. Now if you're a diehard and follow the beat reporters every morning to see who has gained momentum in camp and impressed the staff with his speed, strength, and overall talent for making plays. That is what preseason is all about! That is why we watch 'Hard Knocks' and begin to root for an underdog who went unsigned out of college two years ago. The problem is how many fans get up and read that beat reporter since the headline news is about how a starter was out of practice today. Number 51, 52, AND 53 DON"T RECEIVE THE HEADLINES ON THE 10PM NEWS!!! Preseason is all about following that young mans final chance to live his dream. Doesn't he deserve four games to prove himself?   

SmittyNJ
SmittyNJ

I think 18 games could work if each team received 2 byes during the season and players were only allowed to play in 16 games. That would add a level of strategy for the coaches knowing that their QB or star RB had to sit out 2 games. Which games would he choose to sit out? That would be interesting. Obviously if a player is injured, and miss games, then it wont matter...

firedog
firedog

What you said makes total sense, but the owners are greedy pigs and will keep pushing for the longer schedule.

awjohnson76
awjohnson76

Anyone else spot a little hypocrisy in the article's basic premise - less is more in the NFL - when that article is featured on a brand new all-NFL-all-the-time website?

Rich19
Rich19

@BeastQuake Here's the fatal flaw to that idea (actually, 3): 1) suppose you're a Patriots fan, you managed to scam some tickets to a home game. Do you really want to watch a Pats offense fielded by Ryan Mallett? 2) In order for this to work, you need at least two of every position; do you really think the owners are going to be thrilled with needing, say, two punters, one of which to punt for two games? I don't think players will like that either. 3) Finally, do you think Tom Brady (or Ryan Mallett) is going to want to play behind a melange of backup offensive linemen, or do they want to the best players available blocking for them? Oh, and a fourth flaw: if Jacksonville, San Diego, Tampa Bay, and Oakland can't fill 8 home games, you really think they're itching to try to fill 9? 

When you get down to it, an expanded regular season waters down the product, actually shorts the fans (who may not get to the see the stars they crave on the field), poorer teams with problems filling the stands stand to lose even more money, it increases the odds of injury, the owners won't stand to pay for an expanded roster, and it stretches the regular season deep into January, when fans are rarin' to watch the best teams in the playoffs. 

Spedman24
Spedman24

Write a letter to the NFLs 1st son....see if he cares as he re-brands that dump of a practice facility in the Jets parking lot.

CharlesBoyung
CharlesBoyung

@grasspike I had the exact same idea, only to have the game on Sundays as normal, so they could have that game each week in Europe. Get's the league's international fix out of the way at the same time. And each team's second bye week is the week after that international game, to give them some extra travel/rest time after that trip.

Ciscos
Ciscos

@JimKirkwood1 ~ someone once told me that after the first million, everything else is ego driven. 


This is NFL ownership doing a snatch and grab on the money bag.  Pure and simple.

Ciscos
Ciscos

@Beej I think "@Woodysc" should read this.


It's a pure money grab. Well said Beej...

Mike26
Mike26

@DavidHarte $9.5B in revenues and rising.....I don't believe you understand the meaning of "sinking ship".

Ciscos
Ciscos

forgive the typos... I haven't had my Starbucks yet. lol

Ciscos
Ciscos

@DavidHarte ~ Although I agree with the tenants of your post, I disagree with the idea that the NFL or football in general is doomed.  

Football in it's bare essence is a modern day gladiator sport - and in the inert part of the human psyche is that societal refined aggression that the male species has.  That's the extent of my psychological layman's profile of football. lol  However, football in and of itself is soooo massively popular for a variety of other reasons that it was survive and continue to thrive. 

Similar to boxing where it has been proven that boxing is the most direct form of mental trauma a person can receive to the brain and body, next to being in car accidents, but the sport survives and obviously for the biggest fights, thrives.  Although I readily admit it's current form may change in the next 5-10 years, football, itself, will remain America's no. 1 sport.

Ciscos
Ciscos

@misterdeltoid Yes they will.  In the National Football League, everything is about money.  Everything.

Ciscos
Ciscos

@Natalie1"Likewise, it is also a bigger revenue generator for owners, as the owners do not need to pay players more as there will not be additional game checks, just additional weeks of television revenue."

That's the primary reason why the NFLPA should say no. 

gregatacd
gregatacd

@Natalie1 Not a fan of going deeper into February, but maybe starting on Labor Day or the week before? Even just 1 extra bye week could increase revenue dramatically and you can start on a 'Labor Day Classic' Monday (e.g. do a series of division rival games on that day... its a holiday after all).

annlcraddock
annlcraddock

@Natalie1 Absolutely! I was going to make the same remark, but I'm glad I saved my breath or fingers! In addition to what you mentioned, there is another added component for the fan. In the by weeks we get to see teams we don't normally get to see. This is good for the fans and good for the players. To me, there is no down side to adding weeks and adding an extra by week.

jamie11230
jamie11230

@Natalie1 I don't love the idea of the season extending into mid-February, and increasing the number of games played in horrendous winter weather, but you're right.  Unlike the other sports, NFL football is a national product, and fans will still watch games on weekends their home team doesn't play.

Mike26
Mike26

@TheFFInformer Speaking of idiots:  most beat reporters have no more idea who's going to make the practice squad than the casual fan.

gregatacd
gregatacd

@SmittyNJ So I pay top $$ to see Denver come to town once every 8 years (I'm in the NFC)... and they decide to sit Peyton because of this 'rule'. Ya... it's an interesting concept but not real workable I'm afraid.

BeastQuake
BeastQuake

@Rich19because of injury risk, a single game ticket holder shouldn't "expect" all the stars of their home team to be available, and if I'm a season ticket holder, I'd like to see Mallett get some game action during the season in case Brady is injured and out of the playoffs. Yeah, on an expanded roster for 20 games there'd be multiple kickers, punters or long snappers in specialty roles, likely making the minimum, good for them. The other positions would simply be a bit more depth than currently available. There'd be plenty of extra money to pay them. The networks might not like the idea, if an NFL coach does a coach Popovich and benches his best guys on the road vs elite teams, but it is more than made up for by having the extra games to broadcast.


The expanded roster idea is a lot like baseball, where the coach would be more like a baseball manager and setting up a lineup, and yeah, I buy a single game baseball ticket, who knows if the stars of the team will be starting, where "rest" to sit them any given game is commonplace, and the nearest equivalent of the QB role, the pitcher, is filled by 5 different guys.

woodysc
woodysc

@Ciscos @Beej I have no doubt that the NFL thinks it would increase revenue.  But that also means that player revenue increases.  And as a season ticket holder (yes I'm in the cheap seats) for an NFL team, I would rather have 2 extra regular season games and 2 less preseason games. 

Fact:  Under the current CBA, the NFL can only go to an 18 game season with the approval of the NFLPA.  If the players decide the extra money is worth it then what's the problem?  Would anybody stop watching the NFL because of this?  I see no harm at all in Goodell and the owners saying they are in favor of it and presenting their case for why its good to the players and letting them decide.  Arguing that they shouldn't even pursue the issue makes zero sense to me and I don't understand how "fans" could be upset by the NFL asking for it.

woodysc
woodysc

@Ciscos @Natalie1 Players are paid a percentage of the revenues.  If revenues increase, player salaries increase.  Players receive 55% of national media revenue, 45% of NFL ventures revenue and 40% of local club revenue.  

If you don't understand the basic way that players' salaries are determined then perhaps publicly commenting on the issue isn't a good idea.

SmittyNJ
SmittyNJ

@gregatacd @SmittyNJ Are you really going to an NFL game just to see one player. I understand Manning is a star, but the NFL is the NFL no matter who is playing. I hear what you are saying but I am afraid we are on the path to this 18 game schedule whether we like it or not.

leroyquimby
leroyquimby

@misterdeltoid @awjohnson76 Its not that the website endangers players health but the author is directly benefiting from the "more" mantra of the NFL by having more coverage of the sport while at the same time criticizing the NFL's "More" mantra

Ciscos
Ciscos

@woodysc @Ciscos @Beej Woody... I wasn't sure if I should respond here or above, but it looks like "here" won.


As you no doubt have seen, no players (but I'll give that customary +/- 3%) have come out in favor of increasing the length of the season.  Historically, each time the league has increased the number of games, the players objected.

Given the new push for/on player safety, it's almost completely opposite to think how that an 18 game season benefits the players.  It doesn't.  I'm sure whatever 8-11% the owners are proposing in salary adjustments, a player in the NFL would just as soon as have the season over at 16 games rather than 18 - then the start of the playoffs.

I played collegiality many years ago, and I can tell you at the end of the season I was tore up.  I had friends that played in the league for as little as 2 years to as many as 11 and they felt (and still do) the season is long enough as it is.

I'm confident that ultimately under the auspices of "what the fans want" the season will be increased to 18 games.  Hopefully when that happens the NFL, owners, etc, will have fully funded medical coverage for NFL players well into their retirement or separation from the league.

woodysc
woodysc

@Ciscos @woodysc @Natalie1
If team revenues increase then so do team salaries.  Claiming that they don't or claiming that because they don't, the nflpa should oppose it is not an opinion.  It is factually incorrect.  You may have other substantial reasons and then should focus on those but your earlier statement shows that you don't understand the relationship between team/league revenue and player salaries.

randomdeletion
randomdeletion

@woodysc @Ciscos @Natalie1 Woody that would be true if every team actually spend their entire cap.  That is how the cap is figured out, not exactly every dollar the players actually get. 

Ciscos
Ciscos

@woodysc @Ciscos @Natalie1 Perhaps "Woody" you should respect that fact that people have their own opinions, just like yours and are entitled to express them in a forum like this.  But rest assured, I have many more substantial reasons why they shouldn't agree to an 18-game schedule.  


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