Week Under Review: Welcome to the NFL’s new 22-week regular season
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Welcome to “Week Under Review” where we talk about hot button issues, introduce fresh ideas and usually run through a silly listicle, though this week’s version gets a little thorny.
Let’s begin with my proposed drastic change to the NFL…
Last week at a party, our new friend Lucas offered an interesting suggestion: have the NFL play games year-round. Given that this “off-season” felt especially long for some reason (no Wells Report?), Lucas’s suggestion got me thinking about the feasibility of his idea. It’s not feasible. Even with some massaging of the schedule to allow for more breaks, players’ health is too vulnerable as is. Plus, making the draft a condensed event is too severe a revenue hit, not to mention how it cuts into the necessary draft evaluation period.
Yet Lucas’s notion stayed with me, and after now I think I’ve come up with a modified, but legitimate suggestion:
A 22-week regular season that runs from September until February. That is 22 weeks, not 22 games. It all culminates in an early-March Super Bowl.
The impetus here is to counter the NFL’s way-too-long off-season calendar that is chock-full of veiled calendar dates designed to make us feel something (i.e. the Pro Bowl, the schedule release) but that never replaces the adrenaline (and this one’s for the league office)—or revenue possibilities—of an actual game.
Players’ health is of utmost concern, but this proposal is full of new rest and recovery periods and should make working conditions a little more bearable. Let’s get right to how games will be spaced out. Using the 2016–17 calendar, here’s a sample schedule that can be applied to any team.
9/11 – Game 1
9/19 (MNF) – Game 2
10/2 – Game 3
10/9 – Game 4 (in London)
10/23 – Game 5
10/30 – Game 6
11/10 (TNF) – Game 7
11/20 – Game 8
11/27 – Game 9
12/11 – Game 10
12/18 – Game 11
CHRISTMAS BREAK FOR ALL TEAMS/PRO BOWL SKILLS COMPETITION (in a warm locale)
1/1 – Game 12
1/8 – Game 13
1/15 – Game 14
1/26 (TNF) –Game 15
2/5 – Game 16
2/12 – Wild-card weekend
2/19 – Divisional round
2/26 – Conference champions
3/5 – Super Bowl
The multitude of byes are key, mainly because players will have greater recovery time from existing injuries and lessen the risk of re-aggravation. In addition, the byes, and the extended season, allows players more off-field opportunities while their sport is in season, and their marketing value is in its prime. This may be meaningless to J.J. Watt, who is marketable year-round, but could really boost the pockets of mid-level guys who are much more desirable in season. Players can do it all, be it endorsements, appearances, charitable events, media training, reconnecting with their families or just playing Call of Duty for two weeks.
Between the start of the season and the Christmas/Pro Bowl Skills Competition break, every team gets a bye every two weeks, with one string of three straight games thrown in. This allows for a number of algorithms when it comes to scheduling, and the upshot for fans is that our brain cells can stop dancing around like Boggle at 1 p.m. ET because there will no longer be 47 games being played simultaneously. The new schedule allows for just enough. Take Sept. 27, for example. Ten teams might be on their first bye, leaving 11 games for the week, and just eight in the Sunday afternoon slots. The revenue increases for more televised weeks that would get the NFL to its desired $25 billion in revenue mark in an instant. And the new CBA would dictate a decent chunk of that money to trickle into the paychecks of the players. Financially, it’s a win-win.
This new NFL also provides a solution to the joke that is the Pro Bowl. Make it a skills competition over the Christmas break. Go somewhere warm. The NFL makes a donation to the charity of choice for each skills winner. Bet those nagging injuries and big name dropouts would be a thing of the past.
Yet another benefit is the increased opportunities to replace a failing coach with an intriguing assistant during the season. The audition Mike Mularkey received last year with the Titans when he took over for the ousted Ken Whisenhunt in November is rare—once teams get past their byes they usually wait until Black Monday. More bye weeks means more chances for an interim to learn the craft, and owners to truly see whether that interim tag deserves to be stripped.
Finally, from a calendar perspective this gives us something to do in February other than be cold and bored. Bonus: The Super Bowl is exactly one week before Selection Sunday. It’s almost too good to be true.
My line is open, Commish.
In the news this week
- The Atlanta Falcons announced that they were enacting “street pricing” for concessions at their soon-to-be new home, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which opens in 2017. three dollars for nachos, $5 for a beer? This is seriously the best thing to happen in sports fandom in a long time. What’s the catch?
- A fascinating “Where are they Now” from Mashable’s Sam Laird examines 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis’s new career at a Silicon Valley tech start-up. Willis is listed as the executive vice president at Open Source Storage, a company focused on technological strategy and vision. While Willis was laden with injuries, his retirement last year at age 30 came as a shock. But it sounds like the seeds of his next career had already been planted. Despite some darkness now, playing in Santa Clara can have its perks.
- A report this week named Orlando’s Citrus Bowl as the new home as of the Pro Bowl, the worst All-Star game in sports. Ratings have dropped two straight years because, again, this is a ridiculous excuse for a talent showcase. How can you put on a spectacle that supposedly features the best players in the game, but schedule it at a time when players in the SUPER BOWL are ineligible. I think my suggestion above is a much better alternative.
- According to a new Washington Post poll, nine in 10 Native Americans do not find the Redskins nickname offensive. Though the poll results were surprising to those, myself included, who view the nickname in the same vein as Merriam-Webster, “usually offensive,” the poll seems valid, though hardly definitive. It remains to be seen how this poll will impact other owners’ views of the nickname, not to mention the team’s ongoing legal battles to keep its federal trademark. The only certainty is Dan Snyder’s hubris. The staunchest defender of the nickname issued a victory lap statement to Pro Football Talk that said a lot about being “gratified” and nothing at all to address the 9% of Native Americans still offended by the name (1% said they had no opinion.)
Party of Five: Bachelorette Tailgating!
If you’ve read this column before you may have noticed my penchant for sneaking in Bachelor/Bachelorette references whenever possible. With Season 1,204 of The Bachelorette premiering this Monday and Aaron Rodgers’ not-as-good-at-quarterbacking brother, Jordan, one of the most buzzed about contestants, I don’t have to be so sneaky—it’s football!
The amazing promotional gurus at the Bachelorette recently released bio information, along with questionnaires for each of JoJo Fletcher’s suitors. In the least shocking news ever, J-Rod did not make our list of the five worst options on paper. Here are the doozies who did:
Bio: His height is listed at 6’4”, which is at three inches taller than maximum hipster height and he has no tattoos. Fraud.
Occupation: Landscape Architect
Bio: Jake looks like a winner until it’s revealed that five years from now he “sees himself married to the Bachelorette with our first child.” OK, slow down dude. Also her name is JoJo. Are you going to have your hypothetical child also call her the Bachelorette instead of mommy?
So he probably didn’t know who the Bachelorette was when he signed up for the show. (“If you’d like to date the next Bachelorette, go to our website and fill out a form that the masses may mock”). But the fact that he sees himself married to any hypothetical Bachelorette makes me think this is not a soulmate situation.
Occupation: Bachelor Superfan
Bio: James’s attempt at an irreverent job title just sucks. Also, Bachelor precedent suggests that when there are multiple contestants with the same name, only one is left standing after the first few weeks. (How many Jameses can one JoJo make out with?) I’d bet two million dollars that she picks James Taylor, the Carson Palmer/Andy Dalton hybrid who just happens to be a musician. Sorry, Bachelor Superfan and also to James F, an older boxing gym owner who lists Les Miserables as his favorite movie (Yes, the Russell Crowe version.)
Occupation: Male Model
BQ (Bachelor questionnaire): Are you comfortable wearing swimwear in pubic?
Daniel: Why have a lambo if you park it in the garage?
Eww, on so many levels.
Occupation: Erectile Dysfunction Expert
Bio: So it turns out Mr. EDE doesn’t like girls with chipped nail polish or girls who talk too much or narcissists or girls who have serious food allergies or that are clingy. (And probably girls who like blue sheets and don’t load the dishes correctly and breathe too much.). A bit picky for an EDE on a reality dating show, no?