As we reach the end of another preseason, the annual debate re-ignites (thanks to Jerry Jones): What would happen if the NFL shortened the preseason and/or extended the length of the regular season?
The annual handwringing over the length of the preseason and the regular season is back again, just like you knew it would be. An unlikely trio of Jerry Jones, Sean McVay and Matt Nagy set it off this time; Jones said a two-game preseason with an 18-game regular-season schedule could improve the safety of the game for the players, while McVay and Nagy stirred up debate while resting their starters in the third exhibition long known as the dress rehearsal for the regular season.
I’m in favor of keeping the regular season at 16 games and, if anything, trimming the preseason to three games, but let me present some of the main talking points through the lens of Jones’s preferred schedule: extending the regular season to 18 games and reducing the preseason by two games. Let’s begin…
Money: This is really the chief reason for contemplating an extended regular season, and we all understand it even without someone like Jerry Jones having to say it. Two extra regular season games hikes up the TV deal and brings in more money to the stadium. More money for the owners would also mean more money for the players, who would most certainly begin dividing their compensation by 18 rather than 16 and thus look for higher contracts in the future.
Timing and weather: If the NFL were to add two regular-season games onto the front-end of the schedule, the season would overlap with the start of college and high school football—that’s not cool. It would also force players to play at full speed and contact in higher temperatures, which raises concerns of injury and fatigue. If the NFL added two games on at the end of the season, the Super Bowl would be played in late February, shortening the pre-NFL draft process and making teams play in often inclement winter conditions.
Undrafted free agents: By reducing the preseason, it will be much tougher for undrafted (rookie) free agents to make an impact and land a spot on the 53-man roster. A DIII receiver could shine at camp, but coaches would want to see how he does on the big stage. If he can’t get any burn in those two exhibition games, how does he make the team?
Records: We’ve had a 16-game NFL season since 1978, and that’s less than a decade of difference from the merger. In essence, we have a good understanding today of landmark records, so if the NFL increases the regular season to 18 games, get your asterisks ready. The 5,000-yard passing mark that only has been hit nine times is sure to balloon. The 2,000-yard rushing mark would also see some new faces to its club of seven. Would breaking Michael Strahan’s sack record with two extra games really count?
Fans: They’re already paying regular-season prices for preseason games, so they clearly win with an 18-game schedule. The bang-for-your-buck is more evident here than anywhere else.
Schedule makers: Good luck to Howard Katz and his team. They spend about four months creating the 256-game schedule. How much more time will they need when that goes up to 324 games?
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1. The Packers traded Brett Hundley to the Seahawks for a sixth-round draft pick next season. The Packers have decided DeShone Kizer is their No. 2 after a strong preseason from the former Browns starter.
2. A good piece from ESPN’s Jenna Laine on DE Jason Pierre-Paul taking on more of a leadership role with the Bucs than he had in New York.
3. How the Hollywood Rams were constructed, from Bleacher Report.
4. Odell Beckham Jr. said being a black athlete today means sometimes being treated like he’s “a zoo animal.”
5. Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis is suspended for the first four games of the season for violating the league’s PED policy. He planned on attending the home games by using his season tickets. The NFL told him he can’t do that.
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After Cleveland released Kendricks following his insider trading charges, I’m fascinated to see what comes next as it relates to his NFL career. Surely admitting to and apologizing for federal charges is enough to violate the league’s personal conduct policy and earn him a suspension. But he’s a 27-year-old linebacker coming off a starting season with the Super Bowl champs—will another team take a chance on him, or is that it for him in the league? How and if he bounces back from this professionally will say a great deal about either his talent or how society treats white-collar criminals.
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