As I type this, not a single down of preseason football (thanks to some mysterious paint) has yet to be played. Not a single star player has succumbed to a season ending injury in a meaningless game.
It hasn’t happened…yet. It will though. It always does. Some fan base is going to get its heart ripped out, some GM is going to start calling fading veterans to grab a replacement. All over some games that don’t count.
20 games. 20. When you count preseason that’s how many games a NFL team plays before the playoffs. 4 preseason, 16 regular season. That’s a lot of football. Yes the starters only play about 7 quarters of football in the preseason. Still, that’s a lot of time on the field. For what? 2 games would be enough in the preseason to get the teams ready. Most of the position battles are decided in practice not preseason games. So why do we have them? Why do owners risk their multi-million dollar investments? Why do teams risk their season?
Money. Money is why. Those multi-billion dollar TV deals include the preseason. Preseason tickets cost the same as regular season tickets. Parking in preseason games is the same cost as regular season. So are concessions. NFL owners aren’t giving up 2 games of income. The NFL is selling 20 games. That’s not changing.
So what is the answer? How do we cut down on these meaningless games and pointless injuries?
Well the answer is simple; yet not easy. It is to take 2 preseason games and make them into fully counting regular season games.
The first roadblock to this is that it means more time on the field for those stars. That the risk for injury goes up with 2 more games that mean something. 2 more games that they will play all 4 quarters of.
Here’s my answer, it’s threefold. First you add a second bye. The extra rest, that week of healing will go further to help keep them able to play than a few quarters off in preseason.
Second every NFL players can only be active for 17 of the 18 games. It would add an entire level of strategy of when do you have your star player inactive? When do they have that personal bye week? It makes depth of roster so much more important. It also means that if you are borderline with an injury there will be less pressure to rush back prematurely because you can just use your mandatory inactive game when you need it.
Third you increase roster size, this allows almost every player to play fewer snaps, increasing the NFL jobs while making the battles to make the roster less important. It also allows teams to spend more time to develop young players. How do teams pay for these extra players? Well most would be league minimum guys and you now have two more games that you can increase what you charge the TV networks for those games. With the second bye and 2 more games you’ve added 3 weeks of real regular season football to the network schedules. That’s more income.
The second roadblock is how do you evaluate young players without the extra training camp and preseason games? Well the expanded rosters actually make that a full season of development and work for guys who would have been cut in the old system. What else needs to be done is increasing the initial roster size.
Say 90 players until week 4 then you cut to the increased regular roster size of say 75 after week 4. That allows coaches the shortened training camp, 2 preseason games and a month of regular practices and 4 regular games to make the roster decisions.
There we have a way to add to regular season games, get rid of 2 preseason games, increase NFL profits and NFL player jobs. All while keeping the same or even lowering the entire number of downs a player plays in the course of the current 20 games structure, and actually gives them more rest to recover. It makes fantasy football more fun and allows you to see your young talent and depth on the field more.
Think anyone will listen to me?