The NFL's fuzzy new math

Matt TarrContributor IJune 30, 2009

When word came out a few months ago that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was considering the idea of expanding the league’s regular-season schedule to 18 games — cutting two preseason games in the process — initial reaction among NFL fans seemed to be universally positive.

Think about it — more regular-season NFL has to be a good thing, right? I mean, more is always better, especially when it comes to things we like. And regular season is always infinitely more interesting than preseason, so how on earth could an 18-game season be a bad thing?

Expanded schedule won't help NFL's injury woes

Injuries a concern

Then, some of us started to really ponder what an 18-game season would look like. We thought about the injury reports we already see under the current schedule, the number of third-string quarterbacks we see on the field in December, etc., and suddenly, what seemed like a no-brainer situation at first began to feel a little less appetizing.

Last week, the issue came to the forefront again for us when we stumbled upon longtime NFL agent Jack Bechta’s column at Bechta decided to do a little research on the issue for himself, discussing the possible schedule expansion with some NFL players, coaches and GMs, along with Goodell himself.

Bechta’s results were somewhat surprising. The 11 players he spoke to were generally in favor of the expansion, and most echoed sentiment along the lines of this player.

”As long as we’re paid for the games, I’m OK with it,” the player told Bechta.

Of the four GMs he spoke to, three were vehemently opposed to the idea, including one who minced no words in expressing his distaste for the idea:

“Jack, I hate the f—–g idea,” the GM told Bechta. “We would have to go back to the drawing board and redesign everything we do. Player evaluations will be more challenging, we’ll have more injuries, and the quality of the product will suffer in the first few weeks of the season.

“We’re holding our breath as it is that we can get out of a camp with healthy players and reach the playoffs with a healthy team,” he added.

Opinions were mixed among the four coaches Bechta spoke with, although they were in agreement that rosters would have to be expanded to compensate for the additional injuries that would surely mount under the new schedule. The only problem? Bechta points out that owners likely would nix the idea of larger rosters.

For his part, Goodell maintained to Bechta that he’s still “evaluating and exploring the idea” and is “keeping an open mind.” The fact that he’s been as willing to discuss the idea publicly as he has might suggest otherwise. Our guess is Goodell will make this issue a top priority in what already figures to be a doozy of a collective bargaining negotiation with the players’ union in 2010.

For what it’s worth, Bechta wrote that he’s inclined to go along with the move, provided the league makes a myriad of changes to their current OTA schedule, roster limits, etc.

In all likelihood, owners won’t feel similarly inclined. Which means fans can count on seeing a lot of bad football from the league that likes to make sure everyone knows they’re the best-run sports organization in America. Perhaps even more frighteningly, fans can count on players doing whatever it takes (nudge nudge, wink wink) to ensure they’re on the field each Sunday, regardless of the consequences to their long-term health.

But hey, more is always better when it comes to the NFL. Right?

- Pros and cons of an 18-game season (Jack Bechta,