Why a 17-Game NFL Season Is the Best of All Scenarios
All Sirius satellite radio channel 124 listeners know Ross Tucker well. He's great on the radio: knowledgeable, not afraid to mix it up a little, and not inhibited by political correctness.
But that's not surprising for the former (Princeton) Tiger, Cowboy, Redskin, Patriot, Bill, and maybe others...those are the only ones I recall.
(Sorry Ross; not many photos of you, so I had to go with the bad hair day mug shot...I cropped the hair a bit for you).
Ross' reputation as a player was a tough, cerebral player who lacked superior athleticism. I think that describes him pretty well as a radio personality too (at least the first two for sure).
I know the cerebral part is right, because Ross has come up with by far the best concept for extending the season, and the owners need to pay attention and give it some serious consideration.
Tucker's brilliant concept is to have a 17-game season and three preseason games. Sounds simple, and it is, yet the implications are far superior to the 18-game season scenario.
Neutral Site Games
The best component by far that naturally comes about is the necessity of each team playing a game in a neutral city/stadium. Don't you absolutely love this idea?!
Given a 20 game season, how many should count in the standings?
1. Cities like San Antonio, Salt Lake City, or LOS ANGELES could host one or more games each season. What fun.
2. All of a sudden, playing a game in Hawaii, London, Germany, Mexico, or Brazil makes sense. It's no longer a loss of a home game for any fans.
Reduced Burden to Fans
One of the main issues with expanding the season is upping the ante for season ticket holders. It is almost already impossible to afford a pair of tickets, especially with the absurd personal seat licences that are required in many stadiums. The cost of another game will inevitably force some percentage of fans to give up their tickets and put a significant strain on others.
Less of a Financial Sting to the Owners
Rosters won't need to be extended as much as if they go to an 18-game season, and there is only one additional payday, not two, to dole out. Of course, there are additional expenses to get the neutral sites "NFL-ready" and lots of travel costs if the games are outside the lower 48. But those costs are already on the table in regards to the league's desire to expand, and this seems to make that expenditure dual-purposed.
I've already touched upon this, but it's a fantastic opportunity to play games outside the U.S. With an 18-game season, you face the same consternation you face with a 16-game season: losing a home game for some teams, more travel and thus road-like conditions for all the teams playing in these games, etc. With the stress of an 18-game season, these issues are exacerbated further.
Nominal Effect on Player Evaluation
Losing two evaluation games is a major shake-up in how teams will evaluate talent and conduct their offseason activities. Don't underestimate how dramatic and wide-ranging this effect will be. In fact, as usual, you saw Bill Belichick ahead of the curve again, arranging for inter-squad multi-day practices prior to a game as a means to offset the loss of game conditions for talent evaluation.
However, losing only one preseason game is not that big an adjustment. With the inter-squad practices that will become standard, there will be enough reps for the lower part of the roster to define itself. With only two preseason games, even with these types of inter-squad practices, there simply isn't enough bandwidth to both adequately evaluate talent and also get the starters tuned up and ready to execute well for the season opener.
Two Bye Weeks
It is hard to imagine players making it through an 18-game regular season. It's amazing so many last through 16 games. With an 18-game season, there is no room for a second bye week, which would be a critical benefit for allowing the players and coaches to endure. With a 17-game season, just like the neutral site games being a natural consequence, a second bye week is an obvious piece of the puzzle.
Imagine how many more injuries there will be with two additional games. I think it will be dramatic.
One last point that Ross made, but one that I had also considered, is in regards to the fans being upset that they pay for preseason games that don't feature the top talent.
Get over it!!! The easy solution to that is to simply charge $10 for those games and then tack on $10 to each regular season game, and the end result is that the fan pays the same exact amount. (I'm estimating those numbers, but a similar equation would work.)
That is, the season price won't change, but you can up the price of each regular season ticket by $10 and lower the preseason ticket cost to only $10, and then that issue disappears. It's silly.
I'm including a poll. Let me hear what you all think. Maybe we can influence the league if we get enough support for A 17-GAME SEASON BABY!
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