The NFL today is a huge money-making market. The mere fact that advertisers dished out $3 million for 30 seconds of advertisement(s) during the Super Bowl last month (which had a whopping 90 million viewers) goes to show that the NFL isn't doing too horrible money-wise, it would seem.
So, the subject Roger Goodell brought up concerning the expansion of the NFL regular season from 16 games to 17 or 18 or more during the NFL's owner's meeting in Dana Point, Calif. this week is of utmost importance...and concern.
“What we're trying to do is ... improve the quality of what we're doing,” Goodell said. “There is a strongly held view (among owners) and with our fans that they don't believe preseason games are up to our standards. By swapping preseason games for regular-season games, it's a very positive change for our fans.”
Sure, NFL fans would love to see their favorite teams for another game or two before it's all said and done 'til August, but the teams that are due to play in the playoffs the week or weeks after the regular season is over will be critically affected. A lot of players today are skeptical that the bye week isn't even of much help at times, as some bodies can't recover that fast.
Here's what Chargers center Jeff Hartwig had to say about the possible expansion of the NFL regular season: “Are guys going to have to sit out games, like in baseball? It’s already a long season. An 18-game season? Wow. I think you’d have to sit a guy down for a week and let him rest, because that is incredibly long, even with the bye week.”
Subtracting a game or two from the pre-season and adding it onto the regular season would create more money for teams and the NFL as a whole. Not tom mention fans would probably wouldn't mind getting to see their team play a little longer if the playoffs are out of the question late in the season too.
Win/win, right? This is what NFL Hall Of Famer and former Head Coach John Madden said on the subject when having a discussion with Goodell on SIRIUS radio:
"You know, I respect everything that you've done, Commissioner. This is one area that I really differ with you. I think that you need four preseason games. You always have to say, 'For who?' You say you don't need them. Well, who doesn't need them?
"Maybe a running back doesn't need them, but a quarterback does or a rookie does, a young defensive back, an offensive lineman obviously needs them. I think if you look at the football, if you had any negative thing, in my mind anyway, to say about the football in the first couple of weeks, I would say that the teams weren't in shape and they weren't ready to play pro tackle football for four quarters.
"Now I think if you take two of those preseason games out there and add two more [regular season] games at a high, four-quarter-play level, I think you're going to have a heck of a lot more injuries and I think they're going to be less ready to play."
Every week in the NFL season, at least 15-20 players go down due to injury. If the NFL were to pass this notion, which could be the case unraveling in 2010, they would seriously have to rethink the playoff distance from the end of the regular season as much as another bye week.
Like Madden stated, it's not just the injuries people should be worried about. What about preparation? A young rookie who needs experience won't get that much time to develop, not to mention veterans getting a feel for the game before they jump right back in for a whole season.
Goodell has proposed that NFL teams have more scrimmages if the expansion were to take place. He also mentioned bringing back an offseason development league that focuses more on players and less on selling the league overseas.
However, Goodell has stressed in the past that he and others want to limit contact in the offseason so players don't get injured before they even step on the field in August, so he would be going back on that stance, obviously.
The question is, what would become of this if it were to happen, which seems more than likely? This is a huge risk for the NFL and its players.
Considering that the NFL has made it arguably a softer game with the new rule changes over the past few years, putting the players at a much higher risk of injury (which they are trying to limit more and more every year) with a couple more games added on to the regular season is almost a shocking proposal.
"It's a different business atmosphere than 20 to 30 years ago," Houston Texans owner Bob McNair said Monday. "Originally, we worried about selling tickets. Now, we've got to worry about selling tickets, about keeping media partners happy, operating stadiums, keeping fans happy in the stadium, servicing debts."
This very well could be, for the most part, a full-on marketing decision. If it passes, and it most likely will, who will be raking in the benefits, and who will be raking in the damage?
The AP contributed to this story.