Drew Brees Says NFL's Lower TV Ratings Stem from Mistrust of League Office

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistNovember 7, 2016

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees talks to reporters during a post game interview after an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans, Sunday, Oct. 4, 2015.  The Saints won 26-20.(AP Photo/Jonathan Bachman)
Jonathan Bachman/Associated Press

The decline in television ratings for NFL games has been a much-discussed topic during the 2016 season, and on Monday, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees said the league's front office has had something to do with it, per Mike Triplett of ESPN.com:

We feel like [the decline in TV ratings] is a direct result. I know the players don't have any faith in the way that things are conducted within the front office in the NFL -- certainly when it comes to any type of investigation, when it comes to any type of commissioner discipline. It's really kind of a joke at this point, unfortunately. And it shouldn't be like that.

Brees discussed the decline in ratings after Saints players had their annual meeting with NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith.

The quarterback also pointed out the front office and Commissioner Roger Goodell's crackdown on player celebrations could be impacting viewer habits as well.

While there are likely a number of factors affecting the ratings, the decline is real. Austin Karp of SportsBusiness Daily and Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk underscored how precipitous the decrease in viewers has been this year:

Austin Karp @AustinKarp

Tough Week 9 Sunday ratings for NFL: CBS' nat'l window and NBC's "Sunday Night football" each -20%; Fox's singleheader -9%

Michael David Smith @MichaelDavSmith

Last night's game drew an 11.7 rating, down from 14.7 for Week 9 SNF last year. NFL ratings have now declined for 26 of 27 prime time games.

Brees has criticized Goodell in the past.

Triplett noted in April he said the commissioner's ability to be "judge, jury and executioner" is a "black eye" on the league after New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was suspended for his role in Deflategate.

Brees—who used to be a member of the NFL Players Association's executive committee—also called Goodell's authority into question after his Saints were punished in 2012 for Bountygate.

Goodell has been a magnet for criticism for the way he has handled high-profile domestic violence issues, the persistence in which he went after Brady and the Patriots for Deflategate, and punishing players for celebrations, among other things.

Brees wasn't the only Saints player convinced Goodell is driving down ratings.

"The NFL front office has seemed to have found a way to make everything somewhat contentious," offensive lineman Zach Strief said, per Triplett. 

Strief added that this sentiment is felt among fans, especially when they see it in the media.

"I think it's just been a culmination of a lot of things over the last three years that unfortunately might have just turned people off or caused them to be less engaged," Brees acknowledged, per Triplett.

Triplett noted Colin Kaepernick's protest during the national anthem "could be a turnoff" for some fans, according to Brees. The veteran signal-caller previously criticized the San Francisco 49ers quarterback for not standing during the national anthem.

Goodell talked about the ratings decline earlier this season:

Outside circumstances have likely also played a role in the ratings drop.

Prime-time NFL games have gone head-to-head with election and debate coverage. They also competed with the MLB playoffs, which culminated in the Chicago Cubs snapping a 108-year championship drought in a dramatic seven-game World Series against the Cleveland Indians.

The quality of some games has been lackluster at best. The 2-6 Chicago Bears have already been featured in four prime-time slots through the first half of the season, and the oversaturation of Thursday night games, such as the one between the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans, doesn't inspire the casual fan.

There are a handful of reasons why the NFL has seen a dip in ratings, but Brees made it known Goodell is one of them.


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