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Extension of the regular season: Pros and cons

March 26, 2009

As the NFL Annual Meeting came to an end earlier this week, the main story coming out of it (aside from some small rule changes) was the possibility of extending the NFL regular season from its current 16-game schedule to a 17- or 18-game season. This change, it was proposed, would be made by mortgaging 1 or 2 preseason matchups and replacing them with regular season games.

Goodell: total genius or more short-sighted than your gran?

Goodell: total genius or more short-sighted than your gran?

Now obviously this comes as freakin’ awesome news to a lot of NFL fans because it means a) there’s more ‘real’ football to watch and b) we don’t have to tell ourselves watching Jim Sorgi take snaps is entertaining just because it’s football. However, there are some issues raised by this proposal and we at PaP (ever the topical fiends) have thought (quite) long and (fairly) hard to conjure up the pros and cons of extra regular-season NFL matches. So, without further ado, here’s 2 of each.

The Pros

More ‘real football’ to watch: In the minds of most NFL fans, the regular season is too short at 16 games, especially when compared to sports like basketball (82 games), baseball (a ridiculous 162 games) and even the domestic Premiership soccer season in the UK (38 games). The expansion of the regular season means a longer football season as a whole, as the Super and Pro Bowls would be moved back into February and thus elongate a schedule which currently lasts only 5 months. In addition, the removal of preseason games means less dull-as-drying-paint matches with innumerable backups (who’ll probably get cut) messing things up in the 2nd halves of games nationwide.

Kitna: God wants a developmental league.

Kitna: "God wants a developmental league."

The possibility of a new developmental league: Now this is a less obvious bonus, and not quite as exciting, but the limitation of the preseason to just 2, maybe 3 games means that there will be less scope for player development before the regular season starts. The lack of opportunities for young players in the preseason will mean they need another place to ply their trade, which could well lead to the revivial of a developmental league a la NFL Europe. Now, no-one’s saying that NFL Europe was incredibly entertaining, but its merits were obvious as it produced players like Kurt Warner, Jake Delhomme and, erm, Jon Kitna.

Joking aside, quite a few current NFL players came through the Europe ranks and I’m sure many undrafted free agents and vets alike would welcome the chance to play proper football. Both the NBA and MLB have official developmental leagues (the D-League and minor leagues respectively), so why shouldn’t America’s most profitable (and best) sport? Also, as we all know, the NFL off-season is really long, painfully so at times, and at least having a developmental league to watch would take away some of the misery of the long football drought during the insufferably dull post-draft months.

The Cons

Pennington: More games? More Comeback Player of the Year awards for me.

Pennington: "More games? More Comeback Player of the Year awards for me".

Player health: This is the main sticking point with the proposal, and one that no doubt the NFLPA’s new director will raise. There are probably more injuries in one NFL season than in a single year in any other sport, and more regular season games means more of them. I’m sure guys like Gale Sayers or Terrell Davis whose careers prematurely ended because of injury will tell you: it’s a tough sport to play, and it’s almost impossible to last a whole season without getting injured. Just last year, there were hundreds of players on IR, and that number will only increase with more games. Having extra games is great, but would it mortgage quality for quantity, or having worse playoffs because of seriously banged-up rosters? The games that really count need to be good ones, not just a case of who has the healthier squad.

Devaluation of extra games?: Although the addition of 2 more regular season games would be welcomed by many, surely the more games there are, the less important each becomes? The preseason may be shorter, but many fans hate the end-of-season matchups where teams are resting all their starters for the playoffs just as much. If teams are able to clinch playoff berths, surely there will only be more of these games to watch as the regular season winds down?

In addition, we may see the end of some games become a whole lot suckier, as clubs give in to a loss and think ‘we’ll win next week and it won’t matter’. 4th-quarter comebacks could become extinct as some franchises pull their stars when a loss is inevitable. The Broncos, Chargers and Panthers (to name but 3) all had riveting comebacks in ’08, but with the new expanded season, would we see the likes of Cutler, Rivers or Delhomme on the field to throw the winning pass in a regular-season environment? The danger is that by adding games, teams will be more willing to pull starters in the final quarter, which is what happens in preseason games anyway. It could mean that there’s a watering-down of current NFL standards as each game becomes less valuable.

Either way, the concept is at the very least interesting and even if agreed upon, we won’t see the results until the 2010 season at the earliest. NFL purists, you may now exhale.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 30, 2009 10:50 pm

    Would like to invite both of you to write at bleacherreport.com. Be an easy way to get your work exposure to our 2.5+million uniques/mnth and our established online community. Email me mtcheyan@bleacherreport.com if you’re interested.

    thanks,
    Max

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