Ever since NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell hinted at the possibility of implementing flex scheduling for Thursday Night Football games, it's been a controversial topic among fans, players, coaches and team owners.
Most people who take issue with the proposal simply don't like the idea of multiple short weeks.
When following a Sunday game the previous week, Thursday night games require players to show up with much less time for rest and recovery than what they usually have during a week.
It's believed that the short week increases risk of injury and potentially lowers the quality of competition.
Some players have even said that short weeks can be mentally taxing and emotionally draining.
But Roger Goodell and the NFL believe the benefits of increased TV viewership and fan engagement justify scheduling games on Thursdays.
Jeff Miller, NFL VP of Communications, Public Affairs, and Policy, said Friday that Thursday night games are “not a concern from a health and safety perspective.”
As a potential method for ensuring quality matchups on Thursday Night Football, flexible scheduling was proposed.
It would mean that if a Thursday Night Football game is scheduled between teams that are towards the bottom of the standings, a Sunday game between teams considered to be quality opponents could be moved from Sunday to Thursday.
NFL owners are set to vote on whether or not to implement Thursday night flex scheduling during the Spring League Meeting this week in Minneapolis.
FLEX SCHEDULING PROCEDURES
The idea of flex scheduling this is concerning for a lot Cowboys fans.
Since the goal is to increase viewership of TNF and the Dallas Cowboys generate some of the highest rated football games, it seems likely that the Cowboys would end up having a game flexed to a shorter week.
No fan wants to see their team's rest cut short with only two weeks notice.
It could also impact fans that have made plans to attend a game. They might have to change plans or miss the game altogether.
In response to that possibility, Goodell said, “We have millions of fans who also watch on television, so reaching them is a balance that you always strike and making sure we do it right.”
Currently, the Cowboys already have two Thursday night games on their schedule.
However, since only one of those games is on a short week, another could potentially be added.
POTENTIAL FLEXED GAMES
Currently, the proposal would only allow flex scheduling to occur during Weeks 14 – 17.
Additionally, only Sunday afternoon games are eligible to be moved to Thursday nights.
This means the Sunday night game against the Eagles in Week 14 and the Saturday game against the Lions in Week 17 should both stay put.
The games during Weeks 15 and 16 are both Sunday afternoon games, though, so either one of them could be moved if the matchups seem to be of higher quality than what's currently on the schedule.
For Week 15, the Dallas Cowboys are scheduled to visit the Buffalo Bills. Currently, the Thursday night game scheduled for that week is between the Chargers and the Raiders.
While some analysts have high hopes for the Chargers this coming season, the Raiders aren't expected to be a high-performing team.
So, even though the Cowboys and Bills aren't divisional rivals, their game could be more hyped because both teams are expected to perform well this year.
Also, when it comes to quarterback comparisons, there has been some debate about whether Dak Prescott or Josh Allen is the better QB.
Another potentially exciting game that week is the Minnesota Vikings at the Cincinnati Bengals.
And if Sean Payton can turn things around in Denver as anticipated, the game between the Broncos and the Detroit Lions could also garner interest among football fans.
During Week 16, the Cowboys are scheduled to face the Dolphins in Miami.
The Dolphins are not a bad team by any means, but the injury history of quarterback Tua Tagovailoa raises the question of how many games he might miss and how that will impact his team's standing.
Currently, the Saints and Rams are scheduled for Week 16's Thursday night game.
Not much is expected of either team this season.
But if the NFL does decide to replace that game with a different contest, the Cowboys might not be the best choice that week.
Assuming teams are performing as predicted, the game between the Vikings and the Lions, both from the NFC North will be much more enticing than the Cowboys-Dolphins game.
WHAT'S THE FUSS?
With the potential scenarios outlined above, it might seem like those who are against Thursday night flexing are making a fuss over what would be one changed game if any.
If the Cowboys do end up with a flexed game, it would most likely be during Week 15.
If that happened, the Cowboys would still only end up with two short weeks that are multiple weeks apart.
They'd also have a couple of long weeks to balance things out.
And if that makes everything okay in your opinion, then you've missed the point that most opposers to flex scheduling are trying to make.
It's not about this one change during this one season. It's about the precedent it sets and the trend it represents.
In March, Giants owner John Mara warned that flex scheduling could alienate fans and said, “To flex a game back to Thursday night, for me, is just abusive, and I am adamantly opposed to it.”
Patrick Mahomes tweeted his disapproval, and Panthers owner David Tepper asked outright if Amazon was complaining about Thursday night games.
That kind of pushback doesn't occur because of one small change.
THE REAL ISSUE
The issue isn't just the changes in the schedule. It's not about this year being difficult.
I have yet to hear from anyone who believes Thursday night games will make or break the Cowboys' season.
It's a tough schedule, but fans are confident that America's Team can handle it.
The issue is this.
The impact of an increasing number of Thursday night games on player health and safety is still being analyzed, studied, and debated.
However, the NFL seems more interested in pushing forward with changes than engaging in dialogue about the true impact of said changes.
They come off as being more concerned with lining corporate pockets than with addressing some of the concerns brought up by current and former players.
If this proposal is passed, and the NFL and Amazon succeed in increasing viewership and possibly revenue, it will increase the odds that the NFL will continue to make these types of changes while pushing player safety to the bottom of their priority list.
When Thursday night games were first introduced, some players were not ok with it.
But now, not only is it a regularity, but now teams have multiple Thursday night games.
There are also Saturday games, now. All of this and still only one bye week per season per team.
The pattern of putting revenue and corporate partnerships above player safety has already started. There are just a lot more people now invested in reversing it before it gets worse.