How long should the regular season be? It's an issue often discussed among fans and NFL members alike … should the season be longer? The majority opinion seems to be no since it would put an added strain on players that are already battling through bumps and bruises over 16 games in the regular season, then you add the pre-season into the mix and it just seems cruel.
But the latest discussions seem to be focusing on the idea of a trade-off between the two, converting a pre-season game or two into regular season games so the overall schedule is still the same.
Roger Goodell has his take on the situation, but it appears that he is more worried about profit than anything. You see it's hard to justify the NFL's current pricing for pre-season games when the starters rarely play more than three quarters in a pre-season game, and even that's beyond the norm aside from one game.
It's a valid point too; tickets cost just as much for less performance and less stakes. Even season ticket holders have to pay full price those games, so it begs the question, should a pre-season game be converted to a regular season game?
The proposed idea has either been switching one or two games over, which will add to the number of regular season games without adding any extra games to the whole season. But in reality it actually does add to the whole season for the teams, not in that they have to play an extra game, but that they have to compete at a professional level for an extra game.
That's another four quarters bone jarring hits that take a toll on the players. Another 60 minutes of stress on player's bodies that adds up by the time the playoffs roll around. That's another 60 snaps that the coaches have to plan and scheme for. The question is whether or not it's justified to put that burden on teams.
I won't sit here behind my little desk and pretend that I know the answer; truthfully I doubt anyone has the right answer on this subject. Owners stand to gain an extra $4 million in profit from even one game being converted, while teams would have to battle through an extra game trying to make it to the Super Bowl.
Personally I believe that we could use one more regular season game and one less pre-season game, but even I realize the consequences of such an adjustment. I cringe just like the next guy when players are hurt on the field. It's my biggest problem with Philly fans, is that when Irvin broke his neck 10 years ago in Philly, those fans were cheering as he lay still on the ground. Every fan in football should be sympathetic to a player being hurt, no matter what team they play for, no matter what's on the line, play-offs, super bowl title, or otherwise.
These guys go out and literally risk their lives and health for our entertainment, and unfortunately, that is not without consequence for some in the short term, and all in the long term.
It's not just because of the length of the schedule that these things come up, though. It's my opinion that the current format for bye weeks is in need of adjustment, with or without changing the number of regular season games.
No team should have a bye week before week 5, anything before that not only makes for an extended stretch of week after week abuse to end the season, but it guarantees injuries and poor performance in the playoffs. With the change of date and venue for the Pro Bowl in next year, it's even more evident as it's expected that few true starters will agree to play in the game if it's played a week before the Super Bowl. Effectively making the Pro Bowl a free-for-all game instead of an All-Star game, putting more stock into being elected to the Pro Bowl than actually participating in it.
So think bye week assignments should only span from week 5 to week 14, even with the current 16 game schedule. Beyond that it's wondered if the pre-season is even needed at all anymore.
Nowadays players are less likely to need exhibition games to get back into shape after an off-season since teams generally start off-season conditioning programs before the draft in April, and they now go through multiple voluntary workouts, OTAs, and mini-camps before even attending the mandatory training camp. In all, there are plenty of reasons why the concept of a pre-season is just outdated and unnecessary.
Then again, would anyone argue that the pre-season games helped Matt Cassel prepare for a season as the starter in New England after seeing Brady go down in week one? How about all the guys trying to earn a starting spot, or simply more playing time in general, with good performances in exhibition games? Are not pre-season games invaluable to teams for those reasons?
It's a sticky subject that has plenty of sound logic on both sides on the fence, and while it would set a new precedent for the NFL, should it not be the players, coaches, and owners deciding what happens to the schedule next? The owners, with the few exceptions the likes of Jerry Jones and Al Davis, have little to do with weekly team operations and arguably are not the best representatives in a debate such as this.
Then again, maybe it's all mute and nothing will come of the talks this year. It only means that it'll be discussed again next year. But you guys tell me, how many pre-season games should be re-designated as regular season games?
You can also comment below if you have a more varied opinion than what a poll can let you describe.