More regular season games

“More is better.” So it goes for the conventional wisdom employed by children and insecure adults behaving like children.

The NFL is floating an idea for a May 2009 vote on increasing the number of regular season football games from 16 to 17 or 18.

Using very simple logic:
we like football
17 or 18 > 16
we like more football
ergo, more games is good

MISTAKE. Big mistake.

We have seen it countless number of times.. players late in the season nursing injuries. It is not a question of whether players are playing hurt, it is a question of how hurt they are. Asking teams and players to play more and lengthen the season is DILUTION. It means the fans will get more games with less quality. It means playoff games with the walking wounded.

What is different now from a decade ago? From a generation ago? Players are a lot bigger and they are slightly faster. Granted medicine is better, but bodies are not able to take the abuse these players get subjected to on a 14 game season, let alone a 16 game season, let alone a 16 game season with higher energy collisions, let alone a 17 game or an 18 game season with these higher energy collisions.

This is where the money gets in the way of the sport. More regular season games means more money. But what about the quality of EVERY game? How do you measure the quality of a sport where players are already getting rotated more and more? We spend countless hours/days/months analyzing the draft, searching for that star, but then the 11 star-ters won’t be on the field because they are too hurt or need to be given less snaps to survive the season. We watched as warriors like Tuck and Robbins played hurt, significantly less effective by the end of the season. Let’s throw another 1 or 2 games in there and see what we get. What we will get is dilution.

You have to optimize quality, not quantity. The NFL is trying to optimize quantity, their economics. We the fans will get more of the second stringers playing more plays, more games. Is this good football? More is not better. The NFL is going down the road of baseball, whoring themselves out to the television coverage, the tv contracts, whatever they can do to grow their sport. But when growth comes at the cost of diminishing the quality of the product, any business manager will tell you that you have to find another answer. More games is not the answer.

More expansion teams. More teams being allowed into the playoffs. These are all ways of generating more revenue, growing the sport. They dilute the quality of the player on the field. They dilute the importance of the regular season.

Historically speaking, the reason why there were 6 preseason games was because most football players were out of shape come July. Unless they were the star of the team, most played in relative anonymity, did not get paid enough and had to have second jobs in the offseason. As salaries increased, that need became less and less. Offseason training became a mainstay to competitiveness. 6 preseason games gave way to 4 preseason games, and nowadays even 4 are not needed (for most starters) because everyone is a fulltime athlete now who comes into camp in very good shape. But that does not mean that cutting away those four games gives the NFL more “space” for increasing the regular season. That logic does not wash because the reason why starters are playing less and less in the preseason is because the coaches need to protect them for regular season snaps. The number of regular season snaps a player takes cannot be increased indefinitely. In the 2008 offseason all we heard about were the effects of the Giants having to play 20 games instead of 16, how the recovery from that year was longer and they had less time during the offseason to charge up for the new year, something which can get dismissed by the fast start but cannot be dismissed by the weak ending.

16 games is plenty of competition to determine who gets to go to the playoffs. When was the last time you heard a player or coach say they needed to play more games to determine who was deserving? Try never. 16 games is more than enough competition.

Addendum: Just found this Peter King link on nfl.com, at the end of the interview he discusses the proposal to expand the number of games. Very sad that his ear to the ground says it will pass. The only selfish/silver lining to this one is that the Giants, with a loaded D-Line, would have a distinct advantage in a longer season. Ya think that maybe Reese understood this when he was stockpiling Canty and Bernard?!

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