This topic will probably be the next dead horse that takes a beating around NFL fan sites (pic please).
This topic as Joel so aptly stated is a "hotbed" amongst fans, players, coaches GM's and owners recently with no signs of slowing down in the immediate foreseeable future. Perhaps taking a look at the entire world of sports will help bring some perspective to this topic.Apparently, the biggest issues coming from both camps on this topic are as follows: (feel free to add to this list)
a) As fans of the sport of football, we all agree that the end of every season in the NFL is like a bad breakup; it hurts. The sixty seconds following the end of football season sees fans from all over the nation clinging to life support and looking for anything at all football related to talk about.
b) The NFL is a business and like any business there are going to be decisions made that are borne from a sincere desire to please the people that financially support said business as well as some decisions made from a purely selfish motive.Owners want to have a continuous flow of revenue coming in and lengthening the season will accomplish that goal. Those employed by the NFL, from Ticketmaster to the hot dog vendor rely on NFL games to make a living and of course, fans want MORE football.
c) The players are worried about the physical toll an 18 game season would have on their bodies. Coaches and players alike, are not on board with cutting down on the amount of off-season OTA's and how this lack of preparation time could ultimately affect a teams effectiveness in the early portion of their seasons.
I will attempt to discuss these issues in the order presented above, starting with topic a):
Are fans being gypped by a 16 game season? Does the amount of money these players are given to play games justify adding more games and more playing time to the NFL season?
Strictly speaking from a fan perspective, we would all love to see more football played. Extending the season would give us more of what we love; football.
On topic b):
Those who make a living during football season, outside of players and coaches who are overpaid as it is, would certainly appreciate the extra paychecks, especially in this economy. With so many average citizens out of work and unemployed, football season provides the perfect opportunity for folks to earn a living and provide for themselves and their families financially.
On topic c):
There is no question that football is a violent, physical sport and even with a 10 game season, injuries would still be a problem. The argument is out there that other sports like baseball and basketball have much longer seasons and play many more games than the NFL does. So why should NFL players who get paid the same, or even more money than players from other sports in some cases, not have to play a season more in line with what other sports are required to play?
It could be argued that baseball and basketball are not as physically taxing as football, and that is a valid argument. However, there are sports that are just as violent and physically grueling as football if not more so, that play longer seasons and make much less money for doing so. Take for example the sport of rugby.
Rugby is without question a very physical sport that sees its fair share of injuries each season. Yet Rugby players, depending on the league they are in, play on average between 24 and 32 games each season. The average salary for a rugby player is $65,000.00 per season, and when you break down the per game paycheck versus the NFL, it is pennies on the dollar. So is it unfair to ask players in the NFL to give us fans a couple of extra weeks of play each season considering how much money they make per game? You make the call.
There is still however, the issue of cutting out OTA's and/or preseason games to accommodate the extra two weeks an 18 game would bring. So why shorten the off-season and preseason at all? If we are going to cut preseason games and/or OTA's to allow for an 18 game season, then we are not really lengthening anything are we? It is more of a reconstruct than a lengthening in that case.
It would seem to make sense that if we are going to LENGTHEN the season, we should not be cutting out OTA's and/or preseason time at all.
In any case. there are seemingly valid points to all sides of this debate. However, it would have been interesting to see where the Chiefs were headed last season after beating the Broncos in commanding fashion if we would have had two more games to play. It could also be argued that for teams like the Chiefs last season with no chance to contend in the playoffs, these extra two games are just asking for unnecessary injuries. I imagine the same argument would still hold true in a 16 game season as well though. Teams who have no chance of making the playoffs are still required to play out the remaining games on their schedule even now in a 16 game season, regardless of the consequences.
Even in a 16 game season, teams who are a lock for home field advantage in the playoffs typically take out their starters for much of the remaining regular season games, allowing backups that much needed, precious playing time. This is why it so difficult for teams go undefeated in any given season. It could be argued that in such cases, backups who rarely get to play during a season, would get more playing time, which could serve to help teams in case one of their starting players is injured early on in a playoff game.
In the case of our Chiefs last season, it would have been interesting to see if players like Brodie Croyle, who looked good against Baltimore in game one, were for real or not. And again, that extra playing time in a regular season game could give teams a chance to evaluate these players. This is certainly not an uncommon practice during regular season games even now. On any given Sunday, teams that have a big enough lead on the scoreboard to assure a win, typically rest their starters for the final few meaningless minutes of that game and allow backups to take more snaps.
It certainly would not have hurt Painter in Indy to have had more playing time last season as he obviously needed it. Future starters, like Kolb in Philly (cough), could have greatly benefited by the extra playing time as well.
All in all, this is an issue that will have to be settled between the owners and players themselves. But I think the possibility of an 18 game season is interesting and is most likely a high risk, high reward proposition. I myself, remain undecided.