Don't do it! Resist the temptation. Make like Nancy Reagan and "Just Say No."
I'm talking to Robert Kraft and the rest of the NFL owners, who have been considering the idea of expanding the regular season to 18 games. It's a bad idea, and not just because of the sheer number of broken bodies that were carted off the field last season and stored on Injured Reserve.
Commissioner Roger Goodell addressed this issue when he spoke at the owners meeting in Florida last fall saying, "should the expanded regular season get approved, one or two preseason games would be eliminated." Technically they'd be keeping the same 20-game season, but everyone knows it wouldn't even come close to being a fair trade.
The league has been trying to blur the line between the preseason and regular season for years. Fans are charged full price for their seats and season ticket holders are forced to buy tickets to both home games. When teams like the Patriots limit the playing time of their starters, fans pay a high price in August to watch a team that bears little resemblance to what they'll see come September and they complain.
Around a year ago in May of 2008, the commissioner spoke about this again at the owners meeting in Atlanta.
"We are not satisfied with the quality of the preseason right now," Goodell said. "We'd like to improve on that."
By adding a 17th regular-season game, more revenue could be created to help in negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement. NFL owners voted 32-0 on Tuesday to shorten the collective bargaining agreement with the NFLPA to 2011, with 2010 being played without a salary cap.
"It would create new revenue," Goodell said. "Our thought process was we might reduce preseason by a game in return for that. Actually, the players would still play the same number of games. It could give us an opportunity to play a higher quality of football."
Goodell is concerned about revenue first and being able to justify charging a full ticket price. During the last preseason, players were paid around $800 per week. By charging full price for each ticket, owners can make up to $4 million per game, with an additional half million or more if the game is televised nationally. Pretty good deal for the owners.
The league needs to decide what the purpose of the preseason really is. The assumption is that in the past, players had to use that time to get back into shape. "Now, it's become more of a year-round business," Goodell said. "Athletes come in better prepared for the season both physically and mentally. Is it necessary to play four preseason games to get the players prepared to play in the regular season?"
Ask the coaches and they'll tell you that the preseason is needed to make decisions about the newly acquired free agents while acclimating the rookies to real NFL game-speed. It doesn't make sense then that eliminating two of these preseason games will somehow improve the quality of the regular season. The Patriots especially needed all four preseason games last August to give Matt Cassel the much needed game experience no one knew he'd actually need.
When the owners gather in Florida for their meeting this spring, discussion of an expanded schedule is guaranteed to happen as much as I'm hoping it will go away. Keep in mind that when Goodell starts talking about "quality" he's not really talking about games, or what's best for the coaches or players, he's talking about profits.