When will the NFL owners understand that “no means no” when they try to push the players for an 18-game schedule?
The players have rejected it numerous times, but that doesn’t stop the owners from bringing it up.
And the players are right in always rejecting it.
Not only is it a bad idea for the players in an era when player safety is a major concern, but it’s also bad for the game and bad for the fans.
The fact there are only 16 regular-season games a year makes them special. A lot is on the line in every game.
An 18-game season would would lead to oversaturation. You need the fans wanting more instead of thinking it’s too much. An 18-game schedule would be like the Thursday night games on steroids. Thursday night games are another bad idea, but the players can’t stop those.
An 18-game schedule also would make it impossible to fit the schedule in the timeframe from the Sunday after Labor Day to the end of the year.
Adding two more games means starting the season before Labor Day, which isn’t good for TV ratings and means more games in hot weather, or playing regulars-season games in January when the weather is cold.
And if a team is 4-12, 3-13 or worse, fans aren’t likely to tune out two more games.
That’s why it was refreshing to hear NFLPA executive director Dee Smith reject the idea in an interview with ESPN in Miami Beach where the union held a gathering with former players.
He was reacting to commissioner Roger Goodell floating the bizarre idea that the NFL could have an 18-game season with each player only allowed to play in 16 of them in an interview with CNBC.
That’s such a bad idea on so many levels, starting with the fact that fans aren’t going to be happy with healthy stars sitting on the sidelines.
Smith made it obvious that the players will continue to reject this idea even if it means more money for the players.
“I don’t see an 18-game schedule – under any circumstance – being in the best interest of our players,” Smith said. “If somebody wants to make an 18-game proposal, we’ll look at it. I haven’t seen anything that makes me think that it would be good for the players.
“Fans and media discuss what would happen to ratings and revenue or whether [18 games] is a good idea or bad idea,” he added. “For us, it comes down to who players are as men and is it good for us. If a coal miner is willing to spend more time in the hole, does it likely result in more money? Yeah. Is that a good thing for him as a person? Probably not. That’s the question nobody confronts. It’s easy to say it’s more money. But is it good for us? The answer is no.”
He also doesn’t feel it’s the players job to make the idea work.
“You tell someone you’re going to work longer and you figure out how to make it work? That doesn’t work,” Smith said. “It’s not our job to put that square peg in the round hole [for the owners].”
The larger question is whether the two sides can come to a new deal without the owners locking out the players the way they did in 2011 when they wanted givebacks.
The talks resumed July 17-19, and the owners would like to get a new deal by the start of this season, which will be the league’s 100th year. But that seems unrealistic. There are too many issues to address to do it that soon.
The owners like the status quo because of the givebacks they got from the players last time in 2011, but the players want to get a higher percentage of the revenue after their share was reduced to 47 percent from about 51 percent last time.
Smith said the talks have been “positive” but that is a long way from a new deal. He previously warned the players to save their money and be ready to miss the entire 2021 season, although that is not like to happen.
One union priority is improving retired players benefits although they are unlikely to get lifetime health care. Smith also would like to engage young fans more the way the NBA does with its free agency periods.
And the union is interested in helping the core players between the rookies and highest paid players.
The only thing we’re sure of is that when it is all said and done, the players won’t agree to an 18-game schedule. And that is a good thing.