if you’ve been napping for the last month or have refused to tune into the high-octane NFL preseason action well, you haven’t missed out on much.
Look, I would watch the worst football game played by the worst football teams in the worst football stadium with a football made out of used socks in the middle of June if it meant that I had football in my life. Football is football, but it’s fair to acknowledge that what we’ve seen across the preseason has been pretty dull.
Part of what’s contributed to this year’s preseason being particularly unwatchable (besides the ever-present recency bias) has been what might become a new trend. Typically the preseason formula for teams is a bit of action in weeks one and two, the third week is the dress rehearsal, and the fourth week is utterly useless.
Teams like the Rams for example have bucked this trend in 2018. Todd Gurley hasn’t played at all. Jared Goff didn’t play in the third game (neither did Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay). A lot of these situations are based off of the state of each respective team, the Cowboys for example, rested their prime players in week three largely because their offensive line was banged up, but the point remains that the preseason is being more and more diluted.
As always when it comes to NFL problems, Jerry Jones has a solution. We’ve seen and heard this before, but it peeked its head around the corner again when Jerry appeared on 105.3 The Fan on Tuesday. He’s in favor of an 18-game regular season with two preseason games.
Jerry Jones on @1053thefan is in favor of an 18-game regular season and only two preseason games. "It's probably better physically for players" to play 18 regular season games and only two preseason games. Believes it will "create a safer game for the players."— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) August 28, 2018
On the surface it’s hard to see how this “makes the game safer” for players. While it’s true that players get hurt in the preseason, they currently play 16 regular season games where they’re going 100%. This proposal would increase that playing time and overall risk by 13%.
In totality this seems like it’s not a big deal. 18 and two adds to 20 just the same as 16 and four, so hey, what’s the difference? Again the reality is that you’re increasing the number of, for lack of a better word, “real” games that players have to play. More opportunity equals more risk equals larger likelihood of injury.
Trimming the preseason to two games is a fair proposal. We’d likely see the starters play a sprinkle of time in the first and obviously the second would have the potential to get treated as a new “dress rehearsal.” Obviously trimming two games would mean getting rid of two games which would mean one less preseason home game for every owner, shrinking the overall pot (however large of an impact you think a home preseason makes, it’s still larger than zero). Thinking of this in the world of revenue only for a second, an extra regular season home game is worth substantially more than a preseason one. Attendance would be larger and the domino effect is on from there.
As someone who wants football all the time it would be awesome to see 18 regular season games; however, that isn’t necessarily in the best interest of player safety which is where this discussion was born. We’ll see if the NFL is able to swing a deal like this when the new CBA is brought up in a few years (that’s going to be exciting, right?) but for now we just have to survive one more preseason game before this discussion gets buried for another year.