Another preseason of NFL “action” has come and gone.
What did we learn, besides the fact that the games are really boring, coaches don’t like to play their starters very much, and sometimes when they do, important ones get injured?
That’s pretty much it in a nutshell.
We know this is going to happen every season (especially the “boring” part), yet, it doesn’t stop some writers from charging the NFL with ripping off the fans; or other writers like me from penning an annual silent protest article the week of Pittsburgh’s summer finale against the Panthers.
Every August the question arises: Should preseason games be eliminated or reduced? The answer is: of course!
If only it were that simple.
Fact is, the preseason is a literal cash cow for NFL owners, who don’t actually have to start handing out game checks until, well, the games count for real.
In other words, the NFL preseason is a two-game chance (every team gets two preseason home games) for owners to collect as much revenue as they can from ticket prices, merchandise, local TV and concessions, before payrolls kick in.
You know how it is in business: once a revenue stream is established, it never goes away.
NFL owners aren’t letting go of two extra chances to generate millions of dollars in revenue each summer.
There is one solution, and that would be an expanded regular season.
Naturally, the players are dead-set against it, and you can’t blame them, because who really wants to work more? And when it comes to a professional football player, two more real games each year could mean a half a season’s worth of extra wear-and-tear for, say, second round pick Sean Davis over the course of his four-year rookie contract if he becomes a full-time starter. Considering the average NFL career lasts between three and four years, that’s a lot of wear-and-tear.
It’s one thing for the players to fight against a longer season, but you, Mr. or Ms. Football Fanatic, have also often expressed outrage over the thought of an 18-game schedule.
May I ask why?
What football fan wouldn’t want more of something that is so deliciously awesome, a pastime that you and I mourn when it’s over and impatiently wait around for over six months to start again?
OK, so the players don’t want extra regular season games, and neither do a lot of the fans, yet we all seem to think the preseason is either unnecessary or too darn long.
Harbaugh even came up with a possible compromise for the players:
“More [regular season] games, fewer preseason games and bigger rosters—that’s good for everybody,” Harbaugh said (although, I’m not so sure the owners would consider paying extra salaries a “good” compromise).
So virtually everyone hates the preseason. However, the owners aren’t going to give up their 20-game business model that has been in-place since the early ‘70s, when the regular season consisted of 14 games and the preseason consisted of six.
Therefore, the solution comes back to an expanded regular season.
It would either have to be a two-game preseason followed by an 18-game regular season; or a zero-game preseason (training camp becomes all-important for veteran chemistry and rookie evaluation) and a 20-game regular season.
But if the players never agree to it (even if, as Harbaugh suggested, the rosters get expanded, it’s not going to lessen the physical toll on most starters), a solution will never come to pass.
Therefore, next August (and the many that follow), we can expect more boring football, as Ben Roethlisberger stands around for three-and-a-half games, wearing a headset and looking like an offensive coordinator apprentice; and Antonio Brown spends those same 14 quarters leading gassers during commercial breaks.
As a reaction to most starters spending preseason games doing such things, some writers will complain about these games being a ripoff for the fans, while other writers like yours truly will continue to produce Game 4 protest articles (this one from last year was one of my favorites).
And, unfortunately, during those two quarters that most of the starters play (normally, the third preseason game), important players will likely get hurt, as was the case against the Saints, when both Cameron Heyward and Marcus Gilbert suffered fairly serious injuries.
People on all fronts are ready for preseason change, but nobody seems to be able to come up with a solution everyone will be happy with.
Therefore, the preseason as we know it is here to stay.