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The NFL isn’t getting rid of Thursday Night Football, but changes should be made

The Pittsburgh Steelers are coming off a Thursday Night Football game, and despite one more prime time game a week, there remains some huge issues with the game.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Indianapolis Colts Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

I remember when Thursday Night Football started. It wasn’t a year-long initiative, but just in the back end of the year. The games were loaded with rivalry games, and fans were treated with one more prime time game when the games mattered the most.

What could possibly go wrong?

Well, as it turns out, a lot could go wrong. Although fans were treated to more football, never a bad thing, the players were forced to play two games in the course of five days. A task not as easy as the couch potato may suggest.

Like many things the NFL does, the league wasn’t satisfied with just a handful of Thursday night games at the end of the season. They decided they would have Thursday night games the entire year. If that weren’t enough, they decided every NFL team would be showcased in a prime time game.

But don’t worry, to make fans not notice the ridiculously bad matchups with bad teams, they will be wearing new shiny uniforms called “Color Rush” uniforms. Maybe, just maybe, if the unis are ugly enough, looking at you Jacksonville Jaguars, people won’t notice how bad the players wearing the jerseys are.

What should bother fans the most is this isn’t a football thing. They clearly don’t care about the safety of the players, or the quality of the product. This is all about money. It’s about getting more eyeballs glued to a TV set, more erectile dysfunction and pickup truck commercials, and selling new “Color Rush” jerseys to fans.

What is wrong with Thursday Night Football? John Madden put it perfectly:

“We’re spreading it out more and more with fewer good teams, which makes it doggone impossible to have good games...something has to be done about Thursday Night Football. It just doesn’t work. It’s not only a fan thing, it’s a team thing. It’s a safety thing. It’s a competitive thing. It doesn’t work. I know about money, and I know about business. Maybe you have to tweak stuff a little more. To help teams, maybe you get a bye the week before.”

There has never been a discussion of eliminating the games on Thursday until the NFL saw a precipitous drop in their ratings during prime time games. Now, not all of this can be attributed to games on Thursdays, but to teams not performing to their expected potential.

For instance, the Carolina Panthers, who represented the NFC in Super Bowl 50, have absolutely fallen flat on their faces throughout the 2016 season. No one in their right mind saw that coming, and the Panthers wisely were targeted for a number of prime time games this season.

Whatever the reason, the league would be wise to make adjustments to improve their product on Thursday nights. Let’s be honest, they aren’t getting rid of Thursday night games anytime soon, so might as well make them better.

I have a few suggestions.

  • Discard the ‘every team gets a prime time game’ rule. The Cleveland Browns are dreadful. Tell me why anyone outside of Ohio would want to watch them on prime time?
  • Every team playing on a Thursday night should have a bye week prior to the game. This wouldn’t be as complicated as it might sound, and this could tie in with the league’s desire to extend the season. If teams had two bye weeks rather than just one, it would be easy to find matchups throughout the calendar to find competitive games.
  • Make the games inter-conference matchups so a conference, or division, game isn’t impacted by the strange scheduling.

Just those three ideas would greatly improve the product on the football field. It isn’t as if fans don’t want to watch football, they just don’t want to watch the Tennessee Titans vs. the Jaguars on prime time. Or the Browns and Baltimore Ravens for that matter.

Thursday Night Football. Quite the polarizing topic. It isn’t going anywhere, but the league needs to do something to improve the product they are throwing in the faces of fans every week.