by Brian Clarey
Everyone knows that pre-season football sucks.
The games are meaningless. The best players only come on the field for a few plays — and then exposing themselves to injuries that could have real consequences. It offers little in the way of predictors for the upcoming season. And nobody — besides a few TV and league execs — cares.
But my friend Big Al Ray cared enough to come up with a better plan.
We should end the pre-season as we know it, Big Al said the other day, and extend the regular season to 18 games, upping it from the current 16-game schedule.
That would cure the fans’ hunger for late-summer football and the games would actually mean something. People would want to go, or watch on TV.
The NFL knows this, which is why it extended the season by a couple weeks by instituting the bye week, giving each team one week off during the regular season, but still keeping the schedule at 16 games.
There’s a reason the league didn’t add games the regular season: It’s because football at the professional level is as brutal as they come. Every team deals with injuries by the end of the season, when having a deep bench can equate to a playoff berth.
Big Al has a solution for that, too: During the regular season, every player on the roster must sit out one week, a sort of personal bye that would maintain a consistent level of activity for each player as it stands. It would also add a wild-card element to the regular season — say if the Patriots were on a winning streak around Week 12 but had to schedule a bye for QB Tom Brady. That would be awesome, though knowing the Patriots they’d probably find some shady way around it.
Anyway, Big Al’s plan sounds good to me. It adds length to the NFL season just as people are primed for it in the late summer. It makes the season more competitive. It hardly exposes the players to more injuries than they are currently willing to permit.
And because the NFL is a tax-exempt nonprofit, we should all get a say in how it’s run.