The NFL preseason has become a bit of a mockery in recent years. While it is important that teams make sure players get reps against live competition, and looks against players that aren’t their own teammates, the uncontrollable variables absolutely terrify coaches and front office personnel alike.
With health being an ever-present issue, we are seeing more and more NFL teams hold key starters out of preseason games. Instead, they are relying more on joint practices, where it is much easier to control the speed, the types of plays that are being called, and even the situations in which you are running plays.
As a result of the preseason games featuring less, and less starters, and becoming more and more unnecessary, the league is looking to make changes to the current schedule
“I feel what we should be doing is always to the highest quality, and I’m not sure preseason games meet that level right now,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said. “I’m not sure, talking with coaches, that four preseason games is necessary anymore to get ready for a season to evaluate players, develop players. There are other ways of doing that, and we’ve had a lot of discussions about that.”
Historically speaking, the third preseason game is usually a dress rehearsal for teams. They would usually game plan a little bit, throw some complex sets, and play their starters for a large part of the first half. But this year, many teams were reluctant to put their starters out there for even the third game of the preseason.
In a league that is all about making money, the preseason simply doesn’t serve a whole lot of purpose, it doesn’t make the owners money, and arguably loses them money. Sure, players have the opportunity to put more on film in an effort to land a roster spot, but that same opportunity could be afforded through the joint practices that have become so popular around the league.
Something that is be proposed as an offset to the two additional preseason games, is adding two more regular-season games, as is, there are currently 16 regular-season games with each team receiving one bye week. NFL owners, or as the NBA calls them, governors, want to make that 18 regular-season games, but the NFLPA doesn’t seem excited to make that happen, at least not without some concessions from the owners.
Currently, NFL players contracts are not guaranteed, they are the only of the North American four (NHL, NBA, MLB, NFL) not to have guaranteed contracts. That is something that would likely have to happen if owners want more games. Another topic of discussion is possibly adding another bye week if you are going to add another two games.
I have written on the labor differences between the league, and the players association, with the current CBA set to expire following the 2020 season, there are plenty of talking points for both sides.