Curious Case of Thursday Night Fotball
BY AIZAZ RASHEED
Well I speak for myself and millions of football fans that we want see football everyday but what has made this game special and so popular is that it is always a matchup of two good teams that are not separated by much. Each team in the NFL has some quality players. It just so happens that a lot of the teams don’t have a quality quarterback or even a team like Giants who has one is struggling because Eli’s production is so poor this year. So when the league started putting a full slate of games on Thursday Night we all jumped at the idea to have one less game on Sunday to focus and make our Thursdays more enjoyable. The end game for the NFL is to package these games to a network and/or platform that will add billions to their already overstuffed coffers.
What they did or did not realize is that the quick turnaround even for the teams playing in Week 2 has marred the quality of the game to the nth degree. Football is one of the most if not the most physical game on this planet. Athletic players running at warp speeds run into each other and what you see on any given Sunday is similar to crashes and fender benders on a busy highway, only the frequency and intensity is multiplied manifolds. Each week we see players going down with prolonged or season ending injuries. The league wants to make the game safer but with players being more athletic than before, injuries will pile up. Just this year there has been a 50 percent increase on the players going on IR from last year up to Week 7 (1240 in 2013 compared to 841 in 2012).
So while the league will get its wish and add another multi-billion dollar revenue stream, is it really worth it? The quality of football on Thursday has been so bad that sometimes it is really hard to watch. Even for a diehard football fan like myself, the best thing in most of these games has been Priyanka Chopra’s opening act (I can relate more to that due to my Desi heritage!!). Teams playing on Thursdays need time to recover which a 3 day turnaround does not provide and so most of the games are won by the home team as they don’t have to travel and have another day taken out of their schedule. The only silver lining is that teams playing on Thursdays get a 10 day rest before their next game which is good but it is almost like spending 5 hours in open in the Death Valley at 130F before you can reach Vegas and head into the pool and relax.
Well my reason for writing this blog is not to state the obvious. This thing has been well documented and debated. Unfortunately it will not change. So what I would do is to offer my two cents to the league. Just recently there was a report that the league was considering an additional game on TNF and make it a doubleheader. There was a tacit concurrence by Jerry Jones but subsequently he and the league have put dirt on the idea fearing a big backlash from the players and the fans. Well there is a solution where the league will gets it way and address all the aforementioned concerns.
The only way to improve the quality of these games is to have teams play on Thursday that had the previous Sunday off. Under the current format bye weeks don’t kick in till week 4 and that’s okay – I would give 4 teams the Week 4 Sunday off and have them play on Thursday in Week 5 and then these teams get another 10 days off. Even under the current routine, the teams on Bye in Week 4 play a game in Week 5 and 6 and they will do the same but will do it on a Thursday and the Sunday following that week. There are presently three games on Thanksgiving and we can just use the same routine and give those 6 teams a bye before that week and have them play on Thursday. The only thing that it will make sure is that Detroit and Dallas will get their bye weeks every year at the same time because they are the traditional host of the morning and the afternoon game respectively. The league can package a two game deal just like the opening week MNF doubleheader. I don’t think that people on the East Coast will grumble too much that the later game will end too late for them. It's football and believe me that if there is a good football game, people will watch. Another thing that this format do is to put use the 8 weeks to get all the byes in and so there are no byes in week 13 to week 17 as per the current format.
This format gives teams and players a lot of time to plan, strategize, rest, heal and play well on Thursdays. Since the revenue sharing formula with the players in already set, there will be no issue if the package is sold at higher prices to another format/network. It will only help increase the salary cap which is flat and will remain flat in years to come under the current scenario. That alone is making life very difficult for teams that have high priced QBS and skill players. In the past year 3-5(6) of a contract were the highest in terms of a salary cap hit and it was justified since the cap would increase each year. However in a flat cap era, teams are tied down with big contracts and cannot do anything or sign any good players when people on their current roster don’t perform or go down.
I am sure that the wise and powerful people at the NFL have thought this through and will consider it. One thing that the NFL does better than any other league is to understand the pulse of its fans. If it feels that something is not clicking and needs tweaking or scrapping, the will do it. They have adopted and adapted overtime and they want to constantly evolve to make this league more popular and more profitable than the previous year. I am no Savant, but I see this happening sooner than later – I just hope that all the nuances and other details are taken care off. This is too good not to happen. I am curious to see if it happens!!!