Saturday, February 24, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The NFL is long overdue on shortening the preseason

Seriously, it's time to do something about the NFL preseason.

Commissioner Roger Goodell has talked about it in the past. The owners proposed it to the players during the negotiations that led to the 2011 labor deal.

Now it's time — it's way past time, actually — to do it: Shorten the preseason.

When so many coaches decide that so many starting quarterbacks don't need to take even a single snap during Week 2 of the preseason, it's difficult to argue that a four-game preseason is necessary to prepare a team. Ben Roethlisberger, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Philip Rivers, Teddy Bridgewater and Kirk Cousins didn't see the field at all during the past weekend of games.

"I don't remember seeing this many healthy QB scratches for the 2nd preseason game," Charley Casserly, the former general manager of the Washington Redskins and Houston Texans, wrote on social media. "Is this a start of a trend?"

Some argue that a shorter preseason would hinder player development, particularly with young quarterbacks, and would hurt those players vying for the final few roster spots. But the NFL could establish a developmental league if it wishes. Young quarterbacks would benefit more from that than from a few preseason games. Joint practices and scrimmages could be added during the summer for player evaluation. There's simply no need to attempt to lure fans to a stadium and charge anything that comes anywhere close to regular-season prices for the preseason version of the sport with such regularity. Variable pricing plans (with less costly ticket prices for preseason games) aren't a sufficient solution.

Goodell acknowledged the lack of quality in preseason games when the league proposed an 18-game regular season and a two-game preseason during the last set of labor negotiations. The NFL Players Association was vehemently against a longer regular season on player safety grounds, and the owners dropped the proposal.

The owners are unlikely to reduce the preseason and lose those revenues without an accompanying revenue-boosting measure. The proposal for an 18-game regular season and a two-game preseason perhaps could be revisited. Sean Gilbert, in his failed campaign to replace DeMaurice Smith as executive director of the NFLPA, argued that the players should agree to an 18-game season in exchange for other concessions by the owners.

Would the union agree to an 18-game season if given the neutral arbitration that it wants for players' appeals of league-imposed discipline under the personal-conduct policy and integrity-of-the-game rules?

But it needn't even come to that.

The owners in recent years have considered a proposal to expand the NFL playoff field from 12 to 14 teams. There would be seven playoff teams in each conference instead of the current six. One team in each conference would receive a first-round postseason bye rather than the current two. There would be six games league-wide in the opening round of the playoffs instead of the current four. That would boost revenues.

It's a measure that potentially could be accompanied by a reduction of the preseason, and it would result in far fewer players participating in additional games than an 18-game regular season would entail.

Whatever deal must be struck, the NFL shouldn't wait any longer to do something about the preseason.

— Washington Post

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