The recent comments from Packers president Mark Murphy regarding his inability to support an 18-game regular season was met by many with approval. And that was my initial reaction, too.
But then I saw the fine print.
“I would be in support of a move to two and 16,” Murphy said. “Reduce the number of preseason games. The challenge there obviously is you’re losing revenue.”
Ding ding ding ding ding! (And then Gus Fring blows up.)
As we’ve mentioned a time or two in the past year, the NFL surrendered in the new CBA the ability to unilaterally expand the regular season. But the league now has the ability to unilaterally shrink the preseason from, coincidentally, four games to two.
So the league can cut the preseason in half, if the league wants. And then, when the players crunch the numbers and realize the impact of the lost 47-cents-on-the-dollar revenue share on the salary cap, all of a sudden that 18-game regular season may look pretty good.
Especially when the players crunch the numbers regarding the positive impact of two more regular-season games on the bottom line.
As explained during Wednesday’s PFT Live, that’s the only way the NFL can sell an 18-game season, given the current sensitivity to injuries and concussions. The players have to want it, and the players have to initiate the effort to get it.
To make that happen, the NFL must risk losing its share of the preseason revenue. And if you think the preseason revenue isn’t a big deal, remember that it was the potential loss of revenue from preseason games that served as the moment at which the league and the NFLPA realized that the lockout needed to end, one year ago Wednesday.
So the ultimate reality show is now in the early stages of a new game of chicken. Will the owners risk preseason revenue to cajole the players into wanting to expand the regular season? Will the players shrug at the reduced salary cap resulting from a reduced preseason?
It’s unclear how it will work out, but it’s becoming more clear that those issues will soon be front and center, for both the league and the union.