With the Commissioner’s annual pre-Super Bowl press conference a day away, a topic that many presume has disappeared has now been resurrected.
The 18-game regular season.
On the next edition of Costas Tonight, which debuts Thursday night at 9:00 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network, Bob Costas asks NFL executive V.P. of football operations Ray Anderson about the status of the league’s desire to shift from 16 games.
“I think it’s still on the table, but it’s obviously going to be discussed at length with the players and the [NFL] Players Association,” Anderson said. “And there are legitimate questions about the impact on safety, and so as we continue to look toward ways to making it better and safer, that debate will continue. But, yes, it’s still something that will be discussed.”
From the perspective of the NFLPA, it’s likely something that will never be accepted. Especially since the NFL no longer can unilaterally expand the regular season.
Under the pre-2011 labor deal, the NFL had that ability. Now, the NFL has the power only to cut the preseason in half, which from the league’s perspective ideally would happen in conjunction with the expansion of the regular season.
After the new labor deal was finalized, it was believed the league would eventually exercise its right to cut the preseason from four games to two, assuming that the NFLPA would respond by embracing the growth of the regular season, since the NFLPA now receives nearly half of every dollar that comes through the cash register (and, in turn, loses half of every dollar that doesn’t come through). But the NFLPA seems to be resolute in its refusal to accept two additional games — even if the absence of two preseason games would shrink the shared pie.
In the end, the compromise could be shrinking the preseason, expanding the playoffs by one team per conference (which would add two more postseason games per year), and selling off a chunk of the Thursday night package currently broadcast by the network the NFL owns. Under that scenario, the new revenue would likely more than offset the lost revenue, with only two “real” games added and 32 exhibition games scrapped.