Twenty-five years ago Friday, the NFL added a bye to the regular-season schedule

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In late-summer 1989, when fantasy football owners drafted their teams as “Batdance” played on a loop until the person closest to the boom box flipped over the cassette tape, there were no such things as regular-season bye weeks. Owners didn’t have to worry about whether John L. Williams and Neal Anderson were both getting the same week off. They could draft both, and happily so.

But on this day in 1990, the 16-games-in-16-weeks schedule was scrapped — and likely for good. Twenty-five years ago Friday, the NFL added one week to the 1990 and 1991 regular seasons and two weeks to the 1992 and 1993 slates.

The schedule change came as the NFL was putting together its next television contract, and the economic benefit of being able to offer more weeks of regular-season football content to networks “was an obvious factor” in the decision, commissioner Paul Tagliabue said, according to the Associated Press.

However, Tagliabue, per the AP, also noted that the byes afforded “greater schedule flexibility, ease the player injury factor, and reduce team travel burdens.”

Ever since, the NFL has had at least one scheduled bye per team per regular season. The league also gave a second bye to all clubs in the ’93 regular season but has not gone back to that system since. (The planned second bye in ’92 was cancelled.)

Like them or not, byes seem likely to be a part of the NFL’s framework for the foreseeable future. Given the rigors of the sport, at least one week off per club is prudent. (The 1990 Lions, pictured here, were about to get their bye after having to try and tackle Christian Okoye 23 times.)  And, of course, there is the financial upside to selling a 17-week, 16-game slate.

So happy anniversary, regular-season bye weeks. And happy anniversary, fantasy football owners having to keep track of those bye weeks. At least you don’t have to tally scores by hand and via newspaper box score anymore.

29 responses to “Twenty-five years ago Friday, the NFL added a bye to the regular-season schedule

  1. In addition to the regularly scheduled bye week, the Bears, Lions, and Packers were also granted two additional bye weeks each season by virtue of playing the Vikings twice.

  2. For those of us old enough to remember it, that year of two bye weeks SUCKED. It made the season way too long and disjointed. I hated it and was glad it never came back.

  3. Oh, and Okoye was a beast. A total friggin’ beast. He was as close to Earl Campbell as we’ve seen. Other big backs like Bettis didn’t have the violence to their running that Okoye did. He crushed the people trying to tackle him. As a Raiders fan I loathed him, but loved watching him when it wasn’t us facing him. What a brut…..

  4. However, Tagliabue, per the AP, also noted that the byes afforded “greater schedule flexibility, ease the player injury factor, and reduce team travel burdens.

    —–
    Oh, the good old days when a sane person was in charge. Goodell’s response. Let’s start playing on every day of the week. And before anyone says he’s just doing what the owners want, that’s kind of the point. A good leader talks them out of the bad ideas instead of just being a puppet.

  5. And people think Steven Jackson and Earl Campbell were big tailbacks. The Nigerian Nightmare was huge for his time and still is. Lots of great highlights of him carrying 2-3 people into the end zone.

  6. Its all about the money period, any other factors were incidental and while Tabliabue mentioned them they were non factors in the league wanting the bye.

    Its all about the extra week of TV revenue period.

  7. hanspard says:
    Feb 27, 2015 11:59 AM
    For those of us old enough to remember it, that year of two bye weeks SUCKED. It made the season way too long and disjointed. I hated it and was glad it never came back.
    ************************************************
    I like the idea in theory, but it doesn’t work in reality.

    It leads to more scheduling conflicts and weather problems. In the summer, in places the Arizona, it’s way too hot and in the winter, in places like Green Bay, it’s way too cold.

  8. BOW DOWN TO THE NFL’S GREATEST DYNASTY. WINNERS OF MORE SUPER BOWLS THAN ANY NFL TEAM IN ALMOST A THIRD OF A CENTURY!

    WHAT AN INCREDIBLE ACCOMPLISHMENT. WHAT A TEAM. WHAT A DYNASTY. WHAT AN ORGANIZATION. AMERICA IS PROUD OF THE WORLD CHAMPION PATRIOTS!

  9. lengai says:
    Feb 27, 2015 12:18 PM

    And people think Steven Jackson and Earl Campbell were big tailbacks. The Nigerian Nightmare was huge for his time and still is. Lots of great highlights of him carrying 2-3 people into the end zone.

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    True for physical size, but no back ran bigger than Campbell, but Okoye was close. Neither had a long career…so that pretty much tells you why guys don’t do it.

  10. It did good to extend the season, but it’s still too short. Why should the most popular sport have the shortest season? When the NFL takes the preseason weeks it’ll be right.

  11. “Why not have 2 bye weeks? That’s an extra week of football in the season.”

    Bye weeks are a bad way to extend the season. ….Unless you add more games. I think they should take two of the pre-season games and make them regular season games. So, it’s an 18 game season. But the players would hate it and injuries would be more of an issue. So, add one bye week to the current bye week making a total of 2 byes per team per season. So, in total, we’ve added 3 weeks to the current schedule. I think it’d be best to keep the Superbowl in the first Sunday of February. Thus the regular season (and pre-season) would start 3 weeks earlier. Instead of waiting until September, we’d have meaningful games in the 2nd week of August. Preseason would start the last week of July. And the league would have to schedule bye weeks so that no team got two bye weeks in any 5 week period.

  12. ebdug says:
    Feb 27, 2015 1:59 PM
    It did good to extend the season, but it’s still too short. Why should the most popular sport have the shortest season? When the NFL takes the preseason weeks it’ll be right.
    _____________________

    Maybe that’s one of the reasons that it is the most popular sport. It leaves you wanting more. Too many games makes each game less significant over the long run. Do you really want a season that last 9 or 10 months like baseball? Think about it… each baseball team plays over 160 games per year. Do you think anybody really cares about game #38, game #43, or even game #56? Why would you… it’s meaningless. Over saturation would kill the NFL’s popularity. Hell, I say take away Thursday night football as well. You look forward to football even more when you have to wait an entire week for another game!

  13. “Cassettes didn’t play on a loop. They played once, then stopped.”

    He has 8-tracks confused with cassettes LOL His memory is fading due to age I suspect. Happens to me all the time

  14. “The 1990 Lions, pictured here,” ???

    Oh yeah, now I see it. If you squint real hard you can see a Lions logo on the helmet in the background. Looks more like the Chiefs are pictured here.

  15. John L. Williams and Neal Anderson? My lineup that year also included Lorenzo Hampton and James Jones. Go Gators!

  16. returntoexcellence says:

    Maybe that’s one of the reasons that it is the most popular sport. It leaves you wanting more. Too many games makes each game less significant over the long run. Do you really want a season that last 9 or 10 months like baseball? Think about it… each baseball team plays over 160 games per year. Do you think anybody really cares about game #38, game #43, or even game #56? Why would you… it’s meaningless. Over saturation would kill the NFL’s popularity. Hell, I say take away Thursday night football as well. You look forward to football even more when you have to wait an entire week for another game!

    9 months would be cool with me, but I think 6 is where it should be right now. I suspect someone was always predicting over exposure as the league expanded to 11 weeks, then 14, then 17.

  17. joetoronto says:
    Every time I see a pic of Okoye, I think of the lick Atwater put on him.

    …………………………………………………………….

    Every time I hear about Atwater, I think about the lick Largent put on him.

  18. ebdug says:
    Feb 27, 2015 9:02 PM

    I suspect someone was always predicting over exposure as the league expanded to 11 weeks, then 14, then 17.
    ________________

    I completely agree with that statement. People don’t like change. Although I think too much football is possible at some point, I don’t think it’s at that point just yet. Although I still would like to see them ax Thursday night games… but that’s just me.

  19. There needs to be 2 byes weeks. If the league wants consistently high level of play and reiterate their work towards safety to players, adding another bye week would be the way to go.

  20. rotoon2 says:
    Feb 27, 2015 1:01 PM
    Cassettes didn’t play on a loop. They played once, then stopped.

    24 2

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