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.