The quality of Thursday night games has been much discussed since the league expanded the slate of games played during the week and the general feeling expressed by players, fans and media members has been that the games aren’t a particularly good example of the NFL’s product.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell disagrees with that assessment. During an interview with Goodell on “The Herd” Wednesday, Colin Cowherd of FOX Sports said that he and his staff had found that there are fewer penalties and a higher completion percentage in Thursday night games and asked Goodell if that battled the narrative that the games aren’t very good to watch.
“We’re more than just optics here. We’re into facts,” Goodell said. “Go to the same statistics, because you’re right about the quality of the games on Thursday night. There are actually less penalties, less turnovers. Almost by every barometer the quality of the games is better on Thursday night. Obviously, some games you’re going to have aren’t going to be as competitive, they will have a dominance. You get that.”
It should probably go without saying that fewer penalties and turnovers and higher completion percentages don’t necessarily translate to a higher quality game and does nothing to combat complaints from players about the quick turnaround from Sunday to Thursday. Goodell said that there is no “indication, facts or anything else that would indicate that the level of injuries are up on Thursday night” but did say the league would look at scheduling to minimize stresses on teams.
Like many other things in the league, the long-term answer on Thursday night games (the current contract with CBS and NBC runs through 2017) probably comes down to a decision about whether or not the league benefits more from having the game than they would by scrapping the Thursday slate. If ratings and revenues are good enough, questions about the quality of the games aren’t likely to rattle the league all that much.