Why does the NFL keep playing a four-week preseason?

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August brings 65 games of meaningless football. It also may bring commentary from the Commissioner about the possibility of shrinking the amount of meaningless football played in August.

It’s a topic that comes up during the preseason, with Roger Goodell often musing about teams being ready for the games that count with fewer games that don’t.

“I’ve asked every football guy, ‘How many preseason games do we really need to prepare your team and develop players and evaluate players and get yourself ready for the season?” Goodell said last year. “And I think that has shifted dramatically in the last three years. I think that coaches and football people think that you could do this in three [games], and I actually think that’s better for the fans. I actually don’t think the preseason games are of the quality that I’m really proud of. From my standpoint, I think that would be a really healthy shift.”

Goodell raised the topic of shrinking the preseason three different times last August. Under the labor deal finalized seven Augusts ago, the league has the absolute right to cut the preseason in half, without bargaining with the NFL Players Association.

So why hasn’t the league done it? Despite what Goodell has said, the people who employ and pay him don’t want it. And they don’t want it because they don’t want to give up the easy revenue that comes with much lower expense than what they pay players during the regular season.

So why does the Commissioner keep talking about it? Because it’s part of the broader justification for expanding the regular season. More than 40 years ago, the NFL staged 14 regular-season games and six preseason games. When the season expanded to 16 games, the preseason shrunk to four games. The league has wanted for years to slide to 18 and two or, at a minimum, 17 and three.

It hasn’t happened (and the league rarely mentions it publicly) because the league simply can’t reconcile more regular-season football with concerns for player health and safety. Which means that the change can happen only if the players ask for it, presumably within the confines of the next round of CBA discussions.

Which means that, if the NFL and NFLPA can repair a chronically-frayed relationship by then, the league can unofficially ask the union to officially ask for more regular-season games, with the understanding that the league will make it worth their while.

Until then, look for Goodell to once again point out that the preseason can and should be reduced, but without doing so until it can be done at a time when, at the same time, the regular season expands accordingly.

85 responses to “Why does the NFL keep playing a four-week preseason?

  1. Easy to resolve in the next labor deal. 3 week preseason, 17 regular season games with 2 bye weeks, so a 19 week season. This pushes the Super Bowl to President’s Day weekend, so many more people will not have to go to work the following day. Use the 17th game as a way to get more games to other locations like London and Mexico City and then home team fans won’t lose a game like they do now.

    Such an easy, logical decision to make that would generate more revenue for owners and players. In other words, no chance of this happening!

  2. For years I’ve been saying that the NFL should just play two preseason games and add two regular season games to the schedule. There would actually be the same amount of games, so no revenue would be lost, but two more games would actually count in the standings. Same number of games overall, same amount of revenue, and two less uninteresting preseason games. What’s not to like?

  3. coaches will sit most of the starters then complain all of September how they didn’t have enough time to practice and get these guys ready. Completely ignoring that they sat said players.

  4. ” and I actually think that’s better for the fans.”

    Lawl. I love how #LyinRoger pretends this is all about the fans when it’s really about the greedy owners binky of an 18 game regular season.

  5. v2787 says:
    August 9, 2018 at 2:54 pm
    For years I’ve been saying that the NFL should just play two preseason games and add two regular season games to the schedule. There would actually be the same amount of games, so no revenue would be lost, but two more games would actually count in the standings. Same number of games overall, same amount of revenue, and two less uninteresting preseason games. What’s not to like?
    ______________________________________________________________________
    This will never happen. With CTE and injuries, there is no way the regular season will get extended. It’s been proposed and it’s been shot down by the players association. The idea above about 3 preseason games and an extra bye week could work though.

  6. Another part of the justification is the 90 man roster, where the league has felt obligated to give a huge amount of likely “street” players a chance to make a team/have film. However, IMO, it appears that a few “minor league” options are perhaps emerging, which might lessen the NFL’s obligation to these fringe players. They’ll at least be given the opportunity to have some tape at a lower level, as opposed to heading right back to the couch.

  7. Younger people are tuning out of the NFL plus the league has SO MANY other issues they NEED to fix 1st. They may have a chance to expand the season IF new gambling venues make the game more intresting…..but really the NFL is on the decline, so…….

  8. Believe it or not, businesses exist to MAKE money.
    I know, I know…desire to make money is “evil” according to the “enlightened” elite.
    Preseason brings in tons of profit for the NFL and its franchises…there is NOTHING wrong with that.
    Fans and networks are paying so the market is good for pro football.
    If greed and desire for money is “evil”, then I must postulate that EVERY single college student in the U.S. is absolutely evil because their primary goal for going to college is to get a degree that will enable them to find a job/career in the marketplace for making MONEY.
    You go NFL!
    Capitalism FTW!

  9. I think the NFL would be better off shrinking the preseason schedule without increasing the regular season.

    1) if it results in less revenue the cap (costs) also would go down.

    2) if the league would spread pre-season games out to every day of the week then T.V. contracts could perhaps make up for the lost revenue.

    3) Fewer meaningless games with announcers ignoring the game and talking to guests or among themselves will keep the appetite for NFL games strong. Sacrificing some money in the short term to keep the product extremely strong makes sense.

    4) Would the players go for an 18 game schedule if the league expanded their rosters by four players and let all players be active game day? That would allow some starters not to have to play on special teams.

    Seems like there is a solution here if both parties cared about the game “long term”. I know its harder for players to sacrifice personally since their careers are short but smart people could figure out a solution.

  10. They are not meaningless. Two or 3 games is not enough time to install offensive and defensive systems and get the rookies and new players up to speed.

    Furthermore if a team has a new head coach and coaching staff that usually brings with it their chances of being successful in the first year will drop exponentially with a shorter preseason. With a shorter preseason any new head coach would be screwed.

  11. About the only thing preseason games are “good” for (aside from boosting owner revenue) is to risk major injury to key starters in a meaningless contest.

  12. I thought there was significant defiance amongst then-head coaches, explaining why they WANT 4 preseason games…???

  13. “August brings 65 games of meaningless football. It also may bring commentary from the Commissioner about the possibility of shrinking the amount of meaningless football played in August.”

    I’m pretty sure there are 32 coaches that disagree with your well informed sentiment there Mr. Florio. Preseason isn’t exciting, has it’s downsides – but at the end of the day – to call it meaningless is just ill informed. It has a ton of meaning to the makeup of the team, rosters and even the ability of guys who ultimately get cut to get some film out there and possibly get jobs on other teams. Not to mention the invaluable real games reps some of these players gets. Calling it meaningless it just nonsense.

  14. If the new league works out, the NFL will have another way of seeing players in game action (other than College), instead of having 4 games to evaluate players.

  15. I like preseason games, but they suck on TV because everything but the opening drives) are (talked over or the broadcasts cut away to some pointless interview.

    Maybe I’m the only one, but I like seeing those second half guys playing their damn hearts out trying to make that team or show enough that some team might sign them.

    those guys are the ones I root for, the ones that really do get the hard knocks.

  16. As much as some hate it, it’s an opportunity for guys in the bottom of the roster to come up and make the 53. While four games may seem excessive to us, it’s really the best opportunity some of these young guys have of making the squad

  17. Easy to resolve in the next labor deal. 3 week preseason, 17 regular season games with 2 bye weeks, so a 19 week season. This pushes the Super Bowl to President’s Day weekend, so many more people will not have to go to work the following day. Use the 17th game as a way to get more games to other locations like London and Mexico City and then home team fans won’t lose a game like they do now
    ———————————————–
    Include a roster expansion, and you’ve got it covered.

  18. You can’t trade in preseason games for regular season games and think it’s even. Established starters hardly get on the field in preseason. They’re always on the field in the regular season. More intensity, more risk of injury, same money? Not happening.

  19. They should remove 2 preseason games and force teams to have one joint practice with a mock game. To make up lost revenue they can expand the regular season 1 week by adding a 2nd bye week. I’m sure the money from adding an extra week of regular season action to the TV package is greater then 2 preseason games revenue from local TV and stadium revenue.

    Revenue goes up
    Impacts go down
    Coaches still have live action to evaluate their players
    Season ticket holders are screwed less
    Players and coaches have more time to heal and adjust during the season with a 2nd bye

  20. The first couple of regular season games are usually not as good because players are still getting up to speed. I think cutting a pre-season game will give a watered down product and will cut down on player development. I don’t think that extra game will be a good one if moved from the pre-season to the regular season.

    On the other hand it sucks to be forced to pay full price for pre-season games.

  21. Absolutely necessary in order to get film and evaluate talent of the second tier players. We won’t see much if anything of the top players, but with a CBA that severely limits the chance to see players actually playing or practicing football, it is necessary.

  22. How about just axe a preseason game and leave it at 16 regular season games? Oh I’m sorry. I forgot for a second that Billionaires suffer from a very strong and perverse personality disorder known as perpetual greed.

  23. “Capitalism FTW!”

    Capitalism is a robust system that results in innovation through competition.

    What we have now in the US in corporatism, which is a corrupt system based on influence peddling to eliminate competition and consumer protections, and has much reduced innovation.

  24. Its definitely not for the benefit of football fans or for integrity of the game, or for transparency by the league office.

    None of that seems to matter, which is why the PSI report from the 2015 NFL season is still being hidden from footballs fans.

  25. The absolute worst thing about the preseason is that season ticket holders are forced to pay full price for them just to be able to purchase season tickets. If you don’t want to go there’s no resale market for them. It’s just a case of owners gouging the wallets of their most loyal fans.

  26. Teams seem to need all four games to make roster decisions, bring back injured players, give new coaches and schemes a chance to solidify, and many more reasons. Cutting back favors the best teams and the ones who didn’t make any significant changes at key positions or coaching staff. The League should have a formula that forces teams to adjust ticket prices to match the level of play in the 4 games. I look forward to the preseason to see how some of the rookies play and how other changes look on the field before it “counts.”

  27. swede700 says:
    August 9, 2018 at 3:23 pm
    3 preseason games, 17 regular season games (8 home, 8 away, 1 neutral site). Expand rosters to 56 or 57 players. Fixed.

    ___________

    Love this idea : Neutral Site (London, Beijing, Mexico City????)
    I would ADD:

    End Thursday Night Football, Move those games to more 425pm Sunday Games.
    Increase player Rosters to Include Practice Squad Players (more 60 Roster Spots)
    and Lastly

    Bring back full contact Training Camps and kickoff returns.

  28. Having to pay for preseason tickets (and parking, and everything else that comes along with going to a game) is one of the big reasons I opted out of season tickets this year. That, and owners who deign to tell men what configuration their body should be in when some song plays while the nation gets all b-hurt about symbols and other useless things.

  29. This story gets published every year and it never changes. If attendance and on-field revenue for these games starts to decline, maybe there will be a change. Meanwhile, I hope coaching staffs and front offices continue to be smarter about how they use players for these games.

  30. 1) Preseason is meant for roster “bubble” players to get the opportunity to audition for the team. Fewer games = fewer chances for the fringe players
    2) Already we hear about devastating injuries that cost players during September caused by lack of practice/conditioning, etc… not sure how fewer games solves anything on that front, either

  31. The thing is preseason serves two purposes. Let veterans work off the rust a little (which they don’t need 4 games) but for young guys gives them reps and figure out who they wants on their team. Problem is unless us football junkies are interested to see who sticks on the team to make the backup weakside LB. Change the CBA to allow more preaseason games for practice squad type guys early in the season, shorten the traditional preseason by at least one game and then get into possibly make the season longer (why not just start by adding a 2nd bye week for teams).

  32. One or two more regular season games means one or two more full-speed games starters and stars will have to play. The only way this would make sense is a 17 or 18 week season, and no player can appear in more than 16 games. Allow teams to carry larger rosters. When to sit players becomes a huge part of the calculus for each team (and each gambler).

  33. They should switch to 2 preseason games and keep 16 regular season games. Maybe they could have a third preseason game at a neutral site in different states or different stadiums, with some kind of revenue sharing deal to compensate for the loss of a home game for the NFL stadiums.

  34. Because all tickets are sold at full price and they get extra TV money, not to mention the concession prices are the same high prices as they are in the regular season. They probably sell more beer to because anyone going to those debacles needs to booze up to get through it.

  35. Because fans are stupid enough to attend four preseason games. I guarantee if there were less than say 5,000 fans per game in attendance then these games would stop.

    And its a lame excuse that these fans that attend are using with the “well I paid for it already”. Dude you didn’t already pay for parking. You didn’t already pay for that $12.00 beer.

    Stop attending these meaningless games and then this will get fixed.

  36. Owners make more money on pre season games as they don’t pay the players until the regular season starts. However they do charge regular season prices for tickets and parking.

  37. terripet says:
    August 9, 2018 at 2:48 pm
    💰💰💰💰

    ————————-

    Man, I didn’t even know that you had a working thumbs up button. But, there it is. Thumbs up for the Colts troll. Good Luck for the season.

  38. because football is a very physical game & it takes a while to get your body “football ready” also it’s a game of timing as well. so that also takes time..the lightened preseason has really shown in recent years…you used to get sloppy football up until about week 4, now it extends til about halloween. throw in thurs night games & that’s a lot of sloppy football.

  39. nortonfest says:
    August 9, 2018 at 2:51 pm
    Easy to resolve in the next labor deal. 3 week preseason, 17 regular season games with 2 bye weeks, so a 19 week season. This pushes the Super Bowl to President’s Day weekend, so many more people will not have to go to work the following day. Use the 17th game as a way to get more games to other locations like London and Mexico City and then home team fans won’t lose a game like they do now.

    Such an easy, logical decision to make that would generate more revenue for owners and players. In other words, no chance of this happening!

    ———————————————-

    This sounds good for the most part but the players won’t go for it and here is why. Their careers are short and by adding another game you are adding more wear and tear on their bodies which will shorten their career even further. That might mean one less contract for their playing days which means a ton less money for them that won’t be made up by playing that one extra game.

  40. Shrinking the preseason to 3 games would create a regular season with odd numbered games. That kind of uneven schedule favors teams that play well at home and at the same time have more games at home that season. It is not fair.

    If they keep the number of regular season games at 16 but shrink the preseason to 3 games that means each team will have one fewer home game and also one fewer games to make money, both on TV and through the gates. If they shrink the preseaon to 2 games and expand the regular season to 18, that won’t impact revenue, but it will mean that there is a lot less opportunity to evaluate players and get new players the chance to get into game shape and/or physical shape.

    That means the current setup is actually ideal and reducing the number of preseason games will actually be worse. Lastly, teams are now using joint practices and scrimmages to give them even more opportunities to evaluate players. It shows that perhaps the old arrangement of 6 preseason games and 14 regular season games was actually even better than the current arrangement. If so, there is really no reason to reduce the preseason to just 2 games. It just does not make any sense to do it.

  41. No brained here folks, injuries are going to happen preseason or regular so why not reduce those meaningless 4 preseason games to 2 and expand the regular season to 18? The NBA has 4 preseason games for an 82 game season. I mean really come on now. It’s time to fix this. Nobody cares about preseason, look at the stadiums after halftime during preseason games.

  42. .
    preseason games are where you see new guys excel and fail against other teams.

    Danny Woodhead made people interested in him from his preseason play as a rookie as an example. He was going to be cut…
    September 2009 “Woodhead’s preseason-finale performance wins him a Jets roster spot”

  43. Hey Goodell. YOU personally, have nothing to be proud of when it comes to the NFL
    You are a politically correct, slime ball that should be fired.
    You are a P.R.nightmare and a fool

  44. If you shorten the preseason that just means more sloppy football during the regular season.

    The only way to get prepared to play football is by playing football. There is no other substitution to prepare players for the regular season.

  45. Goodell is pushing for more regular season games, more gamedays per week, expanding amount of playoff teams…oh and yea we care about head injuries. Goodell is a fraud.

  46. I think a lot of the blame needs to be put on the fans. As long as they’ll continue to pay FULL PRICE for preseason games, there’s no incentive for owners to reconsider.

    Preseason games are also a part of season ticket packages and fans should demand an option to either have those games included at a significantly reduced cost or the option not to be included at all.

  47. There is no need to go to 17 or 18 games a season. The players wouldn’t agree to it from the standpoint of health and longevity. Even if offset by a reduction in pre-season games, that is not equal since most starters play only limited minutes.
    If the league wanted to expand the season, and thus expand the revenue, as well as to provide some additional protection for players, the solution is very obvious:
    – expand the season from 17 weeks to 18 weeks, but keep 16 games (2 bye weeks).
    – every team plays one Thursday game that is worked into their bye schedule (11/10 days between games)
    It would get the league 1 more week of TV revenue, make Thursday product better and more valuable, and provide more effective rest and healing times for players.

  48. That kind of uneven schedule favors teams that play well at home and at the same time have more games at home that season. It is not fair.

    It’s perfectly fair if the 17th game is at a neutral spot. Think of all the international venues and large markets in the US itself that would love to host a game. Off the top of my head, a Pittsburgh-Philly matchup in State College, PA might be interesting. A TB-MIA-JAX matchup in Orlando. I doubt any of this would happen, of course.

  49. Preseason matters. Not the scoring. Not the stats but to the 53rd guy it matters. The game has been getting worse each year. The level of the game just isn’t what it use to be. Less practice for players leads to worse play. Less time for coaches to get to know players, means less time to develop players. And now you want less time to properly evaluate players. This will lead to good players being cut and left behind, it’s also less time to properly develop rookies and will lead to a faster turnover than we have now, which also lessens the quality of football.

    But more money so who cares about the quality of the product?

  50. Roger Goodell says: “better for the fans. I actually don’t think the preseason games are of the quality that I’m really proud of.”

    Roger, the games are not about the fans or your perception of “the product”. It is about a teams’ preparation for the season, that they are kind enough to allow us to watch. It is not unheard of in college football to have closed scrimmages … but we as fans are so ready for the season, we want FOOTBALL and we want it now! Let the teams get ready and appreciate that teams allow us to watch what is really a glorified practice.

    I would like to see the league expand the number of weeks (stretch out the season by starting earlier) by giving the teams additional byes … the off season is just way too long.

  51. Truth is the NFL doesn’t really have a 4 week schedule. Last week is a scrub fest. So, essentially it’s 3 weeks. In the first week, hardly any starters put in any serious minutes.
    It’s necessary for the guys trying to make the team. Really not that long, but the risk of injury is the scariest part.

  52. Goodell doesnt raise the topic, the media raises the topic. Preseason is important for coaches and GMs to bring the roster from 90 to 53. Without actual “meaningless” games, this would be much more difficult.

    So while meaningless is a term that applies correctly in terms of regular season record only, the preseason is far from meaningless to most of the players and personnel that are spending 100s of hours trying to be the best football team in February.

  53. “…because the league simply can’t reconcile more regular-season football with concerns for player health and safety.”

    There is nothing to reconcile. These things are not mutually exclusive. You can BOTH make the game safer AND play more games, but in this scenario, we’re not even talking about more games, just changing the meaning of some of those games.

    I’ve never once heard any player complain about playing 20 games in a season and two teams do that every year.

  54. Pre-season is not meaningless. It means a lot for players competing for jobs, coaches trying to evaluate players, and getting ready for the regular season.

    To the extent you cut back on pre-season games, you will just have players not as well prepared for week one, and the first few regular season games will look more like pre-season games (more than they already do sometimes) only they matter.

    With all the cutbacks in practice time in the CBA, you need the existing pre-season schedule to get prepared. It’s better to have these games and work out more of the issues when the games don’t matter, thereby providing a higher quality product week one.

    I’d much rather have that than a shortened pre-season and pre-season quality games the first weeks of the regular season, which can come back to haunt teams later on.

  55. With the lack of practice time already, losing any preseason games would further weaken the product that has been in steady decline since the CBA was signed. Quality of play, not player safety, should be the NFL’s main concern.

  56. Teams need the 4 preseason games to develop young players and determine their 53 man roster.
    The coaches and players say it over and over. They need to get better and they do that by making incremental improvement every practice and every game.

  57. Well in September when we watch WR have passes bounce of their hands and defensive player wiff on tackles because they haven’t been playing just wonder why. The 1st month of the season has turned into preseason now. So you are right you don’t need any preseason games if you teat the 1st month of the season as preseason.

  58. Shrink the preseason to three games; plenty of game time to make evaluations and prep for the season; besides, currently the first game is really a glorified scrimmage.

  59. Not a good idea to shorten the preseason. Maybe if you allowed the roster to stay at a high level into the first four weeks of the season. How are coaches supposed to evaluate the bottom of the roster without these games?

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