How long will fans tolerate a four-game preseason?

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I still have a vivid recollection of an August night in the mid-70s, seeing a closeup Sonny Jurgensen in his burgundy helmet and single-bar facemask during one of what then was six preseason games per team and asking myself, “Why am I watching this?”

The answer matched the one that George Costanza gave to Russell Dalrymple when pitching a show about nothing. (Not to mention there were only three channels at the time, and summertime meant reruns only on the other two.) Today, there are too many other options to justify watching football that doesn’t count, especially when more and more coaches are using their best players less and less.

Not long ago, it was a given that starters would play at least half of the third preseason game. Now, that’s hardly a sure thing. Making Week Three of the preseason necessarily less interesting than it previously was.

Even with starters playing, how interesting is it? When starters are on the field, part of the reason to watch is to fight through the temptation to not watch as key players subject themselves to potential injury in meaningless games.

With players in shape 12 months of the year and with plenty of ways to prepare players without putting them in harm’s way, more and more coaches aren’t. Which keeps making Commissioner Roger Goodell’s argument for a shorter preseason stronger and stronger.

Last year, Goodell said publicly on at least three occasions that the preseason could be shortened. This year, Goodell hasn’t said it once — possibly because he’s been nowhere to be seen since Hall of Fame weekend. Goodell surely believes even more strongly that the preseason should shrink, if it’s no longer being used by many teams to get starters ready and has become a tool for separating the bottom-of-NFL-roster slappies from the headed-for-the-AAF-or-XFL slappies.

But the NFL still won’t reduce the preseason until it can expand the regular season. And even though the NFL no longer talks about expanding the regular season, the desire to do so remains. If you watched/listened to Friday’s PFT Live, you saw/heard a discussion with Peter King regarding what could happen, eventually.

Regardless, it’s starting to feel like the preseason will shrink, inevitably. Maybe as soon as the next labor deal is done.

71 responses to “How long will fans tolerate a four-game preseason?

  1. I say go to 3 preseason games, add one regular season game and an extra bye week. It would only make the nfl season start one week earlier. The extra bye week gives injures players a better chance of getting back on the field. Just my two cents

  2. Back in the day, they had 6 preseason games. Players didn’t make a lot of money, most had off season jobs. They needed a long training camp and preseason games to get in shape.
    Now they have Mini-camps, OTAs and players don’t work other jobs in the off season.
    Play 3 preseason games with the last games on the Thursday before Labor Day.( Gives them plenty of rest before the season, opening day Thursday participants end their preseason earlier )
    Expand the game day roster to 53, practice squad to 12 and your bubble players are all set.

  3. Question is really how many does a team need to be ready? If it is 4 then discount the ticket prices. If it is 2 then play 2. Objective should be to get season ready rather than milk the fans.

  4. Not everything in the NFL has to be about being the most exciting fan experience. Yes, the preseason can be boring and doesn’t offer a lot for veterans, but what about the UDFA’s and the bubble players playing their tails off for a job, or trying to put out tape for another team to have interest? Just let it be.

  5. Coaches are wising up. They’re not throwing away their season on preseason injuries. You need these games to get your backups work and make final roster decisions. 3 games should do that.

  6. The owners want to cut it down to two and extend the regular season. If that happens, the players will want more money. Theoretically it would mean more money because it would increase revenue and therefore increase the salary cap. So, in essence, the players would be getting more money but not as much as they’d like to get. I can’t see the NFL reducing the preseason without extending the regular season.

    The dumb thing is if they extended the regular season everyone would make more money so in essence they are fighting over who gets more of that extra money.

  7. The Bears feel their new offense is ready for the season after just a quarter and a half. Why play more than one preseason game I guess…. at least Nagy’s decision frees up my Saturday night. Why watch preseason? Frankly, I don’t understand how any one would buy tickets for those games anymore.

  8. I’m good w 4 preseason games, as teams & players need to ramp up their physical & skilled readiness for the regular season. Rookies AND veterans must have the time to acclimate. The regular season will suffer w more injuries & less preparedness if they cut the preseason to less than 3, thus making a product already deteriorating into an even worse product. The preseason isn’t meant to be as entertaining as the regular season as WE ARE TALKING ABOUT PRACTICE.

  9. Also, to those that oppose an 18 game season. I wonder what people thought when the league went from 10 to 12 games? Or 12 to 14 games? Or even 14 to 16 games? All of which happened over a 20 year period.

    There’s been no significant changes since the mid-70’s.

    It’s time.

  10. I think they need the games to evaluate,with games and film,rookies and other marginal players. Also,the film helps in picking up other teams’ cuts.

  11. I’m just happy for ticket exchange where i can sell my preseason tix i’m forced to buy and recoup on average 50% of what i paid.
    It’s completely intolerable to watch at this point, preseason games were needed when players had no offseason conditioning, they are no longer needed.
    Stop this insanity NFL, once and for all.

  12. “Also, to those that oppose an 18 game season. I wonder what people thought when the league went from 10 to 12 games? Or 12 to 14 games? Or even 14 to 16 games? All of which happened over a 20 year period”

    The NFL was then in the throes of an aggressive expansion. The NFL/AFL merger and expansion Bucs and Seahawks. They went from 14 to 28 teams in that period, thus the need for an expanded schedule.

  13. Two things:
    1. With all the soft tissue injuries in practice/preseason/early regular season, it would appear to me that they need more, not less training time.
    2. The union, which represents veterans,(rookies are not in the union until they make a team) should be 100% in favor of shortening preseason. After all, it further limits the time rookies can get up to speed and threaten the veterans positions on the teams. It would give greater job security to the union members.

  14. Personally I don’t even bother watching NFL games until the regular season starts. Preseason is meaningless as exemplified by the fact that there have been teams that have gone winless in the preseason and emerged as Super Bowl champs. And there have been teams that have gone undefeated in the preseason and went on to finish the regular season with 1-15 or 2-14 records.

  15. The biggest problem with the 4-game preseason is the ticket pricing in the stadiums. Fix that! Otherwise, the 4 games seem to be necessary to work in new players, coaches, and schemes, assess draftees, and tune up the roster. Who is watching Week 3 games and feels “Yeah, they’re ready to go” ????

  16. Yea like anything is done in the league for the fans. I just get sick of watch Football in September when most of the team looks like they have never even practiced on the same field let a lone play on the field together

  17. Bad teams need 4 weeks. Bad teams need to evaluate multiple positions. Not saying good teams don’t evaulate all positions but it’s just like anything else…..the more you need to do the more time it takes to do it.

  18. Fans don’t mean jack to the NFL. If they haven’t left over all the politics, rule changes, and weekly favorable calls in the patriots favor they ain’t leaving.

  19. Try telling Teddy Bridgewater the preseason is meaningless,when the Jets will have tons of suitors for him from all those meaningless preseason snaps he took. Yes, not important at all. Just because fans are bored and only care about being starters doesn’t make it meaningless. Why not just let teams forfeit after they clinch the division? I mean some team rest their starters, why even play those as well?

  20. I don’t watch a second of preseason. I wouldn’t go to a preseason game if someone gave me 50 yard line tickets.

  21. I am a season ticket holder and it SUCKS to pay that price when it’s a game of second teamers. I no longer go and even for free people don’t want the tickets.

  22. (2) preseason (18) regular (2) bye weeks per team (53) weekly active roster, preseason ticket prices not to exceed $15 tweek the new helmet rule (make it reviewable) make ALL penalties reviewable) and if a finger grazes the QBs helmet accidentally…for God’s sake make it a NON penalty!

  23. There’s pretty much a lifelong waiting list for season tix of any worthwhile franchise so yeah they are tolerating it

  24. “Cut it down to 2 games. Even 3 is too many.”

    Uh no. 2 or 3 games is not enough time for rookies and new players to learn the systems, or for the coaches to evaluate players. This will lead to games of such poor quality they will be even more unwatchable than preseason games.

    And if you have a new head coach / coaching staff they will be utterly and totally screwed with a 2 game preseason. Pretty much guarantees any team that goes to a new head coach will have an awful season.

    4 games needs to stay in place for the preseason

  25. Take two preseason games away, install one week for scrimmaging against another team and add two more playoff seeds for an extra wildcard weekend post season…!

    No lost revenue for the league and who’s going to balk at two extra playoff games per conference???

  26. It doesn’t matter how long or not that fans tolerate it because Roger Baddell will only do what’s best for him and not care what the fans think. He has done only for himself since the day he took office. This league is gonna go bankrupt on his watch with all the crap he is pulling. If I wanted to watch flag football, I’d go down to the local park and watch the 10 year olds play.

  27. There are Preseason games because Coaches need to build a roster and see the players on the fringe perform in an actual game. The injury excuse doesn’t fly either. The only way to prevent injury in the game of football is to not play the game of football. Players are lost for the season during regular season games, preseason games, OTA’s and working out on their own. Players have to play to get into football shape. As it is the first few weeks of the season are usually pretty lousy and full of penalties because starters aren’t ready to play a full game. I’m good with the status quo and it’s been fine for about 40 years now. The only thing that has changed is everyone and their dog has a voice to complain about it on social media.

  28. I’m in favor of the four preseason games. I am not in favor of charging to go to them.

    Coaches need games to make evaluations. Remove games, and real talent will slip through the cracks.

    But if they do reduce the games, they should increase the team roster numbers by a least 10 players, even if they are inactive for games.

  29. araidersfan says:
    August 25, 2018 at 12:19 pm

    Personally I don’t even bother watching NFL games until the regular season starts. Preseason is meaningless as exemplified by the fact that there have been teams that have gone winless in the preseason and emerged as Super Bowl champs. And there have been teams that have gone undefeated in the preseason and went on to finish the regular season with 1-15 or 2-14 records.

    ————-

    The 2008 Detroit Lions went 4-0 in the Preseason. They went 0-16 in the regular season.

  30. alonestartexan
    Aug 25, 2018, 11:54 AM EDT
    Also, to those that oppose an 18 game season. I wonder what people thought when the league went from 10 to 12 games? Or 12 to 14 games? Or even 14 to 16 games? All of which happened over a 20 year period.

    There’s been no significant changes since the mid-70’s.

    It’s time.

    Why?

  31. Based on what my team did last night, I’d say they need more preparation, not less…..

  32. Just don’t watch it if you don’t like it.
    Or you can get your jimmies rustled by any and everything you don’t enjoy. That’ll work too I guess.

  33. Got nothing against reducing the number of preseason games, but if this happens they also need to expand the number of practice sessions allowed.

  34. There will be 4 pre-season games as long as there are fans willing to pay regular season prices to watch UDF’s play. Many season ticket holders sell their pre-season tickets to people who don’t get the opportunity to score regular season seats.

  35. I have an average IQ at best but why aren’t more fans asking for less more preseason teams and more post season games??? I don’t get it!

    Let them suit up for two preseason games and schedule scrimmages between AFC and NFC teams that are NOT playing each other during the coming regular season. There’s always one or two teams that miss the playoffs every year because there aren’t enough playoff seeds and too many preseason games.

  36. Do fans have a choice? Not if you want the season tickets. I can’t even give my preseason away. Stupid headline. Tell me how I can avoid this.

  37. I remember six preseason,and fourteen regular season game schedule. However, it was also a sixteen round draf at the time as well.

    Simple solution. Work with the players union to drop two preseason games, and add two more regular season games.

    Eighteen game schedule but, every player can only play in sixteen.

    The NFL wants more games. Players talk player safety. A player won’t have to play more games, and the players union can negotiate more money from the revenue.

    The owners won’t drop two games from the preseason due to financial reasons. The players won’t play more regular season games without financial gain.

    This process would give backups valuable playing time, while giving your front line players rest/extra time for rehab.

    Personally I don’t think eighteen games is a good thing, however, it did change in the 70’s when they dropped two preseason games, and increased regular season games from 14 to 16.

  38. They need two more regular season games and four additional roster spots to make up for the carnage.

  39. Get rid of 2 preseason games, add one more regular season game for all teams, to be played at a neutral site (non NFL city such as Birmingham, Portland, Mexico City, Cleveland, etc)

  40. You wrote, “I still have a vivid recollection of an August night in the mid-70s, seeing a closeup Sonny Jurgensen”. C’mon Mike, in the mid 70’s you were 9, 10 or 11 years old.

  41. Make it two (2) preseason games with a two-week layover before Wild Card Weekend to give players more time for physical recovery.

  42. NFL football is the greatest form of entertainment in the world. Follow the money. The NFL has broken its own revenue record each of the last two years, all while we’re whining and crying about it. Whatever the teams feel they need to do to prepare for this great entertainment, I’m in 100% support. Most of us whined when our parents made us brush our teeth, and we cried over all the homework we were given when we were school kids. Some things never change. Enough already. I expect the NFL to break yet another revenue record this year.

  43. If the NFL does eventually go to 18 games (and truthfully I don’t have strong feelings either way about that), they should keep the AFC and NFC separate until the Super Bowl. Play every team in your conference once (division games still played twice), and it would be quite a bit easier to name wild card teams, plus it would make the Super Bowl much, much more interesting and intense.

  44. Plus, the broadcasts are horrendous. At the local level, you get these announcers who forget that it’s TV–WE CAN SEE THE GAME! You don’t have to talk every second. And the network telecasts of preseason games are just advertisements for the new fall shows (much of which are like the third tight-ends we’re seeing in the game, not likely to be playing in October).

  45. What a load of crap. If the preseason proves anything, it’s that practice alone can’t help identify which new additions will work out let alone get a team ready for full contact.

    “boo hoo” someone got hurt. Guess what, there will be injuries in practice and during real games too. That is the sport.

    Or should the NFL go NHL and protect players from contact altogether?

  46. Some people are still stuck in the 60’s. Preseason game “tape” (besides tape not existing anymore) is irrelevant as to the evaluation by other teams of a player who has been released. Every team has a detailed evaluation of every potential player. A “good” or “bad” performance in a couple of quarters of preseason play is not going to change any GMs or coaches minds about a particular player.

  47. The alternative is 18 regular season games and more chance for injury or 2 fewer exhibition games (less revenue for team owners). The regulars play very little in these meaningless games, but they will have to play 2 more complete games if it becomes an 18 game season. The status quo is not a problem. The solution is worse than the non-existent problem.

  48. Today, there are too many other options to justify watching football that doesn’t count, especially when more and more coaches are using their best players less and less.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Self-centered arrogance is why you don’t understand the pre-season. It is NOT there for your entertainment. The fact that some people want to watch it (because football is back or to see the new guys) is why it is even televised at all. Pre-season helps the teams finalize their rosters and evaluate guys on the fringe. It is not geared towards entertainment, otherwise the teams would not present the most vanilla of schemes. Many teams go out of their way not to put stuff on tape that can be used by opponents to prepare. I would rather my team field the best possible team and that means practice (which has been limited) and preseason games. The one thing I don’t like is injuries but much of that is bad luck and could have easily happened on game 1 with a less prepared backup.

    I think a lot of people just don’t want pre-season because they want the regular season to start already. Season ticket holders often talk about paying full price for those games because they are included in the package deal. If the team charged the same amount for season tickets but said the pre-season games were complimentary people would still find a way to complain.

  49. It would be interesting to see what would happen if an owner decided to make pre-season games like $15 for all tickets and unbind them from season tickets. This would allow fans who can’t afford regular season games to see their team and the money they would make from concessions might come close to making up for the loss in ticket sales revenue.

    The other aspect of teams not taking the preseason seriously is that the first 2-3 weeks of actual football are usually sloppy. This is getting worse every season with the less practice and full speed reps players are getting.

  50. Cut pre-season to two games, add one BYE week, and make the extra game a “neutral” site game for every game. All International Games would be from this set of games and you could bring some games to semi-major cities or cities that used to have teams, even play a game in other teams stadiums during their BYE week. How about Saints vs Steelers in Vegas during Raiders BYE week, or Cowboys vs Chiefs in Mexico City? That way, no team would lose a home game to an International Game and you could have some interesting matchups. Make it so that every team in the NFC played the corresponding team from the AFC Divison they played last year, who finished in the same ranking within their division.

    For example, this year it would be:

    Saints vs Pats
    Panthers vs Bills
    Falcons vs Dolphins
    Bucs vs Jets

    Eagles vs Chiefs
    Cowboys vs Chargers
    Redskins vs Raiders
    Giants vs Broncos

    Vikings vs Steelers
    Lions vs Ravens
    Packers vs Bengals
    Bears vs Browns

    Rams vs Jaguars
    Seahawks vs Titans
    Cardinals vs Colts
    Niners vs Texans

    You could take some of those “dog” games at the bottom of the standings and send them on the foreign trips. The higher ranked match-ups could get top billing and Prime Time.

  51. 3 or 4 is fine. I like to see how the backups grade out. Gives a chance for starters to knock some rust off in a “real” game with limited reps.

    And, preseason is THE LAST thing fans are worried about and should be the last thing the league is worried about too.

  52. Preseason games are the greedy owners time for the cash cow to graze. A father takes his family to a game, gets gouged on everything,and the guys he just watched, will be cut the next day. A great take.

  53. ask the bubble players trying to make a team and the coached trying to build a team how important those games are for player evaluation.. And it provides some playing time for the back ups.. So how come fans call 4 preseason games greedy, but want to add more expensive regular games?
    Not sure I get that argument..

  54. But we don’t have a 16-game season right now. We have a 3-game season: No team that has gotten off to an 0-3 start has made the playoffs since 1998. Give such teams two more games to overcome such a start and it would happen lots of times.

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