The formal and official push for 18 regular-season games has begun. The latest, and perhaps best, evidence of it comes from comments made Friday by Packers CEO Mark Murphy at the team’s annual shareholders meeting.
“What we do know is our current preseason is not a good product,” Murphy said, via Darren Rovell of TheActionNetwork.com. “Our players don’t need four games and it seems like fewer starters are playing in them. Maybe another way to do this is to add one neutral site game and one international one for every team, so we can use this to grow the game.”
In other words, one plus one is two. And 16 plus two is 18.
That marks a dramatic reversal for Murphy, who has said clearly and unequivocally on multiple past occasions that an increase to 18 games won’t work.
“On the 18-game season, with the concerns about health and safety, we can’t justify increasing the season,” Murphy told Peter King in December 2016.
Murphy made similar remarks at least three times before that.
“I think with all the concern about player health and safety, it would be difficult to go from 16 regular-season games to 18,” Murphy said in 2015.
“I think with all the concerns about the health and safety of players, it’s hard to justify,” Murphy said in 2013. “To go from 16 to 18 regular-season [games] would be a lot more wear and tear. It would be additional games for your starters.”
Here’s Murphy from 2012: “I couldn’t support a move to 18 [regular-season games] and two [preseason games]. With the focus on player safety, it would be really hard to support that.”
So what has prompted Murphy to do such an about face? Given that he previousy has rooted his opposition to an expanded regular season in concerns regarding player health and safety, Murphy possibly believes that the advances in player health and safety now permit an increase in the total inventory of games that count.
Or maybe Murphy realizes that, in the context of CBA talks that haven’t happened since 2011, now is the time to argue that advances in health and safety permit an increase in regular season games. Regardless, something has caused Murphy to change his tune so sharply, and that something likely is the same color as his team’s home jerseys.
UPDATE 5:25 p.m. ET: Different versions of Murphy’s quotes have emerged, contrary to Rovell’s. Daniel Kaplan of TheAthletic.com writes that Murphy discussed 17 regular-season games as a potential idea. Either way, he previously had been opposed to expanding the regular season at all. He now isn’t.