With the sudden proliferation of stories about the NFL’s desire to expand the season to 18 games, we decided on Friday to get scientific. Or as close to scientific as social media allows.
A Twitter poll asked you, the reader, to vote on four options for the length of a season: 16 games, 17 games, 18 games, or 18 games with maximum player participation of 16.
More than 44,000 responded, and the initial returns nearly matched the final numbers. A whopping 62 percent of those who responded want to stick with 16 games.
Of the remaining 36 percent, most (24 percent) wanted 18 games. And nine percent opted for 18 games with the 16 per-player limit. Only five percent cast a vote for a 17-game season (which is my own personal preference).
The idea of playing 18 games with a limit of 16 per player has lingered for several years. The NFL reportedly has proposed the concept during labor negotiations with the NFL Players Association.
Many have criticized the concept, loudly. Fans don’t like it, the media doesn’t like it, players don’t like it. Packers CEO Mark Murphy spoke out against it.
The idea of making star players healthy scratches simply doesn’t resonate. And even if quarterbacks, who enjoy extra protection beyond those afforded to non-quarterbacks, were exempt from the 16-game limit, would teams be comfortable exposing a franchise quarterback to something less than the best blockers, if those blockers are healthy and able to play?
It’s one thing if the left tackle has a bad knee. It’s another if the quarterback is running for his life because the backup left tackle is playing the entire game due to an arbitrary rule that requires the man who protects his blind side to sit two games per year.
Impractical as the concept is, the fact that the league proposed it shows how intent the league is on expanding the season. The union is intent on opposing it, or at least intent on creating the impression that the union is intent on opposing it.
Ultimately, the NFL will have to make the union an offer it can’t refuse. For the union, the challenge will be knowing precisely when to not refuse it.