It’s time for the preseason to be slashed in half

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For nearly a decade, Commissioner Roger Goodell periodically has criticized the quality of preseason action with the not-so-subtle goal in mind of sliding the dividing line in the total 20-game season from four preseason games and 16 regular-season games to two and 18. Currently, preseason action needs no criticism; it stinks, and most now agree that it needs to be dramatically reduced.

The problem, of course, is that the NFL Players Association steadfastly (and wisely) refuses to trade two fake games for two real ones. Perhaps more accurately, the NFLPA wants much more than the NFL ever would give to add a pair of regular-season weekends to offset the evaporation of two preseason weeks.

The NFL needs to realize that the time has come to cut the preseason even without a corresponding expansion of the regular season. The current labor deal gives the league the ability to do just that. It’s a power that, as of 2011, some believed the NFL planned to utilize in the hopes of squeezing the players to agree to more regular-season games in order to offset the revenue that would be lost by giving up half of the preseason. But the league has yet to do it, because the league realizes that the threat of reduced preseason revenue, which would eventually be reflected by a smaller salary cap, wouldn’t bait the players into agreeing to grow the pie with more games that count. Put simply, the shrinkage in the pie would hurt them far less than it hurts the owners, because the reduced salary cap gets spread over 53 players per franchise.

With CBA talks currently ongoing, Goodell hasn’t said much if anything publicly about the preseason in 2019. Here’s his most recent quote, from 2017: “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? 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.”

That same August, Goodell said he doesn’t believe preseason games match the quality of the regular season “by any stretch of the imagination.” Also that year, Goodell said, “When I go around to fans, that’s maybe the No. 1 thing I hear. The NFL should do things to the highest possible standards. Preseason games are not that.”

Two years later, it’s gotten worse. And it promises to continue to get worse, as more and more coaches — who nevertheless crave opportunities to get their players ready for September — keep starters in bubble wrap throughout August.

But the owners won’t shrink the preseason because the owners don’t want to give up the revenue without a way to balance it out, through an increased regular season. While expanded playoffs could help offset the lost money resulting from a shortened preseason, growing the field from 12 to 14 teams would add only two extra wild-card games, which probably wouldn’t be enough to make up for the shortfall.

Whether it’s 18 regular-season games or 17 plus expanded playoffs, the owners will want something like that before giving up the TV and ticket money that comes from losing 32 preseason games, reduced quality of those games be damned.

It’s a theme that will continue to emerge every year, in the weeks leading up to Week One of the regular season. With fewer and fewer starters playing, it feels like it’s moving toward critical mass, if not already there. And with the NFL and NFLPA currently negotiating, now is as good a time as any to finally fix the preseason problem, before the stands get even emptier and the interest gets even lower in the month of August.

54 responses to “It’s time for the preseason to be slashed in half

  1. Finally something I agree 100%, now just dump the “pro bowl” and bring back the skills challenge

  2. Fans have been saying this for decades, but what do we know? We’re just stoopid fans, lining your pockets for a product in August that is nothing but crap. Thanks.

  3. I like the 4 game preseason. It’s the closest thing the NFL has to a development league and it occasionally produces exciting plays like Danny Etling’s run against the Giants last year.

  4. Don’t reduce it to 3.. reduce it to 2. Today’s Raiders game was played on an 80 yard field. Canadians who bought tickets got completely suckered. Not only where there no starters playing, the “game” wasn’t even played on a regulation sized field.

  5. NO expanded playoffs. I could live with 18 game season. The preseason has become a complete joke for fans.

  6. Philly and the Ravens didn’t even finish their game tonight. Only played 3 quarters of football. The Packers and Raiders played on a 80 yard field. It’s a joke!

  7. There’s no reason to get worked up about it. The 2nd and 3rd stringers need the reps. I think of it like college football, something else I don’t watch.

  8. The preseason is a sham. Now starters from multiple teams don’t play at all. What’s the point of having 4 games? Bare minimum, drop down to 3 games next season with every team practicing and scrimmaging against another NFL team.

  9. The solution is simple: 17 games, with two bi-weeks. Every player can only be active for 16 games. That protects all the records and player safety. The 17th game is always played abroad. Expanded overseas revenue from a season full of games player overseas. Expanded coaching importance for when to sit starters.

  10. Why half? Why not 3 games? But more importantly, make the pre-season games for free.
    We shouldn’t be paying for a dress-up practice game vs another team.

  11. It’s time the NFL did something for the benefit of the fans and the players because it’s the right thing to do and not because they can make an extra buck.
    How much money does someone need in this lifetime? If the owners were this mercenary in the 1930’s, this league would have folded. DO THE RIGHT THING OWNERS!

  12. Just go down to 3 preseason games for now. It’s one terrible week of preseason revenue lost for the league, but just start the preseason / Hall of Fame game one week later, and do everything else the same. Simple short-term adjustment that helps everyone other than the owners, but I’m sure they can figure something out.

  13. I’m not sure how they really are losing revenue by cutting the preseason games. Have you seen the attendance for these games? What they should do is slash prices for the preseason. Upper level maxes out at $10-15 and lower-levels max out at $75. That way you get a full stadium and probably fans who can’t normally afford to bring a family to a game and you get a ton of revenue from parking/concessions.

  14. They need to go to the TV networks, and add it in: if the league goes to a longer season, the network pays for those extra weeks on a pro rata basis.

    Everyone is happy.

  15. No it’s not time. I like preseason the way it is. I like seeing all the new young players trying to make the team. Low round draft picks, undrafted free agents, everybody. They need every opportunity to get their shot. I enjoy the evenings at the stadium not worrying about the score and seeing who is going to step up and make a statement play. I stay for every play in the fourth quarter. If you really love the game you should have no problem with the 4 game preseason.

  16. The Jaguars held out about 30 of their top players in games 1 and 2 and will again in game 4. Game 3 was in Miami and the top 30 played a few series.

    My point: we will see almost no decent players at home in the preseason. My 4 tickets for those two games cost about $640- total. What a waste of money.

  17. The problem is by week 2 we all forget how bad it is until July when training camp starts again. Even though we say it every year we only bring it up for about a month.

  18. Wouldn’t say in half, but definitely cut it back to just three games only. After three games, players are typically ready for regular season game day and coaches already have an idea of who’s gonna make the team. I’ve always found the fourth preseason game to be pointless.

    I would use this opportunity to replace the fourth preseason game with an additional bye week in the regular season, that away, teams would benefit more with having two bye weeks for resting period.

  19. The preseason allows coaches to evaluate rookies and unsigned free agents. if the preseason is reduced to two games, then coaches must make the decision to go from 90 to 53 players in just 2 weeks time. Further, the 2 preseason games can get even uglier if the starters do not play at all because coaches want to save them for the full 18 game schedule and potential playoff games. Adding 2 regular season games can mean a player may not have anything left in the tank for the postseason. Besides, a team that has already clinched the playoffs and/or home field advantage after playing 16 games may choose to rest their players. Those late season games may be pretty ugly as a result. Two years ago, the NFC West division champs lost a meaningless game to Frisco. How will the TV ratings of the late season games be when that happens. The preseason games are not televised except by local TV stations. Having 2 more regular season games, which are televised by the networks, may only hurt the ratings if they are meaningless games. yes, an 18 game schedule may bring a bigger TV contract, but if ratings fall because of too many meaningless games, then the networks may not be willing to pay so much after the contract runs out.

    Greed knows no end. The desire for 18 games is motivated purely by greed, but if one is too greedy then one may end up with less or even nothing.

  20. The discussion doesn’t need to focus on strawman scenarios that are easy to set up and then knock down (e.g. unilaterally cutting preseason, which reduces revenue, which, in turn, benefits no one.) The discussion should focus on an optimal scenario that benefits everyone, and how to make that scenario work. And there happens to be a very obvious optimal scenario and also a very obvious way to make it work.

    The obvious scenario is to cut the preseason by two games and increase the regular season by two games. Regular-season games generate significantly more revenue than preseason games, so the pleasant issue becomes how to divide up that additional revenue.

    But instead of defining how to make this scenario work, the article simply shuts it down with a baffling assertion: “…the NFLPA wants much more than the NFL ever would give to add a pair of regular-season weekends to offset the evaporation of two preseason weeks.” Huh? Precisely what is this “much more than the NFL ever would give”? The NFLPA (correctly) wants the players to be properly compensated for playing football. So the discussion simply needs to focus on the terms and conditions of what “proper compensation” should be.

    I’ll start off with a simple straw-model. I’d suggest that the players’ annual season-based pie-slice (i.e. the salary cap, but with one caveat) should be increased by (roughly) an additional 12.5%, which matches the 12.5% increase in the length of the regular season. (This salary cap increase is separate from the annual incremental increases.) The one caveat is that the teams must spend a minimum of (e.g.) 95% of the salary cap; otherwise they have a clever loophole to avoid compensating players fairly. (Note that they currently already have this clever loophole, which the NFLPA should never have allowed.)

    In summary, here’s the end-result of this “decrease preseason by two games, increase regular season by two games” scenario: owners make more money; players [collectively] are commensurately paid for playing 12.5% more regular-season football; and fans are thrilled because they get 12.5% more regular-season football.

    Any questions?

  21. The preseason games exist in order to analyze roster bubble players and give starters a tad bit of action to warm them up and develop some chemistry. It is not for the purpose of being an exciting game like the regular season, and people need to get over that. It is possible that it could work with less games with all the joint practices, but it would just be less game experience when the product already is sloppy once it gets to the regular season.

  22. Pre Season Games aren’t meant to look like Regular Season games. They’re for 1000 players or so to show case their abilities and live their dream of playing in the NFL and for coaches to evaluate player talent. The only problem with the Pre Season is the NFL and their owners charging regular season prices, concession prices and advertising prices for those games.

  23. Clearly the NFL doesn’t care about the fans. The product they put on the field (charging full price) for these exhibition games is flat out unacceptable. Every year the list of teams not playing their starters is growing and the fear of injury is out if control. At this point they should just get rid of all exhibition games and figure out a way to evaluate young players. Do I need to watch a quarter of Cody Kessler to know that he stinks? The coaches can’t figure the out? Guys like Kessler along with many others are being used under the pretense that they are battling for a roster spot. Increase practice time, hold practice sessions with neighboring teams in your stadiums and start playing the real games!!

  24. Cut it to 3 games, add a 17th regular season game at a neutral site for each team.

    These guys need to get used to playing in real games, 2 preseason games is too few.

    You can get hurt walking your doggie.

  25. Goodell is a puppet of the owners and won’t do anything to alter this easy revenue stream they have enjoyed for decades. The preseason is a joke.

  26. Unless the ticket-paying public pushes back this may never be solved. In most cities, season ticket holders are required to buy the exhibition games. There are two things fans can do that will cut the preseason in a hurry:

    Don’t go.
    Don’t watch.

  27. Roger: you admit preseason games are not nfl quality right. then why do the fans still get
    gouged for full price tickets and parking?

  28. Time for some major changes in the NFL.

    Cut the preseason to two games;
    Cut the regular season to 14 games and give everyone a bye week between weeks 7 and 8 and eliminate all Thursday games including Thanksgiving;
    The two games lost would be instead be elimination games – remove the worst eight teams (four from each conference) from playing; then remove the four top teams from each conference from having to play the final two weeks. Then have the remaining teams play each other to establish who has the best records and use to seed positions for the playoffs with no wildcard entries (that has already been done in my step). Then make the top seed play every game in the playoffs instead of having usual bye week.

    This playoff scenario will eliminate the “tanking teams” from effecting the playoffs; the conference winners would be clear (scheduling would make sure all teams in conference play each other twice). This would also eliminate top teams from resting their players. Competition will be more fierce and the last two weeks will mean more than current situation. Playoffs will be better since no longer will the top teams get to skate into a playoff game; they’ll play as many as every other team might have to do. Highly ranked teams are usually better managed so their players will be protected.

    My system only hurts poor teams since they will only play 14 games and automatically lose any revenue from those games; these teams will no longer get to influence the playoffs by being almost sure wins to pad some teams win/loss records like Carolina did in their playing 13 games against losing record teams going into the Super Bowl year.

  29. This is not an insult but Tom Brady and the first unit offense looked like they could use some more work. They don’t look ready for week one to me. They look like they could use another opportunity to tune up.

  30. I like a four-game preseason. Then again, I also don’t watch preseason games because I want quality comparable to regular season games, because NO ONE does. I watch them because I want to see newly emerging players or guys who likely won’t get a chance during the season.

    I also don’t care if some coaches keep their starters out of preseason games — that’s their prerogative. I’ve seen guys like LeVeon Bell and Ben Roethlisberger start the regular season rusty in years where they didn’t do anything during the preseason. If coaches want to rest their players in the preseason and come out looking sloppy Week 1 when the games matter, that’s their problem.

  31. brennesports says:
    August 23, 2019 at 2:15 am
    The solution is simple: 17 games, with two bi-weeks. Every player can only be active for 16 games.

    —–

    Nobody wants to watch games with anything other than the best players on the field. What you propose makes the 17th game little different than a pre-season game.

    But you are correct….the solution is simple. Cut the preseason to two games and leave the regular season alone

  32. therealraider says:
    August 23, 2019 at 12:45 am
    Don’t reduce it to 3.. reduce it to 2. Today’s Raiders game was played on an 80 yard field. Canadians who bought tickets got completely suckered. Not only where there no starters playing, the “game” wasn’t even played on a regulation sized field.
    ———————————————————————
    Newsflash: the Canadians who bought tickets weren’t there to see the Raiders.

  33. If I had to choose between an NFL preseason game and a local high school game I will select the high school. Pay 4 bucks for ticket ,hotdog and drink about 3 bucks and free parking. Plus the kids are really excited to be playing.

  34. The preseason isn’t for the consumer anyway. I don’t blame the league for selling tickets, but I will blame someone for paying a couple hundred dollars for a preseason ticket and then complaining about the product. Stop buying the tickets, the prices will come down. These games are to help coaches evaluate their players in live game situations. Get over it.

  35. I’d rather see the preseason expand to 6 game than see a stupid 18 game schedule. Do you remember what teams look like at the end of 16 games already? There are so many stars who are on IR or hobbling along that the playoff teams at the end of the season are more about who’s healthy than who’s good (and I say that as a fan of a very successful post-season team).

    And watering down the playoffs by adding MORE teams? Ugh. There’s already 1 of 2 playoff teams who barely show up for their game as is!

  36. The big thing pre-season games give you (over the practicing against an opponent) is seeing how developmental players respond under the lights. Practices are great, but they are practices. Walking out onto the field, under the lights, and competing for a job against other athletes – that’s game time for those players.

  37. I’m fine with 4 pre-season games. It’s cool because MLB is in full swing and doesn’t end until November. Besides, even with the preseason games, since the last CBA the teams aren’t really in game shape until week 3 or 4 anyway, so there’s really only 12 or 13 weeks of the regular season worth watching. And I can remember when there were 6 preseason games and the regular season was 14 games. Stop whining.

  38. Guess that depends on whether you are a rookie or UFDA trying to make the team and show your skills in a game situation.

  39. brennesports says:
    August 23, 2019 at 2:15 am
    The solution is simple: 17 games, with two bi-weeks. Every player can only be active for 16 games. That protects all the records and player safety. The 17th game is always played abroad.

    —————————-

    Agree with all of the above …. except the last word: nothing against the NFL’s International games, but there’s no reason not to bring more NFL games to the US & Canada.

    San Antonio, Portland, San Diego, St Louis, Honolulu all should get shots at hosting an annual NFL game. (Baltimore, soon after Irsay stole the Colts, sold out NFL exhibitions to help earn its way back into the NFL)). Possibly add a few big college stadiums to the list: Syracuse (dome), Nebraska, Columbus, Michigan etc to bid on single games.

    Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal have domed stadiums – candidates for post-CFL season games. Canada isn’t usually considered to be “abroad”.

    Also, please expand player rosters, eliminate poaching of practice squads, and (if the 16 game rule is implemented) exclude QBs, kickers, punters, long-snappers etc. from the week off.

    If agreement can’t be reached on reducing the detested mandatory preseason games to two, the NFL should consider a league rule prohibiting tying these to the season ticket package. If the exhibitions are reduced to three instead of two, play the 3rd game elsewhere. In Maryland, playing the annual Ravens-Redskins exhibition at the Navy-Marine Corp Memorial Stadium or Univ of Maryland’s Byrd stadium could be a delightful alternative.

  40. Cutting two preseason games without any way to make up the revenue isn’t going to happen. I’ll say the same thing PFT always does when the NFL starts asking for something – what is the PA willing to give up to get it?

    The preseason stinks (I always get excited for it because football is finally on TV, then halfway through the 2nd quarter of the first game I’m bored). Although I’m not quite sure that “putting players in bubble wrap” is the best thing to do – I think there is something to do the idea that players need to play, and I remember lots of teams (like the Skins last year) trying to minimize starter playtime and still got hammered once the season got started.

    I’ve read that the coaches like the joint practices more than the preseason games. Maybe they could get rid of the 2 preseason games and formalize the system and televise the practices. It sounds stupid now but hey, the NFL managed to turn the Combine into a TV event.

  41. 2 pre season games. Nascar cuts their silly champ race to three races, and an April start. Baseball starts may 1st ends labor day.

  42. The current NFL product is as good as its ever been, and the NFL keeps breaking revenue records year after year. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. People who have a better plan might want to consider a new league. Hey, come to think of it, what ever happened to the AAF? Those guys had all kinds of great ideas about how to improve football.

  43. The 18 game schedule will boil down to one thing. How much more are the owners willing to give up financially to the players. 50/50? 45/55?

    As life has shown, you offer enough money to just about any one, they’ll do almost anything.

    I think at some point the 18 game schedule will happen but, what are the owners going to give up financially? Which begs the question. What will the union give up?

    It’ll be a give and take.

    I’m fine with the 16 game schedule. I could do away with two preseason games. However, the NFL is a business, they’re going to want to make up that lost revenue somehow.

    For the record, I haven’t watched a preseason game in a long, long time. Well over a decade.

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