The technical term would be, possibly, “f–k around and find out.”
Commissioner Roger Goodell wanted to incorporate late-season flexing into the Thursday night package. He fell two votes short, for now. As a more-than-acceptable consolation prize, Goodell got the ability to assign teams to a maximum of two short-week, Sunday-to-Thursday games.
This season, seven teams will play on twice Thursday after playing on the prior Sunday: Steelers, Bears, Saints, Commanders, 49ers, Lions, and Packers. Of those seven teams, PFT has learned that at least six of them opposed late-season Thursday flexing.
Per various league sources, the Steelers, Bears, Saints, Commanders, Lions, and Packers opposed flexing on Thursday nights.
Only eight teams were against it. The Jets, who opposed the proposal, got a short-week Black Friday game. (The Jets are nevertheless very happy with that assignment._
We’ve been unable to determine whether the 49ers voted against late-season Thursday flexing. The fact that the Giants also opposed the change would seem to suggest that the 49ers didn’t, since that would be nine total opponents, not eight. (The Panthers and Broncos reportedly abstained.)
The league denies that this was a case of retribution for opposing Thursday flexing.
“There was absolutely no consideration or discussion regarding a team’s position on this issue when developing the schedule,” Chief NFL Spokesman Brian McCarthy told PFT by email. “You’ve probably looked at the breakdown as well. Four of the teams are playing on Thanksgiving and also on Thursday night, which reflects their national appeal. Also, keep in mind that the vote to permit teams to play multiple short weeks passed.”
That vote passed by margin of 29-3. The Bears opposed it. The two other teams to vote no did not receive multiple short-week games.
The four teams that play both on Thanksgiving and on a short-week Thursday are the Lions, Packers, Commanders, and 49ers. (We’ll defer to others as to whether and to what extent each of those four teams currently have significant “national appeal.”)
With 22 teams voting in favor of late-season Thursday flexing, why not give the extra short weeks to the teams that had no apparent problem with having multiple short-week games? As national appeal goes, the Chiefs, Cowboys, Bills, Bengals, Eagles have cachet up the yang yang. Regardless, the fact that so many of the teams that said “no” to late-season Thursday flexing got multiple short-week games is one hell of a coincidence, at best.
As to the Giants, some would wonder why they didn’t get a pair of short-week games, too. The simple explanation could be that, because co-owner John Mara was so vocal in his opposition to late-season flexing (he calls it “abusive” to fans), it would have been too obvious if the Giants hadn’t gotten the short end of the short-week stick.
The purpose of this item isn’t to get to the bottom of the rabbit hole. We learned about the issue because one or more teams that receive multiple short-week assignments suspect a connection.
That alone makes it worthy of a mention, and of giving the NFL a chance to address the concern that is percolating among those who opted to block the plan to boost the Thursday night package.