SImply put, I think it's totally crazy to force NFL players into an 18 game schedule. There are enough injuries already in the NFL and this is bound to make things worse
The final game of the two game pre-season would also be like a 19th game for the starters, since it would be the final tune-up before the regular season. Plus the draftees and free agents would get only one game to establish themselves. And no games to prove to the coaches that they can improve and grow from watching tape and taking direction. It seems like a no-win situation for anyone, including the fans, who are likely to see weary and beat-up winners stumble into the playoffs. The playoffs would then add another 2-3 games. The Superbowl another. So including the final pre-season game tune-up, it could amount to a 23 game schedule for the better teams! Absolutely illogical if we want to see healthy starters play their best football at the end of the season.
With that said, it appears the owners are considering an 18 game, with a 2 pre-season schedule, to be a fait de compli. So rather than resist it, or have the union resist it and walk away threatening the entire season, I've come up with a compromise -- an intiguing, logical, compromise -- that could make the NFL even more interesting for fans, while helping the players instead of hurting them, while giving the owners their 18 game schedule, but also giving the players no reason to ask for more money!
Here it is:
1. There would be an 18 game season, hopefully with two byes. But if there's only one bye, so be it. The main rule change would be that each player on the team can only suit up for a maximum of 16 games during the regular 18 game season.
This is going to create a tremendous amount of new strategizing by the coaches -- i.e. when to rest a starter, or starters. Do you gamble on resting all of them in a meaningless game at the end of the year? What if the end of the year turns meaningful for home field advange or making the playoffs altogether -- i.e. New Orleans, Green Bay, Seatlle, this year, and suddenly you have to rest players down the stretch when you can least afford to? Or do you rest them early and risk losing early games and fatigue them later? Or do you rotate a few starters out against weaker teams and never have all your starters out for a given two games, but never have them all in for any one game either?
You can rest one starter a game, for instance, but when do you rest your star QB? (Obvioulsy this has not been a problem for the NIners since the coming of Alex Smith, but that's another story.) Most teams would hate to sit a healthy starting QB. How would the head coach work the system. (And think of the chaos it would cause in the fantasy leagues who would have to adhere to the same rules!)
There is another strategic point that benefits the players. If you are injured, that counts as a game where you didn't suit up. So maybe there's a natural time to rest a starter during the season because he's injured.
But what if your star QB is injured and insists he's okay to play? It happens all the time. He's woozy from a concussion, his shoulder hurts but he says to the HC, "Coach, I'm good to go." The coach can consider the rest that week a strategically good idea and not be forced into playing his best player even though he knows he's hurt. This is also an advantage to players, especially ones who suffer a concussion, by not having to "tough it out," or be seen as bailing out on his teammates. It instead comes down to strategy by the coach, not irrational courage by the player that could ruin his career, or risk his future health after football.
Of course, this also forces the bench to be stronger and more prepared to play, because they're going to. Every 2nd string QB knows he's going to be the starter for at least two games during the season, along with every other second string player. It will give the fans a chance to see the team as a whole team, relying on more than just the 22 starters. Suddenly there are 44 starters!
Personally, I think this should inlcude the kickers and punters too, as well as the returners. This could be controversial because they are so specialized. But it will add intrigue and strategy to the game, and will force the teams to rest the starters at all positions, including long snappers, for 2 games. It would add such a weird wrinkle!
Now if long snappers and field goal kickers are exempted, I can understand that. But to me I think it would add to the coaching skills of each coach to have to deal with these problems. Who knows, maybe there would be roving kickers that have no team and just get signed for a game or two by random teams. I mean it could really get weird, but part of that weirdnes would be honoring the fact that a starter (or even a roving kicker) can only suit up for 16 games in the regular season!
One last idea: I would then suggest a 3 pre-season schedule where the starters can only play in 4 quarters. So either the full last game, of one quarter in game 2 and 3 quarters in game 3. Etc.
In the end maybe starters play even less quarters of football in that pre-season and the regular schedule than they are now.
Of course, this also takes away the union's insistence on higher salaries because players won't be playing more games. So it seems to me everyone wins -- the owners, the starters, the back-ups, the fans, and the game of football!
What do you think?
If you don't like my idea, what would be your compromise? Assuming the 16 game regular season is a thing of the past, can you come up with a better way to work the system where everybody wins?