Wassell: Proposed NFL schedule changes a bad idea for 2 big reasons

Feb 20, 2020, 11:11 AM
NFL schedule changes, Bobby Wagner...
A 17th game before the playoffs is possible under proposed NFL schedule changes. (AP)

It looks like the NFL is finally getting what they’ve wanted for years – more games on the schedule.

If Josh Gordon’s suspension is lifted, should Seahawks bring him back?

There are two specific reasons why this is a bad idea: player safety and dilution of product. Let me explain why.


It’s 2020. We’ve all seen the movie “Concussion.” Whether or not that film depicts the issue of CTE in a 100% factual manner is for medical professionals to debate. Former players have suffered extensive injuries over the course of their careers that have led to incredibly burdensome post-NFL lives. The toll that football takes on the human body, especially now with players being as big and strong as they are, is simply too much for most men to bear. If anything, common sense tells us that we need to lessen the physical load, not add to it. But as always, it’s about the dollars. Cram as many people into the seats as many times as possible and extract the profits.

The NFL claims to be making advancements in player safety through technology and other in-game processes (the blue tent!). The degree to which these things are helping is to be determined, but let’s say that they are yielding positive results for a minute. Why would you want to add more chances for players to get hurt now, after doing so much work to curb the number of injuries? Why undo the progress you’ve made?

Affixing a 17th game on the schedule, especially one that comes in January after everyone is banged up, couldn’t possibly do anything but increase the risk of more injuries. On top of this, four more teams will play wild-card games than before. I know, you think that they’re only adding one playoff team to each conference’s playoffs, but remember, with seven teams on either side, the No. 2 seed doesn’t get a bye into the divisional round anymore. So there’s two No. 2’s and two No. 7’s playing on wild-card weekend that weren’t before. That’s roughly 200 more players exposed to NFL-caliber contact one more time than there should be.

I’ve long been someone who believes down deep that NFL owners, as human beings, do care about player safety. They can’t be so hard-hearted that one to two more games on the schedule are that important to them. Now, I’m thinking otherwise. This move flies in the face of every claim they’ve ever made about concerns for the players’ well-being.

Dilution of product

Whenever I order a pizza and it sits in front of me on the dinner table, I think to myself, “I’m gonna eat that entire thing.” Then I eat about three-quarters of it and I start to feel terrible. I take the remaining two pieces, wrap them in foil and stick them in the fridge. I don’t want anything to do with them.

Right now, the NFL serves us a perfect meal. Sixteen games, most of which end up being critical right down to the end. Twelve playoff teams, four of which are rewarded with byes into the next round, the remaining eight fighting for their lives through wild-card weekend.

We don’t need more football than that.

Let’s start with the 17th game. If they’re removing a preseason game, I can live with this. The only thing it does is give teams another chance to fight their way through potential tiebreaker situations in the final week or win their spots outright. Other than the safety issues mentioned above, there’s no real harm. Maybe I’ll be ready for the playoffs to begin by Jan. 1, but that’s just something I’ll adjust to.

Adding playoff teams does nothing but dilute the product. What is this compulsion we have in sports to reward second-, third-, fourth- and fifth-place teams? People push for the College Football Playoff to be expanded to 10 teams or whatever – WHY? To make sure that the 10th or 12th best team in the land has a fair shot, how is that important? Now, in the NFL, you’re telling me we need more 9-7, 8-8 or even 7-9 teams to be part of the playoff field? Yes, I realize that there are those years where a good 10-6 team misses the playoffs and we weep for them in Week 17, but so what? That’s what makes sports great! It’s difficult. Not everything needs to be fair.

That emotion that you feel when something seems unjust or tough to swallow as a fan or an athlete is the reason why we keep coming back. Have we forgotten this? These circumstances are what push us to try harder the next time around.

Does it Matter?

Probably not. No NFL fan is going to walk away from the game because the league is tweaking itself. If anything, we’ll just get used to the new system like everything else in life. You can’t stop progress – although it’s tough for me to call these ideas “progress.” Just be prepared for folks like myself to be be beckoning for the good ol’ days in about 15 years when we’re all bored of the game by the time the Super Bowl rolls around. By that time they’ll have added so many games on the schedule that they won’t be playing it until early March.

Follow 710 ESPN Seattle’s Tom Wassell on Twitter.

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Wassell: Proposed NFL schedule changes a bad idea for 2 big reasons