The N.F.L. will have no trouble playing 18 and even more regular-season games if it can persuade the players to accept an expanded schedule, Jerry Jones, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys, said Tuesday.
“It’s something we certainly have had the ability to do,” Jones said at a news conference in Dallas. “We’ve had the ability to go to 22 games, had we wanted to as owners without anybody’s approval. We haven’t done that without the approval of players. Certainly, we want players to buy into what we do on a going-forward basis.”
I suspect Jones is just negotiating in public (subtext: “You don’t like 18 games? Wait until we force you to do 22.”), but on the other hand I’m guessing Jones wouldn’t be entirely distraught to have 11 home dates a year either.
This strikes me as bubble-type thinking—when previously-odd or unthinkable stuff becomes acceptable to say if not accepted as conventional wisdom. I’m pretty sure 18 games is too much, so 22 games seems unthinkable. There are fundamental reasons to believe it won’t work: dilution of product (every football game feels really significant in a way basketball or baseball games aren’t, and a part of that is the physical sacrifice invested in each game, and another part of it is with the compact season, every game truly does make a huge difference in the standings); and then, well, the concussions and injuries thing. At an 18 or 22 game season, I’m not sure concussions outweighs the general “injuries” side of the equation—hell, it seems as if the Steelers are at their second-stringers along every position of the offensive line.
So I don’t think it will work, but I think it will happen. And that’s unfortunate, mostly for the players.