Quality over quantity.
It’s a very simple motto on the way to handle most things in life. For instance, I would rather have one beautiful woman as opposed to five mildly attractive women, a six-pack of a good beer instead of a case of bottom-barrel beer, and I’d most certainly prefer 16 very good football games as opposed to 18 decent games.
And trust me, if the NFL gets their way and the league begins an 18-game regular season, seeing even a decent game could become extremely rare.
The biggest thing to understand about football is that it’s a sprint, not a marathon. For a game, these players train to give every ounce of energy they have in five-second bursts, rest, and do it again.
Not only that, but the beating the players take is phenomenal. The human body will repair itself, but it takes an incredibly long time and, if it’s not allowed to heal properly, injuries will simply begin to pile up. It’s the reason why most guys are playing injured for the last two or three weeks and why we see a majority of the devastating injuries taking place in the home stretch of the season.
Even these monstrosities can only play such a violent sport for about four months before their bodies stop recovering as quickly as they normally would and, in some cases, give out altogether.
This is why we already see most of the 32 teams with a rotation along the defense line, linebackers, wide receivers, and running backs. Asking a player to give it everything he has on every single play over an entire season is simply too much pressure for their bodies to withstand.
Running backs are especially vulnerable over the course of a season as we’ve seen time and time again that a 400+ carry season will all-but destroy a back for the rest of his career. Just ask Jamal Anderson and Larry Johnson.
In fact, teams using only one running back exclusively is quickly becoming a thing of the past. Off the top of my head, I can only think of two: Chris Johnson and Steven Jackson.
For Johnson, it’s yet to be seen what the extended time will do to his body. For Jackson, the only reason he’s able to consistently carry the Rams’ running game is because of his size and conditioning; and even that will one day let him down if they don’t find someone to help shoulder the load.
This all, by the way, is the result of a 16-game season. Add two more games, and there might not be a single position left on the field that isn’t on a “by committee” basis.
Players fully understand this, and future Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis has spoken out strongly against such a move:
“If fans want to show their love, they should let everyone know that we are not machines,” Lewis told the NFL Players Association’s web site. “I’ve been blessed to play this game for so long, but it’s time to start thinking about what legacy and impact changes like this will leave for the players of tomorrow and us after we retire.”
“I know our fans may not like preseason games and I don’t like all of them,” Lewis continued, “but swapping two preseason games for two end-of-season games—when players already play hurt—comes at a huge cost for the player and the team.”
Lewis is of course alluding to the ludicrous proposal to simply swap two preseason games for two regular season games, but if anyone would think for 10 seconds, it becomes obvious why that wouldn’t work.
Reason One: The team needs all four of those preseason games to see those on-the-bubble players in live game action to give them a better sense of who belongs on the team and who doesn’t. Two games is not enough to do that.
Reason Two: The players on the bubble need those games as an audition for the other 31 teams around the league. Guys aren’t stupid and most of them understand they might not make the team they’re playing for in the preseason, but that doesn’t mean another team won’t watch their preseason performance and decide they can fit them in somewhere.
Reason Three: Preseason games are clearly not the same intensity as regular season games. Just because they’re playing the same amount of games does not mean they’re taking the same amount of punishment. Regular season games are going to be much, much faster and more high-impact than games played in August.
Then there are also the issues of expanding the roster and makes a new CBA that much more difficult because there is no way the players and owners will be able to come to an agreement on how much more the players should be paid annually because of the extra games.
It’s not going to be a case of paying them the same money in 18 checks rather than 16. They’re going to want their piece of the pie and the owners are always going to think the piece they’re asking for is far too big.
Were it up to me, the NFL would go back to 14 games. There would be no more of this two-back system, defensive line rotations would most likely be few and far between, the numbers certainly wouldn’t be as inflated as they are today, and certain milestones would actually mean something.
For instance, 1,000 yards is no longer impressive for a running back. That’s only 62.5 yards per game and most teams know that if their back is only running for a little over 60 yards per game, it probably means they’re losing a bunch of games.
But either way, 16 games has been made to work. Week in and week out the league puts out a great brand of football that everyone enjoys watching because, for the most part, the star players are out there every week.
What will happen when teams start benching star players in the middle of the year, as is done in baseball, because they want to keep them healthy for late in the season? Adrian Peterson could be on the bench for no other reason than to keep him healthy for a playoff run.
Fans would revolt and the NFL would become a tarnished name.
And don’t even get me started on the hypocrisy of preaching “player safety” one minute and then talk about adding two more games the next minute like their isn’t a direct correlation between the two. More games will mean more injuries, which means less safety for the players.
The motivating factor behind this is money, but the NFL would find out very quickly after only a few seasons of an 18-game schedule that they’ll begin to lose money once the quality of the game dips and so does the interest from fans.
Because honestly, who wants to see Curtis Painter face off against Chase Daniel?
*This article was originally posted back in June, but since my opinion is largely the same, this seemed like the better option rather than simply rehashing this article.