17 Games: NFL Owners Still Making One Mistake

Sometime this week, the NFL owners are expected to make official what has been common knowledge for at least two months — namely, that there will henceforth be a 17-game regular-season schedule.

But the mistake that the owners are poised to make is that they have no plans to add a second bye week for each team.

First, there is a precedent for doing this — in 1993, when there was indeed two bye weeks for each team, albeit for a totally different reason: in that year, Christmas Day and New Year's Day fell on a Saturday, and at that time, that led to conflicts with the college bowl games, making it impossible to hold the four wild card games during the January 1-2 weekend. Therefore, the last week of the regular season had to be played on that Sunday instead — and since the regular season always began on the Labor Day weekend back then, its 16 games needed to played over 18 weeks, not 17 (this also caused the idle week between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl to be omitted that year — one of the seven years in Super Bowl history when this occurred).

In addition, one would think that the owners would have wanted to play the Super Bowl during the Presidents' Day weekend all along, since doing so would have made "Super Bowl Monday" a de-facto holiday — a highly popular idea.

So why wouldn't the owners jump at the chance to do this?

Not only that, but numerous players have complained about the short turnaround from playing a Sunday afternoon game one week to playing a Thursday night (or Thanksgiving) game the following week.

Add a second bye week for each team, and every team playing a Thursday game can be given an automatic bye the week before, since in that case there would be more than enough byes to go around in order to do this.

Then again, the NFL owners have a history of not thinking things through: when they implemented overtime during the regular season in 1974, they created the unintended consequence of teams getting excluded from the playoffs on arcane tie-breaking procedures: from 1975 to the present, a total of 62 teams have missed the playoffs on tie-breakers, when if regular-season games had continued to be allowed to end in a tie, these playoff races would have been decided by half-game margins; e.g., 10-6 over 9-6-1 — and now, with the 17-game schedule, teams would be more likely to finish 8-8-1, making it less likely for a team to win a division with a losing record.

"Playing to a tie is like kissing your sister" may be a snappy cliche — but it's no way to run a professional football league.

And speaking of ties and overtime, the Ravens plan to introduce an innovative way to reform overtime at the same "virtual meeting" at which the owners are expected to approve the 17-game schedule, which involves the winner of the coin toss to start overtime by spotting the ball anywhere they want, and then giving the other team their choice of either taking the ball at that spot, or forcing the winner of the coin toss to take the ball at that spot.

Critics have said that this is likely to lead to more games ending in a tie — but so much the better, it says from this quarter.

And don't the owners understand that if you try to please everybody, nobody will like it — referring to their national anthem policy, such as it is — which bears a close resemblance to a circus performer disastrously misjudging his leap off a flying trapeze?

But give the fans their "Super Bowl Monday" and everybody will forgive them for that gargantuan gaffe.

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