Goodell Renews Push For 18 Games

Like Roscoe Conkling, when Roger Goodell wants something, he wants it dreadfully.

And what Goodell wants dreadfully is an 18-game regular-season schedule.

He has even gone so far as to use a word that the owners for whom he works wouldn't even consider using: "renegotiation."

All right, he didn't come flat out and use that 13-lettered obscenity directly — but he is now broadly hinting that he would like too see the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, which expires in March of 2031, expire sooner.

And what is the NFL Players' Association likely to get in return?

Beyond the obvious — one less exhibition; oops, preseason, game — a second bye week will be given to each team, meeting the owners' long-sought goal of a Super Bowl on the Presidents' Day weekend, thus making "Super Bowl Monday" a federal holiday, with the winner of November's election expected to do his part and issue an executive order upgrading the status of that holiday to a full, "with pay" holiday on a par with Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day.

If that's not enough for the union to sign onto it, the pot can be further sweetened.

Under the present CBA, players are guaranteed 48.8% of the league's gross revenues, which forms the basis for where the following season's salary cap is set. Bump that up to a nice, round 50%, and there's one potential hurdle cleared.

(Remember how, in 1982, the union demanded 55% of the league's gross revenues — and the result was a strike that almost caused that season to be canceled?)

So far at least, the NFLPA hasn't shown much interest in guaranteeing an automatic bye to all teams the week before a Thursday game (something that quite a few now-retired players, particularly Ben Roethlisberger, expressed support for) and similarly, guaranteeing an automatic bye the following week to all teams playing an international game (which had been the rule originally, but in recent years that has not always been followed).

And the union should be keenly interested in demanding that the NFL add an "innocent until proven guilty" clause for players accused of all but the most serious crimes, such as murder. Besides protecting accused players, such a policy will also shield the league from possible "betting coups," in which a "victim" of a crime allegedly committed by a star player reports the "crime" to the police, leading to the player's suspension, resulting in massive line movement against that team in its upcoming game, and maybe even subsequent games.

In addition to its many other benefits, an 18-game regular season will give teams that get off to slow starts a better opportunity to overcome such starts: no team has ever made the playoffs after starting 0-5, and only one team (the 1992 Chargers) has ever done so after starting 0-4. "Keeping hope alive" for every team for as long as possible is one of the keys to maximizing the league's revenue flow.

Plus, 18 games will often make an injury to an important player less devastating: say a team's first-string quarterback gets injured and misses six weeks. With 18 games, that's only one-third of the team's schedule (less if the team just happens to have a bye during one of those six weeks — the possibility of which is doubled if every team has two bye weeks). Prior to 2021, when the schedule was increased from 16 games to 17, a six-week absence could have meant him missing three-eighths of his team's games.

One final point: the CFL has been playing an 18-game schedule, with two bye weeks for each team (necessary because that league has an odd number of teams — nine — just like the pre-merger AFL had nine teams in 1966 and 1967, so they had to play their 14-game regular season over 16 weeks) since 1986, with no complaints from anyone.

The bottom line is that there simply isn't anything bad about an 18-game regular season — just so long as it is done the right way.

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