[Editor's Note]: I did some re-formatting so this FanPost would look a little better on the frontpage. Please rec it because it's good. --bbs
So there's a growing chorus among the talking heads that channel and shape NFL fan opinion. It goes a little something like this:
"An 18-game season is happening, and it's a good thing. Think about it: More football! Less preseason!"
Sounds appealing, right? I mean, we all want more football. But let's not beat around the bush: A longer season, while it may benefit the NFL, would be absolutely terrible for the GAME. Let's go through my reasoning; if you disagree, let me have it, but I don't think you will.
1. You Know What Else Has Deeper Rosters? The Preseason
It's simple. More games = more injuries. Proponents will say "Yes, but we'll adjust the roster limits so teams can carry more players!". Carry more players? Which players would those be? Right, all the ones that get CUT during the preseason. The ones that make preseason games so mediocre. The 18-gamers are saying they'll cut the preseason in half, but inevitably, all they will be doing is making sure that the pre-season games will be at the END of the season, and will count as real games. Not a good idea. Do we really want playoff-season football to be digging into third and fourth running backs?
2. The Candle That Burns Brightest, Burns Fastest
Another fact that simply gets glossed over is that the players will not only get beat up more during the season, but will simply, by default, have shorter careers. An 8-year player will have played the equivalent of an entire extra season. Running backs won't be hitting the 30-Year-Wall, they'll be hitting the 28-Year-Wall. A good safety will be burning out before they turn 30. More games means more ACLs blown, more future stars' careers cut short. Increased turnover at star positions means the Ray Lewises, the Johnathon Ogdens, the Ed Reeds of the league will be done quicker, leave less of a legacy, and attract fewer fans to the game. And that's just the Ravens.
Let's just do the math quickly. Common knowledge asserts that any running back that has 370 carries in a season is basically doomed for the next season, and often for the rest of their (very short) career. In an 18-game schedule, a back that gets a mere 21 carries in a game (not even enough to break the century mark running at an elite 4.5 YPC) would get 368 carries in a season. Running back is a star position; they get endorsements, they sell jerseys, they pack stadiums. An 18-game schedule would take the next All-Day and run him into the friggen' dust. That's bad for the players, bad for the league, and bad for the game.
The fact is, the 16-game schedule is already pushing players to the absolute physical limits of the human body. There's no more "bend" left, another push and there will be a break.
3. Pissing All Over The History of the NFL
This is, to my mind, the most compelling. I have seen commentator after commentator say "Well, yeah, an 18-game season would devalue the records set during the 16-game era, but so what? The schedule used to be 14-games, and the change didn't hurt the game at all.
This is the most ridiculous crap of the whole debate. The sixteen game schedule was instituted in 1978. The game that has been played since that time DEFINES what the NFL is today. For better of for worse, if you ask a given fan, they probably couldn't name a single player outside of the marquee HoF QBs that even played before the 16-game schedule. But let me throw out a few names at you.
Reggie White. Emmitt Smith. Joe Montana. Walter Payton*. Barry Sanders. Bruce Smith. Lawrence Taylor. Art Monk. Warren Moon. Dan Marino. John Elway. Jerry ****ing Rice.
These guys ARE the history of the NFL. EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM PLAYED WITH A 16-GAME SCHEDULE. Johnny Unitas and Bart Starr and Raymond Berry were great, but they were playing a different game. The NFL that Montana and Rice and Sanders and Taylor built is a 16-game league.
Extending the regular season to 18 games is saying to every man in the HoF who built the NFL into the multi-billion dollar industry it is with their blood and sweat and tears and brain cells: "Your achievements don't matter anymore". And frankly, no record will ever mean anything ever again in the NFL.
Think about it. Jerry Rice's single-season record of 1,848, an absolutely epic level of production, would be humdrum. A 1,000 yard season would be even easier than it already is, and Eric Dickerson's superhuman record of 2,105 yards in a season would be broken by a person averaging a mere 116 Y/G. Brett Favre's starts? Brady's (gag) 50 touchdowns? Marino's single-season passing record? Harrison's 143 catches? Strahan's 22.5 sacks? Every single one of those timeless records would be WORTHLESS.
And Peyton Manning, the league's spokesman, highest performer, biggest star, and best QB possibly ever, would be robbed of the chance to ever break another meaningful record. It would suck the drama out of the career of one of the all-time greats. That's bad for the game, and bad for the NFL.
4. Money Talks; It Says "Goodbye"
To be honest, this is just another example of the owners willing to kill the game that has made them so much money over a selfish cash-grab. They are determined to ruin a classic game for the sake of being the richest man in the cemetery.
So what can we do about it? Well, unlike politics, here your voice actually means a LOT. Write in to sportswriters and the NFL head office and Roger Goodell. Let them know that the history of the modern NFL, all those all-time greats and the titanic accomplishments embodied in those records, those may not mean anything to them, but they mean something to US.
And we pay their salaries.
*Walter Payton played the vast majority of his career with a 16-game schedule, but not technically the entirety of it.