The 18-Game Season: An Undefeated or Winless Idea?

Imagine a world where Tom Brady, Aaron Donald, and all the other stars of the NFL didn’t play the entirety of a season, instead, they only played the majority. Well, if the new 18-game season proposal had passed that’s exactly what the future of the game would look like. The NFL commissioner, Rodger Goodell, and franchise owners crafted the idea of expanding the league’s current 16-game schedule to an 18-game one. However, their plan came with a twist, every player would be limited to playing in 16 games during the regular season meaning that back-ups would be required to play 2 of the 18 games each year. This plan immediately gathered supporters and opposers, stirring up a mini-controversy within the NFL fanbase. Rumors of a plan like this surfaced back in late May, with the official proposal arriving on July 11th but, a mere two days later on July 13th, the NFL Players Association shot down the idea. Even though this proposal was rejected by the NFLPA, the controversy and discussion of the plan are far from over and many are left wondering what the season would look like should the plan have gone through. 

First, examining the benefits of an eighteen-game season there are two standout arguments: a longer season will equal more revenue and forcing teams to start all backup-players in at least 2 games a season results in them getting increased hands-on experience. When analyzing the former of the two arguments it’s clear why a longer season would be more beneficially financially for the teams. The NFL’s preseason games are fairly bland and boring, they don’t attract large crowds as very few big-name players are featured and the contests have no impact on the outcome of the regular season, nor the playoffs. However, if you add in 2 more regular-season games then all of those preseason problems are solved. An additional 2 games would lead to a massive revenue spike because of a substantial increase in turnout and the games would be televised, meaning an additional increase in tv ratings as well. The next argument is a fairly simple one since all players can only play a max of 16 games each season it allows second-string players to play in regular-season games. This will be great hands-on experience in games that matter, where the stakes will be high and they will be facing off against starters instead of other backups.

However, quite a few strong arguments are detracting from the idea of an 18-game regular season as well, notably it harms the league in the long term through its players and creates unfortunate scheduling conflicts. First and foremost the players themselves would be most drastically impacted because of the longer seasons. Even if the number of regular-season games the players participated in didn’t increase, the length of the seasons overall would. As a result, the NFLPA discovered “a longer season would result in a windfall of new money for the league… but would hurt players’ longevity.” The average length for a player’s career, 3.4 years, “would drop to 2.8 years with two more games each season.” That’s a 17.65% decrease in average career length which would definitively aggravate fans who see their favorite player’s playing for less and less time. However, it has a much broader negative impact on those players. According to NFL rules, players must meet “the minimum required service time[, 3 years,]… to receive a pension and long-term health benefits”. This means that, if the proposal was implemented, the average NFL player would no longer be able to access their pension or long-term health benefits because they would be .2 years short of the required time served. Besides, the implementation would create troublesome scheduling conflicts as the league would either have to push back the playoffs, move the preseason forward, or completely restructure the way they schedule games. Additionally, it would force the NFL to begin renegotiating with TV networks so they can still get weekly games on primetime and continue their current system. This could lead to big mistakes or massive scheduling conflicts as it would disrupt the system the league has had in place for years, if not decades.

    All in all, while there are plenty of financial benefits for the league to implement an 18-game regular season it would hurt the league, fans, and players in the long run as well as create an immense scheduling problem. When you take a look at both sides, it’s clear that this would be an overall detriment to the league, and they should not use the newly proposed system.