Frantz: Expanding the NFL regular season would be a disaster

Just a few short weeks ago, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was making his tour of NFL training camps and merely speculating on the possibility of extending the league schedule from 16 to 18 games per season. This week, we found out that it was never a question of “if,” but a matter of “when.” The commish had already made up his mind.

Goodell and the owners are moving fullsteam ahead with this terrible idea, all with an eye toward padding their own pockets with two additional days of revenue, and selling the fans on the notion of a better product for their consumption.

But what about the players?

The most physical game in sports outside of mixed-martial arts — or maybe including MMA — already takes an extraordinary toll on the bodies of the participants. Adding two more games of violent contact to every season could very easily result in eight-year careers becoming six-year careers, or six-year careers becoming four.

The average length of stay in the league for all NFL players, according to the players’ union, is just 3½ years, and more added miles of wear and tear on the body per season is certain to lower that number.

Extending the schedule is likely to have another unexpected consequence the league will have to deal with: watered-down talent leading to watered-down competition.

It will be virtually impossible for franchises to field complete, competitive teams for 18 games with the existing 53-man rosters.

To compensate for more player injuries, and for plain fatigue in the longer schedule, teams are going to have to expand their rosters. Naturally, this will mean players who were not good enough to make the big show under the current system will be surviving training camp cuts and migrating onto playing fields where they have no business playing.

Two different NFL alums I spoke with this weekend were also convinced that teams will be forced to give some of their established stars, especially as they get older, time off during the season. In other words, fans expecting to see the NFL’s best in October and November might be sorely disappointed to see certain “B-Teamers” lining up against weaker opponents while their favorite team’s stars rest and heal up for the December stretch run.

And they’re right. Can anyone honestly expect an NFL feature back like Tennessee’s Chris Johnson, who carried the ball a league-high 358 times last season, to carry it 400?

Can offensive and defensive lines be asked to pound on one another for another 150 plays (assuming an average of 75 offensive snaps per team, per game) and not be affected by them?

The toll that such a workload would take on a player’s body would be immeasurable. As such, every coach in the league would be forced to decide, beginning around Week 8, with 10 games remaining, whether that week’s game was the important enough to keep running his stars out there, or whether it would be a good week for the second-stringers to go.

Again, no one likes the idea of four preseason games, especially when the owners charge full price for those games, and demand that they be included in season-ticket packages, but replacing two of the exhibition contests with two more regular-season games is insane

From second-rate talent on the field to longer weekly injury reports to shortened NFL careers, it’s a disaster waiting to happen.

Bob Frantz is a freelance journalist and regular contributor to The Examiner. E-mail him at bfrantz@sfexaminer.com.

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