"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of lots of stuff:
Of Hochuli--and onside kicks--
If OT's up to snuff.
And why not 17 or 18 games--
Or is 16 enough?"
With apologies to Lewis Carroll, that's a little summary of the competition committee's rules discussions at the recently concluded NFL owners' meetings. The "Hochuli replay rule" and the no-rekick-after-an-illegal-onsides rules are interesting but not earthshaking. Discussion of changing overtime never got off the drawing board.
But the subject I wanted to broach now is the proposed expanded schedule. Commissioner Roger Goodell is clearly in favor of growing each team's number of regular-season games from the 16 of the past 31 seasons to 17 or 18.
Whatever the number, one extra game seems ticketed to be played at a neutral site, which opens the door for the NFL to expand into international markets.
The internationals are surely an ambitious project. If the sites are limited to England, Germany, Mexico and Canada, it's certainly doable. (New York to Berlin is a mega-West Coast trip in reverse.) But as blingy as the Australia, Japan and China markets might appear, the NFL should avoid booking such games in the regular season.
When the Jets opened the preseason against the Buccaneers in the Tokyo Dome in 2003, the time change left me zonked out for the three days there and three more days upon my return, and all I did was write and dine on the best sushi in the world. I can only imagine the immediate and lingering effects of a regular-season game in Osaka, Beijing or Sydney on pro football players.
Many hurdles, with the players' union, corporate partners and media outlets, must be cleared if the league is serious about this, but Goodell, a can-do kind of commish, said a vote could take place as soon as May and a supersized schedule could begin as soon as August 2011.
We could see this coming for decades, perhaps. Recall if you can the climate in the NFL in 1977, when teams played 14 regular-season games and six, count 'em, six preseason games — and that year the Jets played seven preseason games, including the Hall of Fame Game against the Bears.
I could be mistaken but I think at that time all teams discounted tickets to the summer games and didn't require season-ticket holders to include them in their preseason purchases. Both of those guidelines quickly went by the boards with the move to 16 games in 1978. And now Goodell acknowledges what every football fan and network exec knows, that "the players they want to see are not in those preseason games. That's why they are not attractive."
The 18-game format is one of those concepts whose time has come. The USFL handled an 18-game sked (and a few players somehow staggered from 18 games plus a playoff or two into NFL training camps back in 1986). And we're a nexus in history where the NFL needs to provide more bang for the buck and the world stage is beckoning.
That's my opinion anyway. If you've got some time today or this weekend, let me know what you think about 16, 17 or 18 games or about any of the other rules changes that have been instituted or that you'd like to see enacted in the future.