NFL To Consider Shorter Preseason Schedule

The NFL competition committee is seriously considering a shorter preseason schedule, according to a statement from Green Bay Packers president Mark Murphy. Shortening the preseason schedule would mean lost revenues for the teams, but player safety may win out in the end.

Speaking Friday at the NFL Scouting Combine, Murphy stated that the competition committee is looking at shortening the preseason schedule and that three games, rather than the current four, would be the most sensible option. The preseason would likely start at the same time, while cutting the final game would result in the players having a week off before the regular season kicks off.

“Rather than playing that fourth game on a Thursday,” Murphy said at the combine, “don’t play a fourth game and then you’d have an extra week. We’ve looked at different models, but I think that’s the one that makes the most sense. You’re giving up some revenue, but it’s one of the worst things we do.”

Murphy has been on the eight-member competition committee since 2012, which is scheduled to meet in March to discuss this and other matters.

ESPN reports that Murphy’s Green Bay Packers are currently scheduled to play five games during the 2016 NFL preseason instead of the typical four. The reason that the team is set to play a longer preseason is that they are scheduled to play in the annual Hall of Fame game on August 7 in addition to the regular preseason schedule.

mike mcarthy shorter preseason
Packer's coach Mike McCarthy agrees that the preseason should be shortened in advance of his team playing a five game preseason. [AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin]

Packer’s coach Mike McCarthy told ESPN that he agrees with Murphy and the competition committee that the NFL preseason schedule should be shorter.

“That would probably be a little more practical, especially with all the emphasis on player safety,” McCarthy told ESPN. “I wouldn’t be surprised if they go to three games. Three games with a two-week bye week, with two weeks before the opener. That’s just my opinion. Nobody’s told me that. I’d be for it. I think it makes a lot of sense. Then you could be a little more aggressive in that third game. Just take the fourth one out.”

Preseason NFL games do bring revenues in to the teams, but they are more or less meaningless outside of the opportunity for the starters to shake off a little rust and fringe players to go out on the field and prove themselves. Starters typically play somewhere between one drive and one half of each game through the first three games, while many teams choose to sit their starters and give fringe players a good, hard look in the fourth.

“You’re giving up some revenue, but it’s one of the worst things we do,” Murphy said at the combine. “The move we made on variable [ticket] pricing helps a little bit in how preseason is viewed, but especially that fourth game is kind of a throwaway.”

This isn’t the first time that the NFL has looked at shortening the preseason schedule. According to the Washington Post, the league considered shortening the preseason last year, but nothing came of it.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said last year that the preseason could be shortened since the games are not high quality. [AP Photo/David J. Phillip]

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suggested at the time that the preseason should be shortened due to the lack of quality seen in those games. However, shortening the preseason at that time was tied up with the idea of lengthening the regular season or playoffs.

Since football is such a physical, dangerous sport, one of the benefits players would see from a shorter preseason would be less opportunity for injury, especially in an essentially meaningless game. Lengthening the regular season, or the playoffs, would negate that, but neither Murphy nor any other member of the competition committee has floated that idea this time around.

Do you think the NFL preseason should be shorter, and if it was shorter, should there be more games in the regular or postseason?

[Photo by AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps]