Could the N.F.L. be considering pulling the plug on Thursday Night Football?
According to NBC Sports’ Pro Football Talk, the league is considering eliminating Thursday games from its lineup — with the exception of for the Thanksgiving Holiday — as early as 2018, “barring a renegotiation” with its broadcast partners CBS and NBC.
For its part, the N.F.L. released its own statement on the matter.
“We are fully committed to Thursday Night Football and any reports to the contrary are unfounded,” said the N.F.L.’s Senior Vice President of Communications Natalie Ravitz to Fox Business.
In spite of the N.F.L.’s stern denial, the news does, of course, seem logical to most football fans.
“Thursday Night Football” games are usually a bore for the audience, said Sporting News writer Jordan Heck, who noted that “The two teams playing are coming off extremely short rest and don’t look as sharp, which leads to poor play on both sides and ultimately something people don’t want to watch.”
“A source with knowledge of the situation” told Pro Football Talk that continued criticism of the TV program by fans, players, and executives alike means that the rumors are stronger than the N.F.L. is willing to show at this point.
Certainly, the league will consider cutting back on — if not getting rid of altogether — its now-weekly lineup of Thursday Night Football games.
Among the chief concern of N.F.L. officials seems to be that the league has finally reached what experts call the “Saturation Point,” meaning that fans will start to lose interest in even watching in light of the number of other football games, and non-football-related content, that is available on prime time, as well.
The following is according to PFT’s Mike Florio.
“The league realizes that, with every team playing once on a short week each season, many of the Thursday games necessarily will have reduced appeal. Adding extra prime-time games to the Sunday/Monday inventory also has created a sense that the league has saturated the marketplace with stand-alone evening games.”
And that is to speak nothing of player backlash from being subjected to such an extensive N.F.L. schedule. Essentially, Thursday Night Football dictates that every team must at some point play on a short week.
Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman told ESPN the following last year.
“I mean, it’s rough. It’s rough on the body. Any time you play a football game and play another one a few days later, it’s going to be tough on the body. But it’s just another one of those things. Another one of those simple contradictions of the league, because they care about us.”
Unfortunately, this sentiment questioning how much the N.F.L. actually cares about the health, happiness, and emotional stability of its contracted players is by no means limited to the always outspoken Sherman.
Former Houston Texans and Miami Dolphins running back Arian Foster, for example, went on record as calling Thursday Night Football dangerous back in 2014, per SB Nation.
“[The N.F.L.] emphasizes concussions when they start getting hit with lawsuits and they care about the players’ safety but Thursday Night Football is putting every player on the football field in danger,” said Foster, before noting that his fellow players find Thursday night games “annoying.”
“I don’t know a player that likes it,” Foster said at the time. “I really don’t know a fan that likes it, either. I think it’s just the league’s way of trying to generate more revenue.”
Foster, unfortunately, was forced into retirement earlier this season due to his own multitude of injuries.
As to the issue at hand, PFT noted that the N.F.L. has one of several options it is considering, including the following.
- Running Thursday Night Football from Thanksgiving through the end of the season.
- Considering a selection of Thursday Night Football games during the course of a campaign.
- Eliminating the Thursday Night program altogether.
While some players have spoken of the N.F.L.’s greed in forcing a weekly Thursday night matchup upon their schedule, PFT’s anonymous source believes that the N.F.L. is beyond being able to actually make money by doing so.
Since first introducing Thursday Night Football in November 2006, the source noted, the N.F.L. has had difficulty balancing the gains from those games with the cost of giving audiences potentially too much football content.
It also has struggled to ensure that the games featured in prime time are worthy of being seen by that same audience.
[Featured Image by Leon Halip/Getty Images]