August 28, 2007

Improving the NFL Preseason

It's the time of year where every sports fishhack in the country writes his annual column suggesting ways to improve the preseason. Most of the suggestions are unrealistic or untenable, but everyone agrees that the preseason could be better than it is now.

Rather than tell you why an 18-game regular season is ridiculous (destroys records, increased chance of injury, weather concerns like we saw in Landover Saturday, risk of burnout, screws up schedule), I'll just suggest my own remedy.

blahblahblah The ECB Preseason Plan could result in triple-digit uniform numbers!

Teams should open training camp for rookies and designated young players in mid-June. Players designated as "non-essential" may report later, at the usual time. The rosters are vastly expanded for this "rookie camp", allowing far more undrafted free agents to participate. Four games are played against other teams using only the designated rookies. In fact, each team must designate 20 players who are ineligible to play in the four rookie games. The cut-down periods are moved up to occur after the second and fourth rookie games. The fifth and sixth preseason games are open to all players and are designed to give veterans a chance to shake off rust.

The first four rookie games are played in non-traditional NFL sites within a resonable distance from camp, such as smaller college stadiums. The final two are played in the regular stadiums, and owners are welcome to charge full price as starters will probably play at least three quarters in both games.

"Rookies" are paid a reasonable stipend while they are on the roster, and this stipend does not count against the salary cap.

I can see two major criticisms to this approach. The first is that owners would be foregoing a game's ticket and concessions revenue. If the average NFL stadium seats 60,000 at an average of $70/seat, that's a substantial amount, $4,200,000 + concessions and less costs of operation. On the other hand, a greater chance to evaluated young players in game situations could certainly save an owner more than that in overpayment for underequipped players.

The second criticism might be that it's just too much football. The coaches may not be willing to lose another two weeks of their life. This could be avoided though. The rookie camp and rookie games could be coached only by the position coaches. No team would be using their full playbook anyway, or implementing any complicated schemes, at least not until the veterans arrive two weeks later. Plus, minority coaches, who are far more prevalent as position coaches (partly because so many are former players), would get additional opportunities to display their leadership abilities and worthiness as head coach or coordinator candidates.

Anyone have any other criticisms or ideas to add?

4 Responses:

michael said...

J-Red, you're an idiot. We need LESS preseason football, not more. Having less revenue from less preseason games is easily offset by not having key players injured, which seems to happen every year. Simply put, open camp a week or two later, and have no more than two games. And start the season ON Labor Day weekend like they always used to, rather than after it. There you go, problem solved.

J-Red said...

Less preseason is NEVER going to happen, so let's actually use it for what it really is, a testing ground for rookies and non-starters. I agree the starters only need two weeks to get ready.

Brien said...

The jump from 11 or 12 games in college to 16 games (before playoffs) in the pros is already a huge jump for rookies. If you make them play more time in more pre-season games, you'll have a lot more rookies falling off halfway through the season.

J-Red said...

They don't play though. And if they will, you don't need the extra games to evaluate them so you hold them out with the veterans.

Without a replacement for NFL Europe, this is actually less work than the Shaun Hill's of the world have been getting.

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