The future of the NFL doesn’t appear filled with sound decisions in the present

On November 23, 2015, the Buffalo Bills will travel to play the New England Patriots. And there’s something strange about the game.

The scheduling.

It’s a Monday night game. And sure, there doesn’t seem to be anything amazing about that. Divisional game… Rex Ryan coming to town… and all the other assorted this-and-that details make a primetime start to this contest a smart move.

Except… well… the Bills last played on Thursday, November 12th. That means in addition to having an extended time off thanks to the Thursday night game, they ended up with an extra day off as play for them begins again on Monday and not Sunday. The bonus from having that extra day, and a road match with New England? A short week, where they’ll again be on the road, this time facing Kansas City.

Earlier this year Pittsburgh was treated to a similar run… only their third game in the Thursday-Monday-Sunday run was a home game.

This is an example of a more pressing concern though… based on driving revenue and pushing scheduling. Because I think in a few years, when people are wondering where the NFL went off the tracks from what currently seems like an unstoppable run of increasing profits that resembles printing money on command, this should be a big item on the list of problems.

We now have games on Sunday, Monday and Thursday nights for pretty much the entire season, and 16 games per week.

(Yes… Thursday games stop on December 24th and week 16. Also, bye weeks, which reduce the weekly number of games by one or two for a good stretch of the year. When you see the math I’m about to do though, add in multiple games on Thanksgiving, and remember the international contests, if you have the NFL Network it pretty much works out that an even higher percentage of weekly games are available, and I’m being kind basing it on 16 games per week. Here we go… starting with three night games a week…)

Network television generally broadcasts 3 games in the 1pm and 4pm time slots each Sunday. And that means you have access to seeing 6 of the 16 games each week, whether you subscribe to the lovely DirecTV package or not.

I’m not here to discuss whether or not short weeks are bad for the players. And I don’t want to investigate whether games being played night after night is eventually going to wear out audiences so that they learn to avoid the television.

Instead… consider those things and more as marks on the checklist. When the Buffalo Bills played the New York Jets on Thursday night… well… it was actually the Buffalo Santas playing the New York Elves. (And if you don’t get that joke, head on over to your search engine of choice and enter these words -- Bills Jets Ugly Uniforms)

The general thought that every team should get a primetime game is actually a good one. And we shouldn’t be surprised that the NFL wants to support its network with a schedule of games that is exclusive content.

But when the schedule gives teams short weeks, long breaks, and little consistency… yeah… that’s a problem. When the mass airing of games begins taking away massive chunks of every night instead of a few hours each Sunday for the season… yeah… it gets to be a bit much. And it’s a problem with easy solutions. And yet… dollar signs. Each network wants some big audience games. Each network wants some good contests, and not find them lost to evening broadcasts.

Those dollar signs extend into places such as playing in alternate uniforms. (On sale now!)

If you don’t believe it’s dollars, then just watch Los Angeles. Word is any team selected and accepted for moving into LA -- which right now includes Oakland, San Diego, and St. Louis as teams competing for the right -- will be asked to pay a $500 million relocation fee. And if you don’t believe that the primary reason that it’s possible two teams will make the move isn’t one billion dollars in fees, then you’re just fooling yourself.

Now we go back to the original situation I presented to you. Scheduling… one sign of the breakdown of the league’s attempts to advance itself and expand the market. For the Bills… four days between games, followed by eleven, followed by six. None of that is regular or routine. And it covers a quarter of the team’s schedule by the time it’s done.

And that’s not the only thing on display.

Tons of uniform combinations… games lasting longer… promotions and commercials in between plays and during every possible breath that can be sponsored… and… well… I’d make a Lions and Packers and Bears joke, but you get the point. It’s almost too much.

We get officiating where even when the crews make the right calls according to the rules, there is still no answer as to what is actually a catch. And somehow, through it all, the NFL continues to make money.

At some point, that will end. It may be the desire to attempt expansion across oceans. It might be a schedule with games on every night of the week. When it does end though, look at the inability to get the scheduling correct. It’s a small thing element. It’s might even be missed when those days arrive and the debates of how it happened begin. As the NFL struggles to get anything right though, the simple things should be simple to correct.

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