Should the NFL Preseason Be Shortened?

It seems like every year right around this time, this question comes up.

We’ve had a couple of weeks of preseason and gotten the chance to see some of our favorite players in action. However, the regular season is still over two weeks away. 

For a while now, there has been talk about shortening the preseason and extending the regular season. An 18 game NFL regular season does not seem likely any time soon, but a shortened preseason is being explored. 

Roger Goodell recently addressed the topic back in June. Goodell said that he has been talking to coaches around the league about the issue. He said that it seems like most coaches agree that it does not take all four preseason games to evaluate players before the regular season. He also commented that the preseason games are not exactly high-level football. Goodell understands the preseason is underwhelming and not interesting for fans. With a new collective bargaining agreement coming up in 2021, this is sure to be one of the issues addressed.

Side 1: Yes, the NFL preseason needs to be shortened

As fans, I think most of us have this stance. Due to the lack of sports during the summer, we overhype the preseason and then we’re left with disappointment. It happens every year. 

The media has a similar narrative. They will try to hype up players’ first appearance with new teams and position battles, but ultimately everything is a let-down. The star players will usually only play a couple of series every preseason and then we must wait a few more weeks to see them in the games that matter.

Outside of a selfish fan’s perspective, there are other reasons to look at shortening the preseason. One reason is injuries. Every year, a couple of important players go down in the preseason. For the most part, superstars can avoid injury because they only play a handful of downs. However, every starter is important for a team going into week 1. Oftentimes, it’s not even major injuries either. Guys will get banged up in the preseason and have lingering injuries throughout the season due to something they sustained during the preseason. 

Teams will be able to go into Week 1 knowing their stars are fully healthy. Of course, it’s almost impossible to keep all starters sidelined during the preseason because you will have many players battling for starting positions. But at least you know your stars are safe and ready to go for the regular season.

Ideally, the preseason can be shortened, and the starters never see the field before Week 1. This alleviates both issues above. As fans, we can have the expectation set that the starters won’t play. If we want to tune in to see some of the other guys on the team play, we can do that without being disappointed that we didn’t see the stars. 

Sitting the starters also guarantees that the reserves get enough of a chance to battle for roster spots. Two whole games should be more than enough time for coaches to evaluates their talent and make roster decisions. 

Side 2: No, the preseason should not be shortened

The preseason should stay how it is right now simply because there are no major problems with it. Want to avoid injuries? Don’t play your starters. Want to avoid disappointment or boredom as fans? Don’t pay attention to the preseason. 

Additionally, there are many coaches out there who believe all four preseason games are necessary. Some coaches like to take the extra time to evaluate talent and see what they’re working with. 

Beyond talent evaluation, coaches still love to try out certain strategies and schemes during the preseason. This is even more important with a new coaching staff. It’s unfair to ask starters on a team to feel ready for Week 1 of the season without having played a single down of competitive football for a new coach. 

However, new coaches don’t want to make their new job even more difficult by losing a star player to injury in the preseason. Coaches are left with a difficult decision. Even if starters don’t play, both sides need time to build mutual rapport. The preseason is the perfect time for this. 

There’s also the issue of lost revenue. From an organization’s perspective, any loss of games is a loss of revenue, even if it’s only a small loss. Overall, this is probably one of the smaller issues to consider, but it still needs to be brought up every time this issue is addressed. 

My Take

I think the preseason needs to be shortened by at least one game. Ideally, I think there would be two preseason games preceding the 17-week regular season. By taking away at least one preseason game, one week is opened up. I think the NFL could explore implementing an additional bye week for each team. 

I think everyone would be in favor of an additional bye week. As fans, our teams get an additional week off, but we are treated to an additional week of football, which I don’t think anyone would complain about. There is no doubt that teams would love the additional week to game plan and get healthy.  

Additionally, the NFL could look at eliminating short weeks (for example, teams playing on Sunday and then having to play 4 days later on Thursday) with the extra week. 

What do YOU think? Should the NFL preseason be shortened? If so, by how many weeks?

NBA expert and IU grad. '96 Bulls > Warriors. #FireGarPax

Twitter: @realdmill