After reading this mornings Plain Dealer article on Roger Goodell's visit to Browns camp yesterday a couple of things occurred to me.
Goodell says that the preseason games are an "inferior product" and that the fans have made that clear. I don't know about you - but I believe (and think most fans believe) that all 4 games are "inferior product" and probably unnecessary. I don't want to pay full price for parking, tickets, beer, food - etc. for any meaningless game. What difference does it make if there are 2 "inferior" games or 4? Preseason has been labeled as an "Inferior Product" by the Commissioner of the league. Think about that!
I happen to believe that it would be just as beneficial to have 2 "controlled scrimmages" against other teams at a neutral site. Much like the old Lake Erie Classic with Buffalo. Coaches could make decisions on the younger players in an environment that is much safer for the players. As a fan - nothing is worse than seeing a high profile player go down in a meaningless exhibition. The NFL could also expand exposure by staging the games towns without NFL franchises - or even overseas, Canada and Mexico.
This statement by the commish, along with the owners assertion that they'd like an 18 game season leads me to believe this is part of a negotiating ploy.
I have personally been a part of Union negotiations - both as a Union Member and on the Management side of the table. Both sides like to come in with guns blazing and over the top demands. This makes concessions easier and allows both sides to feel like they had some give and take. All parties can walk away in the end feeling like they won some and lost some.
The NFL broadcasting contract runs through 2014. I don' t believe that the NFL would even consider adding two regular season games to the schedule until the TV contract could be renegotiated. Networks will have to pay more to reflect the addition of more "Superior Product" by the NFL. These two games aren't even a viable issue for at least 3 or 4 years and don't need to be a part of the current negotiations.
For this reason alone I feel like the addition of two regular season games is a smokescreen. But - if you were to combine the owners "losing the battle" of adding the TV and stadium revenue of the desired additional games, and the "loss" of 2 preseason games - Would that be enough of a negotiating table "concession" to offset the 18% in player salary reduction being asked? Maybe - or maybe a 10% reduction - along with a greater contribution by the league into the players retirement or medical fund?
The bottom line is that the players (rightfully, in my opinion) have made it clear that they do not want an 18 game season. Todays off-season requirements combined with extending the season is unthinkable and physically impossible to most players- from what I've read and heard.
Add these two games and you run the risk of the end portion of the regular season becoming the "inferior product", and not the preseason. The owners and commish know this - they are already trying to address this fact through scheduling changes this year. Imagine having to try to control the playoff teams playing strategy for two more games if the division is locked up.