Updated: Oct 7
And both the reason and the solution seem obvious.
(At least to Yours Truly.)
The sporting press and NFL fans concur– the quality of play Thursday Night Football is sub-par. (Even The New York Times agrees.) The reason is self-evident: American Football– from Pee Wee League to High School to College and Professional– requires a week between games for players to simultaneously recover physically from the last game and strategically prepare for the next game. Having two teams play only four days after the last game, therefore, more often than not leads to tired and banged-up and poorly-prepared players sleep-walking through a dumbed-down game plan. And this inevitably leads to a lousy product that, by the third quarter, appeals only to deranged fans and heavy gamblers.
With but a modicum of reflection, I've arrived at a possible solution that seems so obvious that I cannot believe the NFL hasn't thought of this already.
The NFL regular season is 18 weeks long. Each of the NFL's 32 teams plays 17 games with one week off... a "bye" week. SO– rather than give each team two full weeks off between games for their bye week, I suggest the following: take two teams. Give them TWO consecutive Sundays off, and then, in lieu of a bye week, have them play on the Thursday night that falls 11 days after their last Sunday game and 10 days before their next Sunday game. And then do this every week until every team in the NFL plays a Thursday Night game. There are just a couple of minor wrinkles: there are 3 games on Thanksgiving (no problem) and the annual Thursday Night "Kickoff Game" that inaugurates the new season wouldn't constitute a bye week for either participant because they play that game in place of one on the season's the first Sunday. We would therefore have them play each other again in the last Thursday night game of the year in Week 16 of the schedule. (This would especially make sense if the previous Super Bowl winner– the traditional host team of the annual "Kickoff Game"– played their closest division rival in their 2 Thursday night contests.)
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If the NFL had a suggestion box, I would surely be stuffing it on a regular basis. Some might recall my idea from last season for what I would consider the perfect format for NFL overtime games: Give each team alternating possessions beginning at the 50-yard line with 1:00 on the clock and 2 timeouts. The result of each possession would be either a TD, a FG, or nothing, then the other team gets a possession. Turnovers result in change of possession unless they are returned for a TD. Rinse & repeat until one team outdoes the other in a given round.
I could go on, but I won't. I WILL add that as a former NCAA punter and kicker I am delighted and amazed at the rapid advances in both over the past two decades. Punters routinely uncork 60- or even 70-yard punts, and the increasing strength and accuracy of placekickers have made 55+-yard field goals darn near routine... and, alas, touchbacks way too common. I'm still waiting for a rule change that will make kickoffs worth watching.
Until then, I'd settle for decent Thursday Night Football.