All 32 teams in the NFL must play at least one Thursday night game during the regular season. Both fans and media have expressed a level of displeasure with what, so many times, ends up being simply bad football. But the league makes money on it and, so far, there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight for the event. The question then begs, if it’s here to stay, can Thursday Night Football (TNF) at least be improved to the point where it is enjoyable to the viewer and safer for the players? If so, then how?
Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, in an essay for The Players Tribune, described TNF as a ‘poop fest.’ Notwithstanding his colorful description, he is not at all wrong. The product on the field has been lackluster and very tough to watch.
“I guess this is what happens when you have people in suits who have never played the game at this level dictating the schedule,” Sherman wrote. “I’d like to put [NFL Commissioner] Roger Goodell in pads for a late game on a Sunday… in December… in Green Bay… on the frozen tundra. Then see what time he gets to the office on Monday morning, knowing that he would have to suit up again on Thursday.”
Surprisingly, not everyone feels the way Sherman does about TNF. Some players actually don’t mind the short week of work and there are fans who like seeing football during the week. The game generates a lot of money for the NFL and the NFLPA and it would be safe to say that these games are likely here to stay for the foreseeable future. But in order for these games to become something that the majority of the viewing public likes as much as weekend football, however, the product must improve.
One way to upgrade the play on the field immediately would be to start the second stint of Thursday night games after the first set of bye weeks. Having two fresh teams playing in a midweek prime-time game would greatly improve the product.
This might also help avoid injuries to the players and reduce the strain put on the traveling teams as well. It has become obvious that the players do not perform as well when they get so much less rest between games.
At the minimum, revision is needed to the TNF scheduling and that could just be the tip of the iceberg. If the powers that be in the NFL truly care for the players and its fans, they will take a hard look at this product and make the proper adjustments.