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NFL V.P. of broadcast scheduling Mike North: Deshaun Watson uncertainty didn’t impact Browns schedule

The Browns' two primetime games in 2022 both come before Week 8, but that isn't necessarily indicative of any punishment Deshaun Watson could receive from the NFL.

The Browns’ 2022 schedule contains no clues regarding any eventual Deshaun Watson suspension. That’s apparently because the folks responsible for making the schedule have no clue what’s going to happen with an eventual Deshaun Watson suspension.

Along with the rest of us.

NFL V.P. of broadcast scheduling Mike North appeared with Adam Schein on SiriusXM Mad Dog Radio on Friday. Schein asked whether Watson’s status impacted the scheduling decisions for the Browns.

The honest answer to you question is no,” North said as to whether the scheduling process considered Watson’s availability. “None of us know. None of us knows if he’s gonna be all year, if he’s not gonna be here at all. None of us knows what is gonna happen at all, and it might not happen this year. I don’t know enough about the legal system, but we could be a year or two away from all of these things finally settling. The answer to your question is no. And as you look at the Cleveland schedule, you see that they have a national television game in Week Three, a national television game in Week Eight, an opportunity to be back on national television on NFL Network in the Saturday pool in Week 15. So there’s a game in the first third, a game in the middle, a game in the last third. No idea what’s gonna happen. I don’t know anything more than you do at this point. So the honest answer to your question is we really didn’t think about it.”

Implicit in his explanation is the fact that, if they had known the number of games, if any, that Watson will miss, that would have been a factor. The uncertainty resulted in the league peppering two national games and a potential third NFLN game throughout the slate.

North separately admitted that the league considered one specific factor in crafting the schedule -- the game between the Browns and Texans in Houston. That game happens in Week 13.

“We knew that Houston and Cleveland were obviously gonna play each other this year, and Cleveland at Houston is gonna mean something,” North said. “I’ll be honest with you, we did see a schedule somewhere along the hundreds of thousands that we looked at this year where that game was in Week Number One. And I’m just not sure that would have been the right place for it, right? That’s maybe not the right, you know, game that we want all eyes on, attention on, you know, taking attention away from some of these other big tentpoles . . . in Week One. So other than maybe really just thinking about where that because where that actual Cleveland at Houston game fell, there really wasn’t a lot of attention paid because, honestly, none of us knows what’s gonna happen.”

The fact that attention was paid to Browns-Texans shows that attention would have been paid to Watson’s suspension, if the league had known whether he would be suspended and, if so, for how many games. But the broadcasting department didn’t know, because the Commissioner continues to keep his cards close to the vest.

The only thing we know at this point is that the Commissioner would be inclined to suspend Watson before putting him on paid leave. Other than that, everyone continues to wait.

It’s unclear what the league is waiting for. Although it has learned from experience not to make decisions until it has to, a decision has to be made at some point. It’s unfair to the Browns, to Watson, and to Cleveland’s opponents to delay the process any longer than it fairly should be delayed.