The Players say they don’t want 18 games. The players quite possibly do.
The NFL Players Association, the union that represents all players, consistently has taken the position that there will not be an agreement to expand the regular season. One former player believes that, if all players had a chance to vote on the issue, they’d welcome two more games.
“More money,” Super Bowl XXI MVP Phil Simms said on the Chris Simms Unbuttoned podcast. “More game checks. It’s pro-rated. Give me two more game checks. If you put it up to a vote by the NFL players, it’ll overwhelmingly go over and say yes. Some of the elite quarterbacks and a few players, no. Well yeah, you’re making 25 and 30 million. But the guys that are making a million or less . . . two more game checks? Are you kidding me? Think about what those checks look like and how much that is and how much of a difference it makes in their lives.”
The elder Simms, affectionately known by his son as “Big F--cker” (it’s an obscure Green Mile reference), realizes that the players may not get the chance to vote on it if the folks who run the Players Association never give them the opportunity.
“The players probably won’t have much say in it. It’ll probably be a select few players with their [executive] committee and DeMaurice Smith,” Phill Simms said. “If you put it up to vote, there’s no doubt the players would vote to go 18 games. I do think it’s heading that way. Just think when the owners get into all of this. Two more weeks of TV money. TV would want it too. Just because it’s the greatest thing on every network. I never thought it would come about but I agree with a lot of what you guys said [Tuesday] morning [regarding a smaller preseason] . . . .Last year, you know I love watching preseason games. It was awful. Here’s what was awful about it. One, nobody was playing. Two, you got all these young guys on the offensive side and they’re trying to do their thing. Like you said, there’s a couple guys that can make a team. Then the defense is over there and the defensive coordinator doesn’t care. ‘Oh these guys are going to make the team let’s just blitz them all.’ Of course the offensive guys get very few reps in practice and the games are just total disasters in my eyes. I probably watched less preseason football last year than I ever have. There are some years where I watch almost every one of the games because I just want to see the guys, got to get a feel.”
Still, Phil Simms believes the NFLPA eventually will relent on expanding the regular season and shrinking the preseason.
“It’s on its way out,” Phil said. “There’s no question. This 18-game schedule definitely will be part of the NFL when the new Collective Bargaining Agreement comes around.”
It’s happening because it’s clear that the owners want it. They’ve wanted it for years, and they now see the opening to get it. Consider this anecdote from the Big Effer.
“I went to practices a few years ago when it was kind of starting to arise, this 18-game schedule,” Phil said. “And I was really speaking out against it on Showtime and everywhere. I had owners come up to me in practice and go ‘Why do you hate us so much?’ And I’m like ‘Whoa, what do you mean?’ ‘Well you don’t want 18 games, why are you so against it?’ And I go, ‘Well, I guess I’m just against it for the players.’ And they were taking it personal. It just tells you it’s a gold mine right now for everybody really. The players, the networks, the owners. . . . It’s going to work for all. There’ll be an extra two games and talk about the physical well-being of the players, I don’t think it’s what we think it is.”
Phil would know. When he played, there was a much greater degree of brutality and unnecessary violence. Over the past decade, the evolution in health and safety has become, in comparison to 30 years ago, a revolution. The game is much safer than it used to be, and it’s just a matter of time until management shows the NFLPA a reel of routine plays from yesteryear that featured players routinely getting knocked into next week.
The argument will be that, if this worked with 16 games, 18 games under today’s rules can also work. And the argument likely will prevail. Because money will ultimately drive it.