Green Bay Packers President and CEO Mark Murphy acknowledged what NFL fans have known for years when he spoke to a small group of reporters on Friday. The league’s preseason is hot garbage.
“I think one thing we can all agree on is the quality of play in the preseason is not good. And players don’t need game time, they don’t need preseason games to get ready for the season. Certainly not four.”
“We’ve talked about this: It’s the one part of the NFL that really stands out that’s not a first-class [thing]. It’s just not good. Especially that fourth game. It’s kind of a throw-away. I’m sure [Packers coach Mike McCarthy] has looked at [how to approach] it. I think you’ll see a lot of young players playing in those first couple preseason games.”
There is not really a good preseason in any of the major North America professional sports, but the NFL’s is a particular slog. Four straight weeks of meaningless football, on top of the Hall of Fame Game a week prior, is a lot to ask of both fans and players.
Not only are fans not interested in a poor product, they certainly do not want to pay the full price for it like NFL teams force their season ticket holders to do. Furthermore, it is unfair to ask players to risk injury in violent exhibition contests four times every season.
It makes sense that Murphy and the Packers would be especially sensitive to this cause. The team lost its top wide receiver, Jordy Nelson, to a season-ending ACL injury last preseason, and the team will also play in this year’s Hall of Fame Game, meaning they will actually play in five preseason games instead of the normal four.
Murphy went on to say there is ongoing discussion within the league to alter the preseason schedule, but any changes will have to wait until negotiations for the next collective bargaining agreement start. However, he did suggest the NFL’s expansion beyond American borders could tip the balance in the preseason debate.
Murphy said there’s a belief within the NFL that one way to increase the number of games outside the U.S. and decrease the preseason would be to have each team play 17 regular-season games, with one of them being an international game, and then play only three preseason games.
“As you look ahead, if we’re going to have more and more international games, something’s got to give at some point. One thought that’s been discussed is to go to 17 and three, and then everybody would have an international game. So nobody would have to give up a home game,” Murphy said. “That’s [one thing] people in the league office [have been] thinking. It’s never been voted on or anything like that.”
For now, the pointless games remain, but at least Murphy’s comments indicate a consensus is slowly growing.