From Richie Incognito to Bobby Wagner to Doug Baldwin, NFL players, generally speaking, do not like Thursday Night Football. The football is bad, there’s less time to implement a game plan, and the players are still recovering from their previous game. Baldwin, in fact, said Thursday Night Football “should be illegal.”
Given this backlash, will TNF even exist in couple of years?
“Well, look, there’s a lot of money in it still,” CBS Sports NFL insider Jason La Canfora said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “As much as the ratings aren’t what some people would want – and maybe even in some cases what some advertisers would demand – it still beats a lot of what’s on prime-time television, and there’s still an appetite and a market for it. The players hate it, but it inflates the salary cap. So in NFL trickle-down economics, it makes the whole pie bigger so individuals get a slightly bigger piece of that pie. But I think a reckoning is coming here. There’s too much of it. What it’s done has really exposed the underbelly of the league.”
La Canfora, 43, remembers when there was Sunday Night Football and Monday Night Football. And that was it. And the match-ups were almost always good.
“There was a pretty good sense that it’s going to be worth it,” La Canfora said. “I’m going to see Dan Marino. Or maybe the Chargers can’t play defense, but I’m going to see Dan Fouts. Or I’m going to see the dynastic 49ers or remnants of the Cowboys dynasty or whatever. Now with there being so much prime time and every team assured of a Thursday Night game, teams are getting national exposure that people are frankly ignoring in their home markets.
“So I think there will be a recalibration,” La Canfora continued. “I think it could get scaled back. I don’t see it going away, but maybe an eight-game schedule eventually where there’s a game every other week or maybe an eight-game schedule that just picks up from Thanksgiving and goes down the stretch run.”
La Canfora believes TNF will be a popular discussion topic during the next collective bargaining agreement.
“There’s tradeoffs to everything,” La Canfora said. “I don’t know what the answer is, and generally neither side likes to see money just disappear, but I think we will see some different stands than we’re used to – from both sides. It could very well be that this time around the NFLPA’s push is eliminating Goodell’s power of judge, jury, and executioner, which was not a big topic at all in the last round. And maybe from the players’ health and safety side, eliminating Thursday Night Football or curtailing Thursday Night Football or something with Thursday Night Football is one of the tradeoffs they’re looking for as well. At first blush, I would say that’s one where I think there’s some soft terrain that both sides could (explore). I don’t think the league is completely stuck in on playing 17 Thursday Night games a year.”