NFL’s 17-game regular season was ‘terrible decision’

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The winningest NFL quarterback of all-time believes the league made a losing decision to expand its regular season to 17 games.

Speaking on the “Let’s Go!” podcast he hosts with Jim Gray and Larry Fitzgerald, Tom Brady cast aspersions on the season expanding from 16 games to 17 this year.

“I think it’s pointless,” Brady said. “I thought it was a terrible decision. So I don’t like the fact that we’re playing a 17th game at all. I think sixteen is plenty. And, again, you’re eight games into the year and you’re not halfway through, so that’s kind of a little frustrating aspect. So whatever, I mean, we’ll play it.”

In the last collective bargaining agreement, the league essentially divided and conquered the NFLPA, securing a narrow majority of players last March. In a league with over 2,000 players, the difference between the CBA getting ratified versus not was a mere 60 votes.

Brady is resigned to the fact that the owners were able to ram this through.

Tom Brady expressive during a game.
Tom Brady expressive during a game.
Getty Images

“Because the owners haven’t had to listen to the players,” he said. “Because usually what the owners want the owners get. So, you know, that’s just the way the business has gone. And we need strong union leadership from the player standpoint and a unified union in order to have the right amount of leverage to negotiate what we think is appropriate for an NFL player. But right now it’s more like we get told what to do and, yeah, there’s a vote and a CBA, but the choice is: don’t play or play under these circumstances. And we’ve essentially agreed to play under their circumstances.”

There was a vocal group of stars, including Aaron Rodgers, Richard Sherman, JJ Watt, and Russell Wilson, who opposed the CBA. Nevertheless, when it was ratified, Tom Brady tweeted, “Well done De” to NFLPA director DeMaurice Smith.

Brady did note that finding an agreement that would make everybody happy is a considerable challenge.

“We have union leadership which absolutely does the best they can based on the circumstances that they have but it is very challenging to get 1500 players to agree,” Brady said. “And it’s much easier to get 32 owners to agree who have all the information and they do regular quarterly meetings and they meet and they’re all interested in growing the game. Which, look, the players want to grow the game as well but we want to grow it in a way that’s, again, that’s right for the players as well.”

ProFootballTalk’s Mike Florio believes further expansion is inevitable, and that the league’s owners are using this 17-game season as the bridge to get to the 18 games they’ve wanted all along.

The pragmatic reality is that rank-and-file NFL players knew an extra game meant signing up for more injury risk, but thought the tradeoff was worthwhile given the spike in games means extra TV revenue which trickles down to more money for them. With short careers, they wanted to maximize every dollar.

Stars, particularly in this generation with enormous pay and elongated careers — Brady himself is 44 years old and remarkably shows no signs of slowing down — are looking at the equation through a much longer lens. Moving forward, it’s a safe bet that this gulf will only widen, which is a scenario that in aggregate benefits the owners in negotiations as it did in 2020.

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