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2020 was one heck of a year, and we are all eager to put it behind us. However, there were some good things to come out of it for the NFL.
Of course, the big theme is that the NFL helped us return to quasi-normalcy and was the first pro sport to complete an entire season without major postponements. The league was able to adapt in creative ways to accommodate the COVID situation. Some of those new changes are good for the teams and should stay.
Here is my top five list of 2020 NFL changes that should become permanent, in reverse order of importance:
5) A shorter off-season program – There were fewer off-season injuries and still quality football played, calling into question the need for all the extra work in the spring.
4) Fewer preseason games – There were no preseason games this year. I am not calling for that, but clearly fewer preseason games would not hurt. Perhaps just two preseason games (one home and one away) to work out the kinks. Teams should hold the last one at least two weeks before the regular season so that starters can see some playing time with reduced fear of an injury that will affect meaningful games.
3) Expand practice squads and allow for more flexibility – Roster flexibility was key in dealing with cluster injuries. Regardless of the number players injured or in COVID protocols, teams could still dress only 46 players. They should therefore have a bigger pool of players to choose from to put out a quality product.
2) A three-week injured reserve – This new rule must stay. The old rules were antiquated, demanding that players rest for eight games. Such a policy forced some teams to put players out for the year just for roster flexibility. Reducing the out time from eight weeks to three has been a welcome change.
1) More mid-week games – There were NFL games played on all seven days of the week this year. Every day may be too much, but what is wrong with Monday night double-headers or a Wednesday game? The ratings were good for these matchups.
To make Wednesday games work routinely, there is a simple path that I have been proposing for years:
The league is already expanding to 17 games. Wipe out two preseason games and add two weeks to the regular season, one week for the extra game and one for a second bye week. Pair the teams that play on Wednesday or Thursday to the bye week, and there is plenty of rest ahead of and after the game. Such a play would provide more football and more revenue while decreasing health risk.
Happy New Year and welcome to 2021! May the good things from 2020 stay and everything else go away.