One of the challenges with the NFL’s Thursday Night Football package has always been the quality of the teams involved. That’s been an issue going back to the NFL Network-only days. And while there’s been at least some effort to boost those matchups in the broadcast network era (NBC, then Fox) and now the streaming-exclusive (Amazon’s Prime Video, outside of local markets) era, there were still some notable TNF duds this past season.
But that may change soon. Last month, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell mused on the idea of flex scheduling for TNF. And now, the NFL’s owners are formally set to discuss the idea of a TNF flex scheduling policy. That was reported by John Ourand and Ben Fischer of Sports Business Journal Thursday, and then confirmed (at least, to the point that the owners will “deliberate…over the prospect of taking a vote”) by the league Friday:
The NFL is prepping an owner vote to start flex scheduling Amazon’s “Thursday Night Football."
Co-byline with @BenFischerSBJ.https://t.co/xFNEvZFfWn
— John Ourand (@Ourand_SBJ) March 24, 2023
The NFL's Jeff Miller confirms the team owners will deliberate at the league meeting over the prospect for taking a vote on implementing a flexible-scheduling plan for Thursday night games.
— MarkMaske (@MarkMaske) March 24, 2023
Here’s more from that Ourand/Fischer piece on the particulars of what’s currently under consideration:
Specifically, the measure awaiting owners would permit the league to:
- Shift Sunday afternoon games to Thursday nights in weeks 14-17, with 15 days’ notice.
- Schedule teams for Thursday games after a previous Sunday game twice in the same season, up from the current limit of once.
NFL resolutions rarely are sent to the full ownership for a vote without a high degree of confidence they will pass, and the two media committees have been supportive, sources said. It’s not clear when the changes would become effective.
As Fischer and Ourand note, though, an interesting wrinkle here is that coaches will be at these league meetings, unlike many NFL owner-only meetings. And coaches have long complained about TNF in general for the preparation challenges and short weeks it provides, and that Thursday-after-Sunday shift might draw particular coach opposition. The owners aren’t necessarily going to pass up a broadcast-beneficial move just over pushback from coaches, but it’s interesting that coaches may get a chance to voice complaints in person on this.
And there could be individual player or NFLPA-wide opposition here as well. There have already been many concerns raised from those corners on TNF injuries. And the Thursday-after-Sunday increase might be notable there. There are also challenges for fans with rescheduled games, as notable with any sort of flex scheduling.
But flex scheduling does often make for more compelling matchups for national broadcasts, rather than the “used car” Amazon broadcaster Al Michaels often complained about this year. And that’s why it’s continued to expand, both in how many Sunday Night Football games can be flexed and more recently with flex plans for Monday Night Football (which had also long been discussed). And with Goodell himself bringing this idea up last month, there’s certainly some league office support for it. But there does seem to be a larger challenge in shifting Sunday games to Thursday, three full days away, then in shifting game times on Sunday or shifting a Sunday game to Monday. We’ll see what the details wind up being, and if this winds up coming to fruition.