Okay, so tomorrow, an incredible advancement in robotics is announced for the NFL. Instead of players taking the field, robots will, connected mentally to the players, who are in a special holodeck type chamber. The robots take the exact physical shape of the player they’re connected to, and act and react at the same speed. The humans receive enough tactile feedback to genuinely mimic the field, which unfortunately includes injury, but not concussions or concussive force. Best of all, robot repair and maintenance is entirely paid for by reductions in medical and legal expenses.
The upshot is, the risk of serious injury and CTE in football is now no more than any other major professional sport played in the U.S.
This means, of course, that one of the big complaints about football season, its shortness and the randomness it introduces, can be addressed. Suppose the number of teams, and their makeup, remain entirely unchanged. How long do you think the season should become? Would you change the playoff structure?
Tldr: How would football look if its toll on the human body were no more serious than that of basketball or baseball, with their much longer seasons?
Much as I want football to go year-round, what we have now is perfect. The length of the regular season is just right, fancy robotics/CTE mitigation/whatnot have no effect on my opinion. What makes the NFL so popular is its limited schedule. People watch every game because they mean more. Games wouldn’t be an event if they played more of them.
What should have happened was the USFL owners should have listened to David Dixon and controlled costs, grown slowly, and not listened to jerks like Donald Trump who wanted to go head-to-head on salaries (and later on scheduling) with the NFL. Wouldn’t it be nice to be looking forward to summer football played by top talent with the support of major networks? It could have happened. We could have had year-round football.
Rugby league players have an 8 month season already. The NRL has 26 rounds in its regular season plus playoffs at the end. The top players also have to play State of Origin and a few international games as well. Yet the players seem to manage it okay.
Personally I find it way too long a season to follow every week but it’s clearly physically possible.
I’m much more of a football fan than any other sport, and I find it interesting how it’s colored my opinions on how long sports seasons should be. I feel like football is the perfect length (except I’m not a fan of how late they play the college national championship after the regular season). Basketball? I don’t follow college at all (except my own team, where I watch results but only a few regular season games) until the conference tourneys. I roll my eyes at how long the NBA regular season is (and heck, the playoffs are too long too). Baseball is just painfully long and I don’t even bother looking at the standings until August.
Look at baseball where a starting pitcher may start once every 5 games and a relief pitcher every other game. If physical wear and tear were a major problem for football they could adopt the same type of strategy. I think the economics of fan interest as well as the weather and union contracts (players want long vacations) are the major factors.
I challenge this assumption. One of the great things about the current setup is that each game means a lot. It’s not like baseball, basketball, or hockey where no particular game is all that important. Lengthening the season would devalue each game and would dilute the spectacle that is the weekly Sunday violence fest. Having TNF is already eroding some of that.
Let me posit the first actual answer to the OP, here on post #16. I’d think 20-24 games would be a good start, likely towards the lower end so that you can stay within 1/2 a year once playoffs are factored in. Still plenty of variation due to the schedule, every game matters, and it panders to our attention span. The nice thing about the robots is you can eliminate the bye week as well.
I work at the front desk of the math department of a major (well, WE think it’s “major,” anyway) university. So we have people in the department from all over the place. A while ago I was asked a similar question by a German visiting scholar who wondered why the N.F.L. doesn’t have a full, double round-robin schedule (since that’s what they do in Die Bundesliga and other soccer leagues around the world [except here in the U.S., of course]). I told him that football (the AMERICAN version, of course) is simply too brutal a sport to expect even those highly-trained professional athletes to be able to play it more than once a week. So if the N.F.L. were to go to a true double round-robin scheduling format there, simply put, would NOT be enough weekends in the calendar year (I’m sure everybody who follows the N.F.L. understands this). But if your question is: “How long should the N.F.L. season last IF the human body could tolerate all the abuse it takes during games?” I still think the current time frame works. Matter of fact I remember telling that German fellow that “we’re used to the football season taking place during a certain part of the year. We don’t like it extending much beyond that.” (In fact I don’t know why the Super Bowl is now played in February when it used to be played in mid-January!) Optimally, September to January. I tolerate the extension into February largely because I have little choice in the matter but I think most people would have a REAL problem with the N.F.L. season extending into March!