NFL owners discussed flexible scheduling for Thursday Night Football. They did not vote on the proposal but instead changed the rules to allow teams to play on two short weeks during the season.
That will allow a better inventory of teams for late-season games.
“We’re interested in making sure that we get exposure for all of our clubs. We also believe that these national windows are for clubs that are playing well,” Brian Rolapp, the NFL’s executive vice president/chief media and business officer, said. “We want to put the best teams in the best windows.”
In 2006, the NFL adopted flexible schedule for late-season Sunday nights. This season, late-season Monday night flexing is possible for the first time.
The league had proposed late-season flexing of Thursday night games after Amazon was left with some not-so-prime-time games late last season.
The pushback began immediately.
“We looked at a number of factors before we even got to today to bring the proposal to ownership,” Hans Schroeder, executive vice president and chief operating officer of NFL Media, said. “I think there was a lot of interest in looking at it, but obviously when you’re talking about moving a game from Sunday to Thursday, there are a lot of considerations on the fan side, especially on that type move and how do you do that in an appropriate way. How do we think about longer notice periods so we give fans more time to plan? Those type things. So, I think there was a lot of interest in the room. There was a lot of challenge to make sure we’re thinking through this thoroughly and have the best way to do this if we’re going to do it, and I think that’s the work we’ve got to do going forward is to come back and figure out what is that right model for potential Thursday night flex.”
Instead, the NFL moved to make more good teams available for late-season Thursday night games by allowing every team to play on two short weeks. The Cowboys did that in 2022, playing their annual Thanksgiving Day game and then again on Thursday, Dec. 29 following a Saturday, Christmas Eve game.
A team, like the Cowboys, actually could play three Thursday games. They could play Thanksgiving, the week after Thanksgiving and another Thursday game at some other time during the season. Only two of those would be on short weeks.
The Thursday night opener also does not count as it is not played on a short week.
Teams are limited to seven prime-time games a season.
“By definition, with this new rule where a team can play more than once, the math will say that there might be teams that don’t appear on Thursday football,” Rolapp said. “That’s certainly possible.”
The schedule release in May will lock in the Thursday schedule for the season but expect to see the teams that are the biggest TV draws on the docket on Thursdays late in the season. The Texans are among teams that likely won’t have a Thursday night game (or any prime-time game) this season.
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