Thursday Night Football has become a staple in the NFL schedule since it became a season-long television spot starting in 2014. They have aired on the major networks such as CBS, NBC and most recently, FOX. However, before this, Thursday Night Football used to only take place over the second half of the season and the games were only broadcasted by NFL Network.
Since 2014, TNF has become the brunt of many jokes and criticisms toward it. With the setup of all 32 teams being guaranteed a game in primetime, it allowed for some terrible matchups to occur in primetime. An example of this in 2020 is the winless New York Jets hosting the battered Denver Broncos on TNF. This all not to mention that in the past, TNF promoted color-rush jerseys, creating abominations such as the Jacksonville Jaguars’ all dark-gold uniforms.
While this is no longer the case, criticisms such as the lack of quality of play and the short week teams have to prepare for are still very prevalent. Back in 2016, former Seattle Seahawks’ cornerback Richard Sherman wrote this article for The Players’ Tribune, discussing why he hates Thursday Night Football. To sum up, he blasts the short turnaround from Sunday as it takes a full week to recover from the previous game.
Before I discuss my proposal to change the NFL schedule and get rid of Thursday Night Football (aside from the opening kickoff game and the Thanksgiving games), ratings have to be discussed. When looking at the top 100 American broadcasts of 2019, TNF does make appearances on the list with as much as over 16 million people tuning in to watch TNF. In Week 5 of this season, the Buccaneers/Bears game on TNF got 10.6 million viewers, a solid performance but not spectacular.
Instead of subjected NFL fans to mostly mediocre football games on Thursday nights and players to short recovery times, the NFL should get rid of TNF and move it to Monday afternoon, creating a weekly Monday Night Football doubleheader, which should air on ESPN. The first game should take place at 6:00 p.m. EST with the following game kicking off at 9:15 p.m. EST.
This season, we have seen three Monday night doubleheaders with positive COVID-19 cases postponing games and moving them to Monday. The most recent example of this was when the Kansas City Chiefs took on the Buffalo Bills in the game right before the actual MNF game between the Arizona Cardinals and the Dallas Cowboys. The Chiefs/Bills game did well, drawing in 12.16 million viewers on FOX and NFL Network, achieving more ratings than the proceeding game did as that drew 11.317 million viewers.
Having two games on Monday is by far the more appealing option. First, it allows players an extra day to prepare for the game after playing on Sunday and having six days before their next game is way more appealing than four days such as the case with TNF. With this recovery, time, the quality of the games improve.
Also, it works out well schedule wise. While there are some that would miss part of the first game due to work, those living in EST and CST time zones will be able to catch most if not all of the game. But it also allows the progression of games to flow better. Instead of a game which takes place three days before the main action occurs, having a Monday afternoon and early evening game allows more compactness in the schedule, allowing fans to take in all the action of the week’s set of games. This week, the Atlanta Falcons beat the Carolina Panthers 25-17 on TNF. Aside from die-hard fans, this game will be lost in the spotlight of Sunday and Monday’s games as it will have occured days ago.
Lastly, ESPN should televise both games on Monday. I do not like the idea of the three major networks using their top talent to cover the mundane TNF games each week. It ruins the special feel of broadcasters such as Joe Buck and Jim Nantz calling the best games each week. Instead, giving a new ESPN crew a weekly game to call allows for fresh voices when watching games.
Thursday Night Football is hated by just about everyone and with COVID-19 forcing Monday doubleheaders, the NFL should move on from TNF and give us weekly Monday doubleheaders from here on out.