By Sean Lanigan
I grew up a huge sports fan and particularly love football, including its history and the league’s logistics. One of those things includes how the NFL schedule gets made. Every year in April, when the NFL schedule gets released, not only do I look at the schedule, but I also read the accompanying articles of how Howard Katz creates it. Howard Katz is the COO of NFL Films and SVP of NFL Broadcasting. Here are four key things about the NFL schedule that may interest a football fan:
1. The television networks lobby for the football games. According to Sports Illustrated, before the Super Bowl, the four networks (CBS, ESPN, FOX, and NBC) give Katz’s team a list of the games they’d like to air. Of course, those lists are nearly identical. Those preferences are then used to generate over 60,000 possible schedules.
As an avid watcher, I know that certain NFL teams get much bigger ratings than others. The Dallas Cowboys are usually at the top of television ratings. They have a fascinating history that has made them professional football’s most loved and hated team. Win or lose; the Cowboys get ratings and a reaction from the audience. The two other teams I put up there are the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburg Steelers.
2. NFL teams make requests as well. For example, when the Chicago Bear's 2016 schedule was made, the team had its preferences. Bears President, Ted Philips, tried to lobby for fewer home games late in the year. It can get very cold in the winter in Chicago, and those games can be tough to sit through. I could see why the Bears would do this. Teams in the past have also requested not to play in Florida in September. The Sunshine State is still really hot and humid in October. With all teams making requests, you can’t honor all of them.
3. Even with the team and network requests, some NFL teams still get stuck with an unhappy schedule. It is not a perfect science, as you would assume. Let’s take the 2017 NFL schedule. Eight teams got stuck with three road games in a row: The Vikings, Eagles, Falcons, 49ers, Patriots, Bengals, Broncos, and Dolphins.
4. Have you ever considered why the NFC East division usually gets a lot of primetime games? Well, they have the Dallas Cowboy, the divisive team I mentioned in my first point. The other three teams play in some of the biggest television markets in the country. New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C. are in the top five in television markets. Bigger markets mean more eyeballs and ratings.
Creating the NFL season schedule may seem like a dream job in sports though it’s clearly hard to please everybody. However, if Howard Katz ever needs an assistant, I am ready.