How To Solve NFL’s London & Thursday Night Problems


The NFL loves playing football in London. The also love playing football on Thursday nights. The problem is that no team wants to move to London and the players don’t like playing on Thursday night. So how do you accommodate everyone?

Seems a lot of people have their own opinions. For example former NFL player Sean Gilbert who is jockeying for the job of NFLPA executive director which is currently held by DeMaurice Smith has an idea about the Thursday night games. Gilbert believes that every team who plays on Thursday night should have a bye week the week before.

That sounds great except for a few key issues. One there is only one bye week per team and teams will often play twice on Thursday night. The other issue is that you would need one team to have a bye week in week one or eliminate the Thursday night game entirely for week two. His plan has a lot of flaws because it’s not realistic. Add in teams playing in London and those bye weeks and suddenly you’re left with a lot of teams having bye weeks early in the season and some teams having bye weeks after the third quarter of the season is over. Not going to happen.

London is another issue entirely because the NFL wants to expand it’s grip overseas. The NFL has repeatedly stated they would like to put a franchise in London by the end of the decade but reality says that won’t likely be possible. Consider the logistics of the entire thing. Training camps, pre-season games, road games every other weekend for that London team, eight teams having to fly to London and having a bye week on their return. Makes no sense. The issue here is travel and make no mistake there is a lot of travel.

So how do you fix it? Gilbert recognizes the need for the Thursday night package because it’s bringing money in for the players and money ultimately is the root of wanting a team in London as well. Then of course there is the 17 game schedule that apparently no one aside from the NFL wants to see.

The easiest rule to install would be with the Thursday night games. Teams don’t need a bye week prior to a short week but they don’t need the travel either. There is no reason that the teams who play on Thursday night can’t have a home game the week before. This at least allows both teams to have limited or no travel the week before allowing the players to get the rest and trainer attention they need immediately without flying back for a short game. Last week the Dolphins played in Detroit and then flew home after the game only to have a short week ahead.

Putting teams at home the week before a Thursday night game makes sense.

On to London the issue grows a lot more disconcerting. As I stated you can’t put a full time team in London without maybe playing 8 consecutive games at home and 8 consecutive on the road to help the travel nightmare that comes with it. So why not put away the notion of adding a team to London and instead install the 17th game and have each team play that extra game in London? That puts 17 weeks of football in the U.K. and while the Englanders may not get one team to cheer for they will at least know that each year their favorite teams will play at least one game there.

Naturally there is an issue with bye weeks. Those would be an issue in every week similarly to the Thursday night issue but you could play the games early on Sunday with a 9:00 a.m. start in the eastern U.S. and teams would be back at home on Monday morning early with a day off ahead of them and then back to work for the following week. The Dolphins traveled to London only two days ahead of their game this season so teams won’t have to go overboard with missing valuable work time.

The point is that no one really will have an answer for what the NFL wants and the NFLPA demands as compensation for it. In the end it will come down to what idea puts more money in everyone’s pocket regardless of who pays the price for it. Finding the simplest and easiest solution for all parties makes the most sense which of course is why it wouldn’t happen.

How would you solve the NFL’s London/Thursday night football issues?