He had a simple guiding principle when the league faced a major decision. All he wanted to know was if the change was “good for the game.” He wasn’t worried about partners, sponsors, shareholders or TV executives.
Most current owners agreed that adding two games to the league’s schedule is a good business move. The league could charge more for TV rights and create more incremental revenue.
Indianapolis owner Jim Irsay invoked Mara’s principle at the owner’s meeting held Wednesday at the Ritz-Carlton.
“I go back to what one of our wisest founders thought about, ‘Is it good for the game,’” Irsay said. “To me you always get back to that. … You have to focus on that and make sure that it is.”
Falcons safety Erik Coleman, the team’s union representative, also wants to know what kind of product will be on the field for those two extra games.
“We want to play a quality game,” Coleman said. “We don’t want guys to get out there trying to survive. We want to give our fans some great football every weekend.”
Irsay and several other owners want to know about any potential unintended consequences. He called it the “ripple effect.” They’ll figure out how to split up the money. Most are billionaires, and that’s their specialty.
Some of the issues include offseason programs, training camps, injured-reserve lists and expanded rosters. Commissioner Roger Goodell said they even want to consider the weather. They want to know about hot games in the South in September and about cold January games in Cleveland.
They also want to know more about the toll the extra games will take on the players’ bodies.
“I think it’s good for the game,” New York Jets owner Woody Johnson said. “I don’t think two games make a huge difference one way or the other. It does present more problems at the beginning because you have to analyze those young players and see who you keep and who you don’t keep. But I think the coaches are resourceful and can figure that out.”
The league will put its comprehensive plan on the fast track. Some consider it a silver bullet that could possibly help push along the labor negotiations. The league’s collective bargaining agreement with the players is set to expire in March.
Falcons president Rich McKay, co-chair of the competition committee, will be heavily involved in gathering the data and presenting additional recommendations. He clearly sees some adjustments coming to the offseason, to training camp and to the roster configuration.
There are three key objectives of the preseason. Teams are trying to get ready for their season opener, they are evaluating young talent and are trying to develop young talent.
“Two of those three are going to be challenges,” McKay said.
The owners believe they will come up with a plausible plan that they can eventually present to the union.
“Our fans have said pretty loud and clear that they’d like fewer preseason games,” New England owner Bob Kraft said. “It’s a win-win all around.