Why an eighteen game schedule makes sense

The National Football League, specifically commissioner Roger Goodell, has been floating the idea of an eighteen game regular season for the balance of 2010, with the plan reaching fate accompli status at the last league meetings in August.

NFL coaches are certainly helping reinforce the notion that an eighteen game season…and more importantly a two game pre-season…is the way to go.

Two weeks into this season, the Bills, Panthers, Eagles and perhaps Raiders have decided to make quarterback changes.

Buffalo, Carolina, Philadelphia and Oakland all went through their off-season programs…from March through August…with the idea that they had a number one quarterback. Trent Edwards, Matt Moore, Kevin Kolb and Jason Campbell were the men in their locker rooms. Coaches sung their praises, and didn’t see any reason to change direction during the pre-season.

Once the bullets of the regular season started flying, coaches decided that their off-seasons weren’t properly thought out and that they needed to make a switch.

It took new Bills coach Chan Gailey two games…and Edwards’ one touchdown, two interceptions and 58.3 passer rating…to make the switch to former Rams’ journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick. Why Gailey couldn’t figure out Fitzpatrick wasn’t the guy is beyond comprehension. Edwards can’t move, and Fitzpatrick can. The Bills have a horrendous offensive line, and Fitzpatrick can at least scramble to save himself. That could have been determined in two pre-season games just as easily as four.

Carolina was intoxicated by Moore’s stretch run last year, in which he completed 63% of his passes for a 200 yard per game average, with eight touchdowns and one interception in going 4-1. This year, Moore has been awful, completing just 41% of his passes for two TD’s and four interceptions. Moore has a second round pick in Jimmy Clausen behind him. It doesn’t matter if it was a two or a four game pre-season, Moore was going to the bench with a two-week performance like this.

If Kevin Kolb gets hurt in the first game of an eighteen game schedule and Michael Vick plays the way he has, Andy Reid pulls the plug on Kolb. If Reid is going to make that move after Kolb has been his starter since Easter, it doesn’t matter what either QB did during the pre-season.

And in Oakland, all coaching decisions depend on the whims that day of owner Al Davis. Once again, it doesn’t matter if they played two, four or six pre-season games. That call isn’t going to be made based upon the pre-season.

The Rams brought in Mark Clayton, and he became their number one receiver with two days of practice. Brett Favre shows up for the Vikings and becomes the guy with two pre-season games, even though Tarvaris Jackson has been the number one all pre-season long. Ben Roethlisberger, Byron Leftwich and Dennis Dixon got the vast majority of the snaps in Pittsburgh’s pre-season, but Charlie Batch has them at 2-0.

Ultimately, what happens during the pre-season doesn’t matter in the NFL. Coaches are telling us with their decisions at the most important position that it’s all about the regular season, and not about the pre-season. Players are showing us that they need little or no time to learn a system. And players like Batch and Darrelle Revis and James Butler tell us you can get by with a minimal number of pre-season games. Coaches have their minds made up after two pre-season games.

There’s no reason for a four game pre-season. The clear evidence is that everyone can get by with two, and that the NFL should switch to an eighteen game regular season.