Plenty of people in and around the NFL don’t like Thursday football. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin isn’t one of them.
“I do not have an opinion nor do I care,” Tomlin told Cleveland media on Tuesday regarding Pittsburgh’s looming short-week showdown with the Browns. “I am not involved in the making of the schedule. We will be there.”
That’s a smart approach, one that reflects the acceptance that comes from having prepared for and coached 12 short-week games during his time with the Steelers, winning seven and losing five. Short-week football has become part of the fabric of the NFL, and given the money it generates, it’s going nowhere.
But while Tomlin has reached the “acceptance” phase, others are still stuck at “anger.” Raiders coach Jon Gruden, who was Tomlin’s boss in Tampa from 2002 through 2005, made it clear last week that he’s not a fan of short-week football.
“I hate this,” Gruden said. “I don’t believe in this Thursday football. I’m not going to be on a soapbox any more than that. It hurts us. It hurts both teams. The preparation. . . . I take a lot of pride in getting our guys ready to play. We need a little time to do that, but a lot of people disagree with me.”
A lot of people do indeed disagree with Gruden. People with a lot of money. People who determine when games will be played, in order to maximize the earning of more money.
Short-week football isn’t going anywhere. During the current labor negotiations, the players aren’t pushing to get rid of it. They recognize its value, and they realize what they’d lose if the NFL loses a big-money, huge-audience game played every Thursday from Week Two through Week 15, with three of them on Thanksgiving.
So coaches can either waste their time complaining about it, or they can focus their efforts on that once-per-year obligation to get a team that played on a Sunday ready to go on a Thursday.