Real hot take coming in right now: I hate Thursday Night Football but love Thanksgiving football.
Sounds hypocritical, right?
It really isn’t.
Football on Thanksgiving goes back… I mean, way back.
It’s tradition, even if sometimes the teams and games we get aren’t exactly great.
Case in point, for years, the only two NFL games that were played on this day were always hosted by the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys, even if both teams were terrible.
But we put up with it the same way we put up with the cousins who we really don’t care for with polar opposite world views at dinner. It’s tradition, and you take the good with the bad.
Thursday Night Football logo for telecasts simulcast on CBS & NFL Network (CBS Sports)
The NFL added a third Thanksgiving game in 2006 with no fixed teams (meaning any team could play in it, provided the NFL deemed them worthy, of course). Some of these games have been good, some have been bad, but it at least felt like the league was attempting to ensure we had a game featuring quality (or, at least, supposed quality) teams on a huge holiday for the country and for the sport of football.
2006 was also the year that the NFL began regularly having Thursday Night Football games (there was a history of NFL games on non-Thanksgiving Thursdays prior to 2006, but they were sporadic enough that 2006 is where we’ll start).
It started out innocently enough. The first TNF game actually was a Thanksgiving night matchup, which shows how late in the season regularly scheduled Thursday games were… at first.
Gradually, as broadcast contracts came up, the NFL pushed TNF more and more, and it began earlier and earlier in the season before finally becoming a season-long occurrence in 2014.
Thursday football had gone from tradition and weird scheduling to the league forcing itself down our throats on yet another day of the week.
That would be all well and good if the games were good, like Monday Night Football had historically been.
But they haven’t been. Some of the matchups have been dreadful.
Garbage Time with Katie Nolan mocks a poor matchup on Thursday Night Football
That’s the thing. Thursday Night Football hasn’t given us Cowboys – Patriots, it continues to give us Jaguars-Titans. All 32 teams are required to appear on primetime at least once every season, so this appears to be the NFL’s attempt to burn off certain teams and fulfill the requirement.
Then, shocker, people didn’t tune in to these games.
This is not to say I expect every single primetime game to be a thriller until the very end, but even industry legends tend to agree with me.
The easiest fix would be to get rid of the requirement that every single team appears on at least one primetime telecast a season. Make the Browns earn their way onto national television and we’ll all watch, but as they continued to spiral toward what would only be the second 0-16 season in league history, they were featured on TNF on November 10th.
You already know how that went.
Bad football today can be written off as tradition.
Bad football mid-week in the middle of October can’t be.
Thus the headline.
Thanksgiving is the only Thursday the NFL should play on.