The Jets landed on the NFL’s first-ever Black Friday game on Prime Video in part because Amazon wanted a New York football team playing on the biggest shopping day of the year.
“Amazon did reach out to us and suggested ‘maybe, as we’re the retail leader in this space and New York is the biggest market and the No. 1 retail market, maybe a game in New York might be a fun way to introduce this concept,’” NFL VP of broadcast planning Mike North said in a conference call on Friday. “We did look at Eagles-Giants. We looked at a Jets home game. But we looked at other games, as well.”
North said some people in the league liked the idea of a Chiefs-Raiders game in that spot.
“Black Friday in the Black Hole,” he said.
The Cincinnati Bengals also volunteered to host the game and make it an annual tradition, which is something North said the NFL will “explore.”
Unquestionably, acquiring Aaron Rodgers landed the Jets their five prime-time night games plus the sixth in that exclusive 3 p.m. Black Friday slot.
The league was prepared for both scenarios, using AWS analytics to spit out different permutations depending on whether Rodgers remained a Green Bay Packer or got dealt.
“If Aaron Rodgers is gonna be a Jet, great, let’s lock a couple of the Jets’ games into prime time, let’s allow a few more to be doubleheaders, let’s consider them for Black Friday, run [the schedule matrix] again,” North said. “If Aaron Rodgers doesn’t get the deal done, if they don’t agree to the trade, then maybe May 1 we kind of peel back on some of those. Run it again. So we were lucky that those planes landed prior to the draft and we were able to lock it into a path we had already gone through.”
It was most interesting, though, that Amazon’s input landed the Black Friday game in the company’s preferred market. It was a reminder — in the context of the debate about teams’ increased Thursday Night Football appearances — about which voices hold sway in the room.
Giants co-owner John Mara was infuriated in March when a measure passed to let the NFL schedule teams for two Thursday night games per season, and another measure attempting to flex games to Thursdays from Weeks 14-17 was narrowly voted down.
That measure is expected to come back up for a second discussion and vote between May 22-24 at the spring owners’ meetings in Minnesota, too.
“At some point, can we please give some consideration to the people who are coming to the games?” an incredulous Mara said.
Mara called the idea of flexing games to Thursday night with only 15 days notice “abusive” to fans.” He said he wasn’t “crazy about” making teams play two Thursday games per year, either, citing player health concerns and saying the NFL bypassed protocol in vetting the idea.
But he acknowledged they were having the conversation because “ratings towards the end of the year on Amazon were down a little bit.”
“You’re gonna add a second one and it’s gonna be late in the season when players’ bodies are a little more beaten up and battered than they were maybe earlier in the season,” Mara said. “I think we need to look at that … Players don’t like playing on Thursday nights… I think you add a second one, it’s not gonna be very popular.”
In the 2023 schedule, there are three teams scheduled to play twice on Amazon’s Prime Video Thursday Night Football: the Chicago Bears, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New Orleans Saints. The Jets are a fourth team on Amazon’s package twice, including a Thursday Night visit to Cleveland late in the season and their Black Friday home game.
The league says there are eight teams playing on multiple short weeks this season, including the Detroit Lions, who are playing on Thursday night three times including the NBC season opener at the Kansas City Chiefs.
“You play your way into prime time,” North said.
So far, North says, “nobody gave us real significant pushback” when the NFL got teams on a call to discuss their short weeks and schedules before the release. He thinks the bigger question will be if the NFL is able to balance the inequity from year to year.
“Ownership knew what they voted for,” North said. “They knew it was gonna be a chance that it landed on them in year one. I think what everyone’s gonna be more focused on is what are we gonna do next year and the following year? Is it gonna fall on the same teams over and over again? I think Pittsburgh’s got both of their short weeks at home this year, so how competitively unfair is that?
“As of right now, there’s nobody really screaming and yelling at us, ‘Why’d you pick me?’” he said. “But a quarter of the league ended up in this bucket this year with multiple short weeks. If any of those teams ends up in the bucket again next year, I suspect we’ll hear maybe just a little more griping.”
AROUND THE LEAGUE
Seven-time Super Bowl champion quarterback Tom Brady is in “deep” discussions to become a limited partner of the Las Vegas Raiders, according to ESPN, meaning Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels — Brady’s longtime Patriots offensive coordinator — might one day work for his former quarterback. The report said Brady’s investment is expected to be “passive,” with no operational control or authority in business or football matters. Brady, who tried to orchestrate a trade to the Raiders late in his career, also has bought a stake in the WNBA’s Las Vegas Aces, a team that is also primarily owned by Raiders owner Mark Davis. …
The attorneys general of New York and California recently opened a joint investigation into allegations of workplace discrimination and pay inequities at the NFL offices, according to the New York Times. The league has said it will cooperate and doesn’t tolerate discrimination in any form. The NFL faces accusations from dozens of current and former employees who described a demoralizing culture that drove some women to quit and left others feeling ostracized. “No matter how powerful or influential, no institution is above the law, and we will ensure the NFL is held accountable,” New York AG Letitia James said in a statement. …
North, the NFL’s VP of broadcast planning, said one reason the Giants and Eagles were scheduled to play on Christmas Day, a Monday, was that “you know that game has to have playoff implications.” Do you?
Here’s the good news: North does not foresee the NFL scheduling games on Christmas Day next year when it falls on Wednesday. …
Dan Snyder just won’t go away. The Washington Commanders owner and his lawyers are lobbying the NFL to limit the release of attorney Mary Jo White’s investigative report into allegations of Snyder’s sexual misconduct and financial improprieties, according to ESPN. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who has enabled Snyder throughout the dragged-out process, has promised the report will be released in full. A group led by Philadelphia 76ers billionaire owner Josh Harris is attempting to purchase the franchise for $6.05 billion. But one owner told ESPN that Snyder “won’t go away without a fight.”
THEY SAID IT
“The worst thing we could do to a team was have them play the Kansas City Chiefs.” — North, the NFL’s VP of broadcast planning, on what the analytics deemed most unfair to a team’s schedule
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