It is a package of NFL games that nobody seems to want, but also always seems to find a home. Yes, I’m talking about those Thursday Night games which for the next five years which will air on the NFL network, with most games also available on FOX.
I remember there being Thursday night NFL games as early as 1978 when the Monday Night Football crew got to work these bonus games. Those would occur a few times during the course of the year, maybe four times at most – not every week of the season. But when I think of Thursday nights growing up in Florida in the fall, I actually think of junior varsity high school football. “JV” football on Thursday nights, varsity games Friday nights, youth league games all day Saturday.
Everyone tries to lay claim to Thursday night – they’ve played college games on ESPN going back decades, for example. But, no one seems all that successful of making it a “signature” night for football. There’s been a furor as of recent seasons to cut back on NFL games being played on Thursdays other than Thanksgiving Day – which may come to a head when the players and owners work out their next work agreement in the coming years. But seeing those all-important dollar signs and money to be made, they keeping scheduling the games, and the various networks play “hot potato” with the package.
Personally, I think that as the league continues its declines (ratings for the first week of the 2018-2019 season were a bit down), I think Thursday night games wind up being the first casualty. It will take a few years (at least until 2023), but if the NFL ever just focused on Sunday and Monday night games – I don’t think anyone would miss these Thursday nights where these games just take up space unnecessarily.