Green Bay Packers team president Mark Murphy might be the perfect symbol for the fate of the 18-game season. Once in favor of it, Murphy now is against the idea.
"Now, to be honest with you, I couldn't support a move to 18," Murphy told Packers shareholders Tuesday, via the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. "I just think with all the focus on the player health and safety, it would be really hard to do that.
"I would be in support of a move to two and 16. Reduce the number of preseason games. The challenge there obviously is you're losing revenue. On the other end, do you really have enough time to develop younger players if you only have two preseason games?"
Murphy is not quite a team owner, but he essentially has the responsibilities of an owner with the publicly owned Packers. His lack of support for the extended schedule is the first of its kind we can think of coming from the ownership ranks.
Commissioner Roger Goodell aggressively supported a potential 18-game schedule during the last round of collective bargaining agreement negotiations, but the concept never particularly seemed close to getting pushed through. The NFL could revisit the 18-game season concept, but it's hard to imagine the players supporting the idea.
As part of the last CBA, the NFL gave up the right to add regular season games unilaterally without the NFL Players Association's approval. The league can cut the preseason in half from four games to two.
Murphy's words might not exactly be "breaking ranks" but they are telling. The 18-game season no longer receives the support it once did. And Murphy felt comfortable enough with his opinion that he said so in a public forum.