Laced with a myriad variables and novel dynamics, the worlds most unpredictable sport has been thrown into chaos and it doesn’t seem overly sure how manage it. The Texans players are reporting into the building, rookies have finally been paid their signing bonus after the forced and prolonged off-season. So football should be right round the corner but for so many reasons, it doesn’t feel all that close.
The league has maintained steadfast in ‘finding a way’ to start on time. It suggested that over $75million have been spent on testing and contact tracing. Each team has a larger number of employees, playing and non-playing to consider, in comparison to rival sports. Football also plays a far greater role to ensure safety of those connected to the game but they are also central in delivering a sense of normality to millions globally.
Soft tissue strains and concussion won’t be the only concern of Goeff Kaplan’s team this season. How the team manages the inevitable situation of players and coaching staff contracting corona virus, will shape the teams fortunes. But the biggest test of the players professionalism and commitment will be: how disciplined will they be when away from the facility? The KC Guard, Duvernay-Tardif & Patriots Tackle Marcus Cannon have both chosen to opt out. It’s more than feasible that a Texans players with underlying health constraints may do the same.
When the Watson and co. take the field to a c.20% capacity crowd at Arrowhead Stadium, September 10th, there will continue to be a lingering fear. As the season may come grinding to halt, just as the world did this March. Although, if the season is to run its proposed course, Houston’s road games have a new complexion, as home field advantage is less relevant. The games in Missouri, Pittsburgh, Chicago and the Thanksgiving-Day crowd in Detroit, are now more limited in the equation of finding road wins.
The lack of mini-camps & OTA’s factor cannot be underestimated. They will likely all but reduce, if not remove, the impact of rookies as it pertains to winning games. The Texans seemed to be already prepping for this with only five draftees this year. O’Brien was quick to call this a “veteran year” and that reality seems to be shaping up to be undeniably true. In the absence of pre-season games, teams may have no choice.
The limited off-season will reduce teams abilities to install new systems, concepts or even find new players. The already slender preparation time, the removal pre-season games will reduce chances for un-drafted-free-agents to make the roster, a consistent source of talent. The quality of execution in plays, across all three phases and tackling will fall, below normal standards and with limited opportunity to correct. The opening weeks may be far less predicable than once thought, which for the Texans considering they face Kansas City and Baltimore in the first two weeks, is a positive notion.
Even in a best case scenario, it probable that star players will miss games or position-coaches will be calling plays due to the isolation protocol. A reduced and revised schedule is not out of the question either, thought all will be dependant on state governance. But this 2020 season will be distinct departure from the product that season ticket holders and networks are currently paying for.
As the resulting economic impacts continue to unravel, the Texans will have to adjust their spending accordingly, a less than ideal scenario, for a team about to extend it’s Quarterback. Particularly, if the 2021 cap falls to reported $175m level, multiple players could be released and contracts re-negotiated to fit under that cap. One study shows income across its game day revenue streams, NRG stadium totals over $300million. A gap in immediate cash flow at a time when operating expenses are rising, isn’t what owners are accustomed to or will be willing to accept.
The reality of the league exists to extract you from your money. They are clinically astute at doing it and will have to be even more so in this coming seasons. The appetite for legislature across states may see a favourable shift towards fan’s access to gambling. As those dollars will need to find a way back out of your pockets into the shield’s coffers. It’s not in anyones interest for the leagues income or value to erode but just as the 2020 seasons playing landscape changes, so may team means of income.
Not having football in Houston for five-years is still a sore point for many. Tailgating and game-day traditions are Texans Football, every bit as much as what happens between the lines. So the relegation to your arm chair, will grossly sanitise the energy of a Sunday but for now, it’s the only way, if live action is to be a possibility.