New Orleans just found itself on the receiving end of some seriously devastating penalties. It will spend parts of 2012 without general manager Mickey Loomis and assistant coach Joe Vitt, and all of it without head coach Sean Payton. The whole ordeal has been a public relations disaster for a league flailing to make the inherently violent game of football seem safe.
Of course, Peyton Manning and Tim Tebow provided a timely distraction for the NFL PR machine. The blockbuster signing of arguably the greatest quarterback of all time coupled with the headlining trade of arguably the most overvalued quarterback of all time has resulted in a media orgy that quickly shifted away from the Saints.
And yet, with all the chaos (both positive and negative) bringing the brightest spotlight on the NFL, Roger Goodell and the team in charge of scheduling dropped the ball with the 2012 season opener.
The Giants will face off against the Cowboys on Wednesday, Sept. 5, to begin the next NFL regular season.
Certainly, there is plenty of merit to be found in this game. The NFC East has developed a reputation for being notoriously competitive. Eli Manning and Tony Romo are among the biggest names in the NFL. While New York and its tremendous media market must be in the game thanks to the Giants' Super Bowl Victory, Dallas will add plenty of media appeal with a big market of its own and the everlasting label of "America's Team."
All in all, Dallas seems to be a logical choice. Until you look at who else will appear on the Giants' schedule in 2012.
Forget, for a moment, that the Giants have to also play the Eagles twice a year, and that a matchup with the so-called "Dream Team" in its second attempt at living up to that name would make for a juicy storyline. Instead, look to the non-divisional opponents.
Green Bay headlines the list. It's hard to say how Goodell could overlook this game. Did the Packers not please the high and mighty commisioner enough when they aired it out with the Saints in 2011? The game had more than 27 million viewers, which would have been a record had those same Saints not made for an even more compelling season opener in 2010 coming off their epic Super Bowl victory.
And of course the last time Green Bay and New York played, they set the record for most-watched NFL divisional round playoff game. Forty-five million people saw them compete, and with some of the most dedicated fans in the NFL on both sides, there's little reason to believe the last two Super Bowl winners couldn't set records again.
Beyond the Packers, the choices are still abundant before settling on the Cowboys. What about the 49ers, who will match up with the G-Men after a thrilling NFC Championship that peaked at almost 56 million viewers? Or perhaps those same bounty-damaged Saints, who could provide an enthralling look at their ability to compete after the commissioner's thrashing?
Any three of those teams would make for a more compelling game than the Giants and Cowboys can provide. The last time the two NFC East rivals played was in that nail-biter of a season finale, when both teams were fighting for their playoff lives. Well, the Giants cleaned up with a 31-17 victory, and the ratings peaked at just 23.25 million viewers.
Goodell is in a tough spot — he was forced to move this game to Wednesday night after President Barack Obama's speech at the Democratic National Conventional presented a conflict — but that's no excuse for putting out a shoddy product.
The NFL brings in $9 billion a year and is in the middle of an offseason where it's earning more than that in media coverage. Capping that offseason with a less-than-full-strength season opener is a waste of all the chaos and attention that New Orleans, Manning and Tebow brought over the last month.
While many fans will still watch the game simply because their love of football is the dominant motivator, Goodell shouldn't expect to set any records come Sept. 5.