In the past 70 years, there have been two NFL games played on Tuesdays.
On Oct. 13, 2020, the Tennessee Titans emerged from quarantine and, without much practice, beat the previously undefeated Buffalo Bills 42-16.
On Dec. 28, 2010, the Vikings sat around their snowbound Philadelphia hotel for three days before beating a good Eagles team 24-14 with backup quarterback Joe Webb.
NFL coaches love routine. They love regimentation. They can’t prove that routine and regimentation win games.
So as the Vikings and Falcons prepared to play on Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium despite a Falcons player and staffer testing positive for the coronavirus this week, no one should fret if the game winds up being postponed, or if the regular season winds up taking 22 weeks instead of 17, or if we see the advent of Every-Other-Wednesday Night Football.
The NFL already is conducting a grand and cynical experiment on whether large rosters practicing in 32 American cities can play a contact sport over five months during a pandemic. The league might as well conduct scheduling experiments. League bosses have never let tradition stop them before.
Remember, the league once played all of its games on Sunday afternoons.
Monday Night Football was an immediate success and remains appointment viewing for football fans. Sunday Night Football is a success. Thursday Night Football is widely considered a dubious exercise, but that’s mostly because the game isn’t always broadcast on over-the-air channels, and often features mediocre teams.
As COVID-19 continues to ravage the country, NFL postponements are becoming inevitable.
Instead of trying to pretend that it can operate as usual, the NFL should embrace chaos.
For some reason, the league has decided that adding a week or two to the regular season to allow for makeup games is a bad idea. This is silly. Every additional week of NFL play is an opportunity for the league to dominate the sports landscape.
This is the perfect season for the NFL to experiment. The only argument against playing on Tuesday and Wednesday nights is that midweek games will disrupt a team’s schedule or force players to perform without much recovery time.
But the NFL has never cared much about player health, and we have the Titans this season and the Vikings in 2010 to prove that normalcy and routine are highly overrated.
Remember, that 2010 Vikings season was a series of unfortunate events. A season after losing in the NFC title game in New Orleans, the Vikings …
• Brought back Brett Favre (who came back only for the money and didn’t finish the season).
• Traded for Randy Moss (who in a postgame news conference after a Vikings loss at New England professed his love for ... New England, and was then cut).
• Fired Brad Childress after the team quit on him, then made Leslie Frazier the interim head coach.
• Watched the Metrodome literally implode.
Then came their Week 16 trip to Philadelphia to face an Eagles team coached by Andy Reid and headed to the playoffs.
For that Tuesday night game, the Vikings were 5-9; the Eagles were 10-4. The Vikings were playing Webb because Brett Favre had been concussed when his head bounced off the frozen turf at TCF Bank Stadium, where the Vikings were playing because the Metrodome had become the Metrodivot.
The Vikings had their Sunday night game postponed until Tuesday night. I was about to quote “sources” telling me that the players spent much of Sunday and Monday drinking, but then linebacker Ben Leber tweeted out the information.
Hung over, hopeless and dealing with the kind of lethargy unique to sitting around hotels, the Vikings dominated the Eagles.
Athletes are more adaptable than coaches give them credit for.
“For us, it’s continue to prepare for the game just like we would any other week and we’ll figure it out as we go,” Vikings receiver Adam Thielen said. “This season — really, any season — you prepare and control what you can control and let everything else play itself out.”
Even on any given Tuesday.
Jim Souhan’s podcast can be heard at TalkNorth.com. On Twitter: @SouhanStrib. • firstname.lastname@example.org