“On Saturday at 11:05 p.m. … (they) settled on the schedule spit out by one of the NFL computers: the 102,844th schedule they considered over 124 days of planning.” – King on creating the 2021 NFL schedule
“We throw away a lot of perfectly good schedules…No schedule’s perfect. And everybody’s got some gripe. But they were minimal this year.” – NFL Senior VP of Broadcasting Howard Katz to King on creating this year’s schedule
“It’s the game of the year, certainly. It might be the game of many, many years.” – NBC Sunday Night Football Executive Producer Fred Gaudelli to King on Buccaneers-Patriots in Week 4
STAMFORD, Conn. – May 17, 2021 – Peter King discusses the process behind creating the 2021 NFL schedule, which was announced last week, in this week’s edition of Football Morning in America, available now exclusively on NBCSports.com. King speaks with NFL executives Howard Katz and Mike North about creating this year’s schedule and provides notable nuggets for this year’s slate of games.
Peacock’s free, exclusive NBC Sports channel has weekday sports talk programming from 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. ET, which includes extensive NFL coverage from PFT Live featuring Mike Florio and Chris Simms live at 7 a.m. ET, followed by The Dan Patrick Show at 9 a.m. ET, The Rich Eisen Show at Noon ET, Peacock Original Brother From Another, with Michael Holley and Michael Smith, at 3 p.m. ET, and PFT PM at 5 p.m. ET. Chris Simms Unbuttoned streams at 6 p.m. ET Tuesday-Friday. ProFootballTalk.com continues to provide the latest offseason news, NBC Sports EDGE’s A Good Football Show and the Chris Simms Unbuttoned podcast discuss offseason storylines.
The following are highlights from this week’s edition of Football Morning in America:
2021 NFL SCHEDULE
King on the NFL schedule announcement: “Of all the overblown NFL events, the nuttiness around the release of the schedule is particularly stunning to me. Fans have known their 2021 opponents for four months. The order of the games, plus television details – that’s all that’s left…how the sausage is made, that interests me.”
King on the beginning of the NFL schedule announcement: “Commissioner Pete Rozelle, in office till 1989, believed each sport had its season and didn’t mind the quietude of the NFL offseason, interrupted only by a spurt of coverage for the draft. But against the wishes of football traditionalists, Paul Tagliabue and some NFL executives like Joe Browne – particularly envious of baseball’s buzzy offseason – began to push for a more active offseason.”
King on NFL offseason activities: “So the combine in February, free agency in March, the draft in April, the schedule-release in May, and players running around in shorts and T-shirts in May and June, camp opening in late July.”
King on this year’s schedule: “On Saturday at 11:05 p.m., 36 hours before they’d go to Goodell for the okay, (NFL Senior VP of broadcasting Howard) Katz and team settled on the schedule spit out by one of the NFL computers: the 102,844th schedule they considered over 124 days of planning.”
Katz to King on the process: “We throw away a lot of perfectly good schedules. That’s just indicative of how far we’ve come in this process. A dozen years ago, we wouldn’t have thought twice about it…No schedule’s perfect. And everybody’s got some gripe. But they were minimal this year.”
Katz on putting together this year’s schedule: “This year was a little tricky because we weren’t sure when we began the process whether we were going to play a 16-game, 17-week schedule or 17-game, 18-week schedule. We decided we would start by building the 17-game schedule, because it was new and…we wanted to see what the pitfalls were.”
Katz: “The definition of insanity’s doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result? That’s exactly what we do. Every day, (NFL VP of NFL Broadcast Planning) Mike (North) creates new seeds based on what we’ve seen and want to see. Then he puts those into the computer. The computer runs, spits things out. What the computer’s trying to do is solve our puzzle with the framework that we give it.”
King on scheduling Packers games: “Once Adam Schefter reported April 29 on Aaron Rodgers’ desire to play elsewhere, the schedule team had 13 days to determine whether to wean the league off any of Green Bay’s five prime-time games…Katz asked around for inside info, but the story was so cloudy. No one knows Rodgers’ fate. I doubt even he does.”
Katz on the Packers: “The Green Bay Packers are still the Green Bay Packers, with or without Aaron Rodgers. They’re a great team and a great brand. We started to think about some of the permutations of the schedule. Ultimately, when he didn’t get traded, we couldn’t solve for something we didn’t know. It was pretty deliberate the way we maxed out the Packers early in the season.”
King on Buccaneers-Patriots in Week on Sunday Night Football in Week 4: “I thought the league might want the buildup to last for weeks into the season. But I get why they did it. (Tom) Brady turns 44 in August, and he’s coming off off-season knee surgery, and at some point, isn’t it logical to think that a man of a certain football age won’t last a full 17 games? Plus, it’s logical to wonder if the Patriots’ 2020 struggles continue into this year. Playing it early is a hedge against the Patriots’ record, and a hedge against an old quarterback’s health.”
NBC Sunday Night Football Executive Producer Fred Gaudelli to King on Buccaneers-Patriots: “The only one we’ve ever done that I could compare it to was our first game – the Manning Bowl. Such tremendous interest in that game. And this year, Tampa Bay-New England will be a story that transcends sports for the week before the game. It’s the game of the year, certainly. It might be the game of many, many years.”
King on byes: “No byes till Week 6. That’s the first time since the league started giving byes that the weeks off have started that late. Teams just hate the early byes.”
North to King on byes: “Don’t forget, Tampa had a Week 13 bye last year. Everybody got healthy. They didn’t lose again.”
King on the Broncos: “Denver does not have a Monday night game, breaking the longest streak in MNF history. The Broncos had a 29-season run (1992-2020) with at least one Monday nighter. It is sobering for fans of the Broncos…to be irrelevant nationally. Until they fix the quarterback in a division full of really good ones, the national profile of the Broncos will be diminished.”
King on the Dolphins: “If the Dolphins can survive a tough five-game start…they’ll have a forgiving final stretch Miami has one road game in 56 days late in the season. If they start 3-2, the Dolphins will make the playoffs.”
King on the Eagles: “Fans will grouse with only two prime-timers, but Philadelphia’s got a good chance to be a factor if it can survive the 49ers, Chiefs and Bucs in the first six weeks. The Eagles don’t play a team with a 2020 winning record in the last seven weeks of the season.”
King the Steelers: “Ben Roethlisberger’s going to have to be great late for the Steelers to win big this year. Not only does Pittsburgh have a weighty nine of 17 games against teams that finished 11-5 or better last year, but four come in the final four weeks.”
King on Washington: “Strangest end of year schedule. WFT plays one division game before Dec. 12. Then it’s nothing but NFC East tilts in the last five weeks.”
UPDATES ON 11
King on players not attending offseason workouts: “The union is in a tough spot here. I can’t see the majority of marginal players and rookies skipping voluntary workouts. Those are the players, in all likelihood, who pushed the 2020 CBA over the finish line after so many big names and veterans campaigned against the deal because it added a 17th game to the schedule…The union can’t push too hard against the men who helped pass this CBA, but they can push for less intensity in the on-field work.”
King on rookie minicamps: “I think, as suspected, most if not all rookies attended minicamps held by 29 teams over the weekend. The agent for one rookie draftee told me his guy was pressured by one veteran on the team to not attend the team’s rookie camp. The agent told me his client said he respected what the veterans are trying to do, but there was no way he’d skip the camp and start his career off on the wrong foot with his team. Hard to imagine many if any rookies staying away.”
King on Aaron Rodgers and the Packers: “It’s much more a respect situation than a contractual one. Rodgers feels like his opinion inside the building isn’t valued, and it’s been exacerbated by the team taking his supposed heir, Jordan Love, in the 2020 draft without informing him first. With no real deadline (including the mandatory June minicamp) approaching, there’s more reason to let this thing simmer down for a few weeks than to rush to a conclusion that might, today, be impossible to reach.”
King on Broncos tackle Ja’Wuan James: “The Broncos cut the starting tackle after he sustained a torn Achilles in an offseason workout away from the Broncos facility. Denver doesn’t intend to pay James his $10 million salary for 2021 because he was injured away from team premises and placed on the non-football injury list. This is a line-in-the-sand issue for NFL teams after the players union advised players to stay away from voluntary workouts this offseason…It could be a litmus test for the NFLPA telling players to avoid working out at team facilities. Stay tuned”
King on Travis Etienne: “Surprise: The Jags will use Etienne almost exclusively in off-season work at wide receiver. Seems like a good idea, seeing if the best back on many boards in April can be a more durable Percy Harvin/Le’Veon Bell in September and October…I don’t see a downside here; even if Etienne doesn’t get flanked out much, the Jags would know at least if he can be the kind of versatile back to do Alvin Kamara things out of the backfield.”
King on Tim Tebow: “I don’t get too bothered by Tim Tebow taking up one of 90 training-camp roster spots in Jacksonville. As to how it’s going to impact the locker room, as many have pointed out, the Jaguars are a team that likely will have more than half the roster turned over this year from opening day last year. They were 1-15. This is a new day, with a new coach, and yes, Tebow would be able to get one of 90 slots with only one coach, Urban Meyer.”
Read the full FMIA column here and catch the weekly Peter King Podcast here.
The following are additional highlights of NBC Sports’ NFL coverage:
- PFT Live with NBC Sports’ Mike Florio and Chris Simms streams live on Peacock from 7 a.m. – 9 a.m. ET on weekdays, followed by The Dan Patrick Show at 9 a.m. ET, The Rich Eisen Show at Noon ET, Brother From Another at 3 p.m. ET, PFT PM at 5 p.m. ET. At 6 p.m. ET, Chris Simms Unbuttoned streams Tuesday-Friday.
- com continues to provide the latest news and updates.
- The Chris Simms Unbuttoned podcast and NBC Sports EDGE’s A Good Football Show continue the NFL discussion.
A new “Football Morning in America” posts every Monday morning exclusively on NBCSports.com through the NFL season. It was announced in May 2019 that King signed an exclusive agreement with NBC Sports Group that included writing a weekly Monday morning NFL column for NBCSports.com; making regular appearances on PFT Live with Mike Florio; and continuing to contribute to Football Night in America, the most-watched studio show in sports.