Michael North isn’t quite kicking back and relaxing just yet.
The man who oversees the assembling of the NFL schedule knows the job is never considered done even after the league announces, as it did Thursday, the days and times of the 256 regular-season matchups that have been known (along with location) since the end of last season.
‘We’ve been waiting for this for a long time’
“Still waiting for reaction to trickle in,” North, the NFL’s senior director of broadcasting, told Tom Pelissero and Phil Savage on Late Hits. “Hope we didn’t miss anything, hope we didn’t overlook anything. I’ll feel better in another day or two, but it’s an exciting day. Obviously not just for us, but for all the players, all the teams, all the fans. We’ve been waiting for this for a long time. We’ve known who plays who. We just don’t know when, and now we can all start making our plans.”
The process was months in the making. The first step was to solicit input from all 32 teams and the NFL’s network-television partners.
Proprietary software helps with putting together schedule
“And then it’s kind of our job to balance it all out,” North said.
To that end, all of the necessary data is fed into proprietary schedule-making software designed for the league about 10 years ago by Optimal Planning Solution, a company from Western Canada.
‘Everybody wants to open at home and close at home and have a midseason bye’
The NFL found the company through the work it was doing for the New Zealand Rugby League, whose schedule is similar to that of the NFL.
“No team is going to get everything they ask for,” North said. “Truth be told, they all ask for the same thing, right? Everybody wants to open at home and close at home and (have) a midseason bye and no road games in prime time. And nobody wants to go to Jacksonville in September and nobody wants to go to Lambeau in December. Well, that’s not going to work, so somebody’s going to have to catch the short straw here.
‘Network-television partners … all want the best games’
“And same with our network-television partners. They all want what we want. They all want the best games. Green Bay-Dallas, New England-Pittsburgh, New England-Oakland, Atlanta-New England, the Super Bowl rematch. They can’t all go to NBC or they can’t all go to ESPN. We’ve got to try to figure out a way to spread the wealth a little bit and let everybody share in the high-quality games and also have room to take advantage of surprise stories.”