Jim Harbaugh Held a Grudge Against the NFL Schedule Maker Because San Francisco Had to Travel to Baltimore on Thanksgiving

Judy Battista of the New York Times looked at the inner workings of the NFL schedule, with the NFL’s “scheduling czar” Howard Katz. The NFL has a computer program that spits out 400,000 schedules. After putting in criteria such as not having too many consecutive home and road games for each team and other scheduling specifics, that gets whittled to 14,000 playable schedules, that are then reduced to 125 possibilities by “eyeball test”. From there, they go by hand through each generated schedule to pick the best one.

The generation of the schedules, though, is complicated by the complaints and requests of the teams and coaches. Some are for specific holidays, others for times of day, and others to avoid trips to cold weather. Some teams even submit conflicting requests. For example, a Florida team might request that no early season games start at 1 p.m. to avoid the hottest part of a day for attendance reasons, while a coach may request to start early for competitive ones.

Everyone has an opinion, and Katz has to accommodate them, particularly the battling networks who submit near identical lists of preferred games. Still, not everyone is going to be happy.

Jim Harbaugh, for example, held a grudge about San Francisco traveling across the country for a Thursday night contest on Thanksgiving against his brother’s team. It was the kind of thing after a successful 13-3 campaign and a NFC championship game appearance you would think would be a minor detail in the course of a season.

According to Katz, Harbaugh talked to him at the league meetings not once, not twice, but on three different days, after John Harbaugh told Katz to meet with his upset brother.

“I talked to him, then I talked to him the next day and then I talked to him the third day,” Katz said of Jim Harbaugh. “He said, ‘Now that I’ve met you, I don’t hate you quite as much.’ His brother said to me, ‘That’s as good as you’re going to do.’ ”

Katz is a saint. I would have had a Schwartz-like exchange, and then called up my scheduling staff and told them to find me a schedule where we could send San Francisco cross country on a Thursday.

[photo via Getty]

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