Sportress of Blogitude

Pope’s Philly visit prompts Eagles to open season with tough road schedule

In one of the quirkier stories to emerge out of the yarns spawned yearly related to the logistical minefields that need to be navigated as the NFL devises its regular season schedule, a visit to the City of Brotherly Love by Pope Francis in September played a role in why the Philadelphia Eagles will open the 2015 season with three of its first four games on the road.

MMQB’s Peter King chronicles the story in a recent column behind what went into devising the 2015 NFL regular season schedule, which, while a seemingly Sisyphean undertaking, ultimately was completed when Roger Goodell officially approved it on Monday.

Regarding the Eagles-Pope scheduling issue, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput wrote a letter last July to commissioner Roger (spelled “Rodger”) Goodell in which he asked the league to not schedule the Eagles for a home game at Lincoln Financial Field in Week 3, as Pope Francis will conduct mass with an estimated 2 million people outside the Philadelphia Art Museum. The NFL in October honored the Archibishop’s request, indicating the Eagles would be playing the New York Jets in New Jersey at MetLife Stadium that Sunday.

The annual process of the NFL coming up with its regular season schedule is always a complicated, arduous and logistical undertaking. It is fraught with stadium scheduling conflicts, large-scale, big-picture conceptualizing and a bevy of other assorted nightmarish variables. It surely sends those responsible for overseeing the process into occasional fits as they toil for an average of four months every year on getting it right.

Let’s put it this way, it took 136 computers in the NFL offices prepared 5.4 million possible schedules featuring the scheduling of 256 regular-season games. That was whittled down to 200 which were reviewed by Katz and three colleagues. Iteration 37,793 was determined to be the best one.

How the folks behind the entire things realized No. 37,793 was the right one is beyond comprehension. Although NFL senior vice president of broadcasting Howard Katz explained that 50 “must-haves” must be satisfied and those were fed into the computers.

It makes one’s head hurt just thinking about it.

(photo credit: HuffPo)