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A Conversation With: An NFL Schedule Maker

CW

The Chargers 2023 schedule is set in stone.

We chatted with Onnie Bose, the NFL's Vice President of Broadcasting, who is a key member is helping generate each team's schedule.

Here's our 1-on-1 conversation with Bose.

Thank you for the time, Onnie. To start out, what's your role in the NFL, how long have you done it and what does your job entail?

Bose: My title is Vice President of Broadcasting and I've been with the league for 17 years. I had three years in the events department in the middle there but I've been in the broadcasting department and part of the schedule creation process for something like 15 out of the last 17 years.

More broadly than that, during the scheduling I'm alongside Mike North, Howard Katz, Charlotte Carey and others in the day-to-day of pulling the schedule, creating the schedule and kind of shaping what direction we want to take.

Beyond that, myself and our broader department, our job is generally managing relationships with our TV networks. Start with making the schedule to how we get the games on the air and administering the games themselves, commercial breaks in things like that … production around major events like Super Bowl and the draft … it all generally focuses on television and media partners.

How much of a monster is creating the schedule every year? It seems like a lot to create it but also to have all the pieces fit together perfectly?

Bose: Yeah, the schedule is a daunting challenge that we take on every year. But it's something that, the small group of us that work on it, we love it. We love it as an intellectual challenge, love it as solving a puzzle that has different requirements every year. And there's the impact of what it means and what these last couple days has been like with the anticipation with the release of the schedule.

The Chargers knew their opponents and knew where they were going to play their games, but it means so much to know how they're going to be sequenced and how they fall into what windows. It's a monster in the sense that it's always a challenge but it's also always something we really relish being a part of.

What is the NFL's general view on the Chargers? What makes them a high-profile team?

Bose: Look, a couple things, right? One is a general kind of trend toward success and making the playoffs and being right down to the wire the previous season. Obviously, a quarterback with a lot of ceiling and performance so far and some excitement around the overall roster. And then it plays to your opponents and your division and kind of the games that we have seen over the last few years.

They are going to be in that mix and that category where we're seeing that shift in perception and balance around star quarterbacks into the AFC. In a world where we see Justin Herbert and Patrick Mahomes and Joe Burrow, Trevor Lawrence, now Aaron Rodgers and Lamar Jackson are going to be competing against each other to win their divisions and get the top seed in that conference. Some number of very high-profile quarterbacks are not going to make the playoffs, but the Chargers are right in that mix and that makes them a very appealing team for us to put into big television windows."

Is it fair to say that if the Chargers didn't have Herbert then we wouldn't get the max of six primetime games?

Bose: Look, it might be chicken and egg. If you didn't have Herbert, would the team have been a playoff team? Would they have been competitive for the playoffs down the line? It's a little bit of both, but part of it is that we look for competitive matchups and games that are going to be meaningful. But there's no doubt about it that it's a star-driven league, so a star quarterback has a lot of appeal, particularly in primetime games. If my team isn't playing, am I interested to tune into this game?

Let's go through the primetime games beginning with Dallas. Was Kellen Moore a factor in that or was it more about the teams themselves?

Bose: That will be a great storyline for ESPN when they broadcast the game. I don't know that it necessarily drove how we looked at it. That game was going to fall into big window. A couple years ago that was an early-season CBS game [in 2021] that went down to the wire and was the most-viewed game of the year on CBS. So we look at that as a game that is going to be inherently appealing, we expect two good offenses and that's a perfect example of a fan being interested in tuning into that game.

Take a look at the Chargers 2023 Draft Class

How about the Bears on Sunday Night Football in Week 8? It's an NFC opponent, but was the draw of Herbert-Fields the draw there?

Bose: That's certainly part of it. The Bears are interesting. On one hand, they had the No. 1 pick in the draft and the ultimately traded it away. So maybe by definition they don't feel like a team with a primetime window. But it's a team that played close games and has a quarterback who is up and coming. There's a lot of optimism about that roster and there's the potential of that division being very much up for grabs. We looked at them as a team with a large fan base … they could fall into any numbers of windows. Again, there is that appeal with the quarterbacks but there's also a mix of wanting to get each of those teams on a few times. It kind of fell into our mix and we liked it."

I'm guessing the Jets game on Monday Night Football is pretty self-explanatory with the quarterback matchup and AFC contender status?

Bose: Yes, absolutely.

That trip to New York might be the toughest road trip in terms of traveling home in the middle of the night. Do you take that into account?

Bose: We are cognizant of it but there's going to be matchups like that one. Every year there's going to be some of those. But we'll play those on a Monday night and generally won't do a cross-country Thursday night game. But on a Monday night … we're aware of it and certainly want to make sure that when they come back from that trip that it falls with a home game the week after. It would be pretty challenging to put a team on the road after a road cross-country Monday. Those are the kind of things we look out for. And if it had fallen in a different way, we might not have wanted to pick that schedule.

Another big QB matchup in Week 12 with the Ravens was probably appealing for Sunday Night Football, yeah?

Bose: Exactly. This goes to what I was saying about the strength of the quarterbacks in the AFC. We expect both of those teams to be in the mix and competing for the playoffs. We kind of look at Thanksgiving onward as the run to the playoffs. From our point of view, that's a game we expect to hold up on Sunday Night Football. They should both be competitive and it should be a meaningful game.

Let's get to the lone Thursday game. On the flip side of the New York trip, was the flip side here trying to make travel as close as possible?

Bose: Yeah, we have some general guidelines where we try to limit the travel on a Thursday, Usually we won't play you three times zones away unless we had a prior conversation. It's unrelated to the Chargers, but the Giants are heading out to the West Coast. They're playing at Arizona and at San Francisco, and they asked us to pair those games to eliminate a cross-country trip. We went back and said, 'OK, if we can get that done, are you willing to play one of those on a Thursday?' And they were, but that's the only example where you'd play a three-time zone game on Thursday night. Division games are very common on Thursday night and you try to limit the amount of travel, particularly on a road Thursday.

The final scheduled primetime game is Week 16 at home against Buffalo on a Saturday night. That one could be big for AFC playoff seeding, correct?

Bose: Same conversation as the Baltimore one. That game is scheduled to be played on Peacock, so it's an exclusive game on NBC's streaming service. As part of the new contract that started this year they get one game. With Christmas Eve falling on Sunday, in the past we have moved the Sunday night game to Saturday. In the broader AFC, this is a pretty meaningful game on Christmas Eve.

Check out some photos of the second day of Chargers Rookie Mini-Camp 2023 at Hoag Performance Center

Was it weird not to schedule a primetime game against the Chiefs this year? Of course, there is still a chance it gets flexed to Sunday Night Football in Week 18.

Bose: The other game [Week 7] falls into the CBS doubleheader window, The Chiefs and Chargers play great primetime games for the past few years, so that was just a function of how the schedule played out. We'd love to see it in primetime but we love it in the doubleheader window. And then in Week 18, it could be really interesting and meaningful.

Do you ever hear feedback from teams — good or bad — after the schedule comes out?

Bose: Yes, we always tell our teams and networks that it's an open dialogue. As part of the process when we put the schedule out Thursday night, we call all the teams Wednesday to give them their schedule and give them a chance to review it. Sometimes you get a gut reaction of, 'Oh, I really like this,' or 'This concerns me.' Then everybody takes time to digest the schedule and see what everybody else got. From time to time, teams will call us and give us additional feedback … maybe things we have on our radar but didn't think about, but something teams come up with something we hadn't thought about.

Final question … when do you start working on next year's schedule?

Bose: Ha! On a formal basis, the day the season ends, you know the opponents and the standings, so games are locked in. And probably in the fall we may start thinking about what's shaping up as the season plays out. Maybe a team is unexpectedly better than we thought or there's a team that is not performing quite as well. You start thinking about that but really don't spend a ton of energy on it until after the season ends. And from a practical basis, it's post-Super Bowl. After the Super Bowl is when we really roll up our sleeves and dig in on it.

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