Eagles Schedule Had To Accommodate The Pope

This morning, Peter King of The MMQB wrote about what went into the creation of the 2015 NFL schedule, including a few interesting notes regarding the Eagles.

According to King and NFL senior vice president of broadcasting Howard Katz, the Eagles could not be given any home games in Weeks 1, 3 or 4 due to Phillies games and the visit from the head of the Catholic Church:

Phillies conflicts in Weeks 1 and 4, and a letter from Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput to commissioner Roger Goodell (the archbishop spelled it “Rodger”) last July 8 respectfully requested the NFL not play in Philadelphia on the Sunday of Week 3, the day Pope Francis is scheduled to hold a mass for an estimated 2 million people on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway outside the Philadelphia Art Museum. In October, Katz wrote the archbishop to say the Eagles would be out of town that weekend … 93 miles up the New Jersey Turnpike to play the Jets on that afternoon, Sept. 27.

“Yes,” Katz said, finally able to relax Tuesday evening in his scheduling den. “The pope did influence the NFL schedule. My name may be Katz, but I wasn’t taking any chances.”

The schedule-makers confirmed to King that had the pope not been scheduled to visit, the Eagles likely would have been home in Week 3.

Katz also noted that the Eagles were in the running to open the season at Gillette Stadium against the defending Super Bowl champions. Why were they passed over in favor of the Steelers?

“But we spent a lot of time looking at Philly as the opener. We really did. We didn’t go away from that path because we were worried about the Eagles quarterback. We really went away from it because we came to the conclusion that we needed that Philadelphia-New England game on FOX as a doubleheader game later in the season. We had a sort of finished puzzle, but part of that puzzle was going to be Philly-New England game as a FOX doubleheader.”

The Eagles will open the season on the road in Atlanta. Katz told King that he understands it’s been the “offseason of Chip” and the schedule-makers apparently wanted to highlight Kelly in Week 1.