As the preseason comes to a close and opening day kickoff rapidly approaches, I thought it appropriate to take a brief look back at the past few weeks and what they mean to us die-hard football fans. The off-season is a long, tedious waiting game, and when the preseason finally rolls around we all breathe in a sweet sigh of relief. For about 30 minutes. Then the realization eventually and inevitably comes, that preseason football sucks. Even after eight grueling months of hockey and baseball, (I rather enjoy college basketball, so I at least have that) and the inital joy of seeing those shiny helmets and freshly painted green fields, its really hard to understand exactly what to take away from these exhibition games.
Think about your favorite teams games from last year. Most of us can remember the opponents, outcomes, and memorable plays from the regular season. But now try to remember who your team played in the preseason and what happened. Gets a little trickier, doesn’t it? That’s because these games are essentially worthless. Yes, they do serve as a good warmup for the players to get back into the rhythm of what the season is going to be like, and its especially important for those players that aren’t guaranteed a spot on the roster to show the coaches what they have to offer the team. It gave rookie quarterback Russell Wilson of Seattle the opportunity to convince head coach Pete Carrol to make him the starter over free agent pick-up Matt Flynn. It’s also nice for new coaches installing new systems and for veteran free agent pickups to show that the huge contracts they signed in the off season was money well spent. But then again, what are we really seeing?
I imagine coaches and GM’s sweating every second of these games out, worrying that their stars will suffer some major injury that keeps that out several weeks into the regular season (see San Diego’s Ryan Matthews), or even ends it before it begins. We get to see the starters for a few series before they are pulled and the undrafted free agents from some college you’ve never heard of gets put in. Or how about the vanilla game plans that show the opposing teams and the fans nothing about what the real game plans and plays that will be used during the regular season will look like? Did your favorite team really get thrashed by St. Louis and Seattle, or where they even really trying?
The reality is that these games don’t really matter and aren’t really very important. The important thing to note is that whatever kind of offensive or defensive packages that are rolled out, get executed fairly crisply by the starters, who will decide the outcomes of the games in the regular season. Maybe its okay to worry a little bit if your starting quarterback isn’t getting enough time to get rid of the ball, or your defense can’t stop the run to save their lives. But don’t go screaming for the head coach to get fired or the playbooks to get scrapped just because your team won one game in the preseason. When Manning was with the Colts, it was rare that they ever won a game in the preseason, and that never affected them once the games counted. Kansas City went 1-3 back in 2010 before winning 10 games in the regular season and the AFC West championship. Conversly, they lost all four preseason games last year (and looked terrible doing it) and started out the year getting destroyed by Buffalo and Detroit by a combined score of 89-10.
My heart-beat just picked up a couple hundred beats thinking back on that. Remember, its just preseason. As fans, we must remain calm, and keep the faith.
How do you feel about pre-season football? Do you think your teams pre-season record reflects what happens during the regular season?