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Written by: Jared Prince -- Prince is a regular contributor to Boris Diaw Time! and is a frequent guest on the Boris Diaw Time! podcast...almost bordering on co-host. Thankfully for all of us, we haven't reached that point yet.
It’s over. Don’t even bother watching football this year. The top teams have already shown themselves, and after the way they dominated their first games, all that’s left to do is crown them. Sorry Packers. Sorry Steelers. You were both beaten by teams expected to combine for less than 8 wins this year, so you’re done. What a disgrace to your fans. The fans who should be excited, though, root for the Lions and the Browns. After dominating performances in the first week of preseason, everyone should probably go ahead and lock these two teams in as their Super Bowl picks.
Alright, so let’s be a littler more serious now. It’s truly sad to say, but there are people out there who are either ridiculously excited about their team, or have already written off their team based on the first game of the preseason. Let me make one thing very clear to them…preseason games DO NOT matter! Veterans hate them, and are more worried about staying healthy than performing at the highest level. In addition, coaches refuse to put any good plays on film for their first real opponents. So what you end up with is the starters taking as few snaps as possible and running the most basic plays.
In all reality, the NFL preseason is more about coaches evaluating individual players to see who should make the team/practice squad than about setting expectations for the upcoming season. For a young rookie or a player hoping to find a team, this is their chance. Remember though, they’re probably going against a player who may not even make an NFL roster. Last year, in
Minnesota’s first preseason game against St. Louis, Sage Rosenfels threw for 310 yards and 3 TD’s in just over one half of football. Who thinks he’s the next Joe Montana? Anyone? No? Didn’t think so. Honestly, I really don’t care at all how my team performs in the preseason. The only reason for me to get excited is when I see the starters walk off the field without an injury.
In case you didn’t know, I’m a huge Minnesota Vikings fan. They went out Saturday night and lost 14-3. I guarantee there are fans making a big deal about the teams’ “poor performance,” while not remembering that they didn’t play Jared Allen, Kevin Williams, Antoine Winfield, Cedric Griffin, Visanthe Shiancoe, or Anthony Herrera. Oh, and their best player, Adrian Peterson, got a whole 1 carry on the night. You know what? Even if Minnesota did play all of their guys for the first 2 series and still lost 14-3, I wouldn’t feel any differently.
Preseason is meant to knock off some of the rust from the off-season and then get the players out of the game. This is how preseason should work, and most teams will sit star players for most of the game…or even the whole game. The preseason is built into the year for a specific purpose…that purpose is not to win.
You know how, in baseball, a pitcher will be sent down to the minor leagues to work on a specific pitch? Most often, the pitcher ends up getting crushed because the hitters know what pitch is coming (ask the Toronto Blue Jays how much it helps!). The purpose of the minor league assignment isn’t for him to win and dominate; it’s for the pitcher to improve at throwing and locating that specific pitch. Then, when he is recalled, he can go back to throwing every pitch and trying to win games. Despite the rough outings in the minors, the pitcher is a better overall player. In fact, you could say thanks to the rough outings in the minors! This is kind of how I view the NFL preseason. Teams run the simple plays that every defense knows, but when they start playing the real games, you pull out the whole playbook and your team is better overall.
Maybe you feel that preseason success or failure carries over into the regular season. It may seem like there could be a direct correlation, but historically, it just hasn’t worked out that way. The final 4 teams of the playoffs last year (GB, CHI, PIT, NYJ) went 7-9 in the preseason with notable losses to Washington, Detroit, Carolina, Arizona, Oakland, and twice to Cleveland. In case you didn’t know, those are some bad teams. The Indianapolis Colts, who have been one of the best and most consistent regular season teams for years, have notoriously been horrible in the preseason. Since 2005, the Colts have gone 4-22 in the preseason. It’s crazy to think their record is that horrible, but what’s even more ridiculous is that in the regular season, since 2005, they only have 21 losses. They actually have fewer losses playing a full 16 game schedule in the regular season than what they have in the same amount of time playing only 4 or 5 preseason games!
Now, let’s look at one of the worst teams since 2005: The Detroit Lions. Since 2005 the Lions have gone 14-10 in the preseason. As you might already know (should already know) they haven’t had a winning record in any of those years. They actually have had more wins in the preseason than in the regular season 2 out of 6 years, and miraculously went 4-0 in the preseason the same year they went 0-16! I can’t even begin to understand how upset I would have been if I were a Lions fan that year. With this in mind, I think it’s safe to say there is a huge difference between the regular season and preseason.
With all this being said, I actually do like the preseason. I love watching football, and even though it’s a game that means nothing, it still can be fun to watch. I also like to get a look at the players my team drafted in April. Most of the time, I haven’t watched these guys in college, so it’s fun for me to see them and hopefully find out a little about what type of player they are.
I get bored often, so I like to think of myself as an NFL coach evaluating players during these games. Every year, I actually go through and try to predict who will make the roster and who will get cut…but that’s really all you can do with the preseason. So fans, don’t let this first weekend of games, or the next 3, sway your thoughts about how you think your team is going to perform this year. If your team is projected to be good, and the starters went out and were horrible, don’t panic. If your team is projected to get a high first round pick and put up 30 points, don’t start predicting a Super Bowl win. Just remember that the most you can hope for in the preseason is an injury free 4 games. That’s it.
Note: Boris Diaw Time FULLY endorses Prince's viewpoint. Preseason is LESS THAN MEANINGLESS!!! For another interesting look at how meaningless preseason is, check out this article by our good friend from 18to88.com, Nate Dunlevy.