Jeff Legwold of the Denver Post wrote an interesting piece today about how hard it is to determine a regular-season outlook from preseason performances, saying:
It's either a preview, a legitimate glimpse into the good, bad or ugly of what's to come, or it is the Big Lie.
Legwold brings up solid evidence that suggests it's all a big lie—mostly that preseason record and scores don't matter—but he mostly discounts the most important thing about preseason: execution.
It's not that hard to look beyond a score and see how the team executed in key areas. Did the quarterback make the correct read, did the receiver get proper depth on his route, did the running back hit the right hole? There's no shortage of examples during the course of any football game.
The obvious question becomes: If the team is executing on both sides of the ball, wouldn't they win the game?
There's a problem with that question; there is basically zero game planning against the opponent. The players could do everything right on any given play and the result could be poor if the play is not designed to defeat the opponent.
Hypothetically, David loses to Goliath every time, unless David goes into battle with a game plan or strategy to limit Goliath's strengths and emphasize David's strengths.
On any given Sunday a team could come up with a plan to defeat its opponent. The birth of the Wildcat offense's popularity was a direct result of a poor Miami Dolphins team trying to add a new wrinkle to its offense against the vaunted New England Patriots.
The Raiders lost a Super Bowl because they failed to properly game-plan against a team that had their entire offensive playbook.
Without a game plan, it's silly to look at results. It's execution that is key in the preseason and that's the same for every team. Legwold briefly touched on the subject with this quote from veteran receiver Brandon Stokley:
I think as a player you have to look at how you executed. Did you do your assignments, make plays when you had the chance? Those show you more of where you're at than the score of the games sometimes.
If the players are executing in the preseason, they should be able to execute in the regular season. If they know their assignments in the preseason, they are likely to know them in the regular season. If they are given the opportunity to make a play and they make it in the preseason, they should be able to do the same in the regular season.
The preseason is a legitimate preview if you know what you are watching. Few actually understand the X's and O's well enough to be able to view preseason this way.
Without knowing a specific assignment, it can actually be impossible.
It is a big lie in the sense that the scores, the records and even certain plays are deceptive to the casual fan. That's obvious to anyone that has ever compared preseason records to regular-season records. With 90-man rosters, the quality of the players playing in the second half of the games is also diluted more than previous seasons.
For the fan with more than a basic knowledge of the game of football, it's the good, the bad and the ugly of what is to come. Take a sum of the plays, pay attention to the first team and a few key role players with the second team, and you will see good, bad and ugly.
There will be players that look good that aren't good, but we must take into account their strengths and weaknesses and level of competition.
We should have a pretty good idea about the season outlook for the Broncos after the preseason if we only take the time to take off the rose-colored glasses and look beyond the obvious. That doesn't mean we will be 100 percent correct; otherwise we'd all be betting on these games and winning gobs of money in Vegas.