Why a picture of Leinart, you ask? Well because, this is preseason!
Anyway, the NFL preseason schedule is much maligned for various reasons. Some of those reasons, if not all, are completely valid. To wit:
Full Price Tickets
This is total and absolute garbage. I don't really need to expand on this, but the way the NFL charges fans to see glorified scrimmages is criminal.
Low Quality Talent
The starters rarely, if ever, see more than 10 minutes of game time until the final preseason game. These are not the players the fans overpaid to see.
Risk of Injury
Football is a violent game played at high speeds. The more snaps, the more a chance of injury. That's the biggest reason we don't see starters for very long, and if we do and they get hurt, then the coach is in big trouble.
The NFL preseason is a litmus test for NFL coaches to determine their final rosters and starting lineups. It's the one chance coaches have to see their players in game-style competition before the real deal begins in September. I personally enjoy preseason games, especially late in the games when the scrubs are in. Here's why:
Who's That Guy?
Every so often, late in a preseason game, you'll be watching and some dude will pull something completely spectacular out of nowhere, and you'll say whoa, who's that guy? They don't always pan out (Todd Watkins of the Raiders comes to mind) but sometimes you've drawn a bead on a player that could be somebody before other casual fans get the chance.
I remember three years ago watching the Vikes in preseason and this young QB, Tarvaris Jackson. I'd heard little about him, but his athleticism and arm strength were a sight to behold.
He kept making WOW play after WOW play. Granted, it was the fourth quarter of a meaningless preseason game, but I noticed the kid. He hasn't been spectacular or anything, but he has started in the league. I love that stuff.
Whoops...Time to Apply at Denny's
If you're a fringe player, your play in the third and fourth quarter of a meaningless preseason game can mean the difference between collecting a nice NFL paycheck and unemployment.
There are few moments of raw emotion equivalent to watching a fringe WR drop an easy pass that would move the chains for his team in the fourth quarter of a meaningless preseason game. In this case, meaningless is relative.
The receiver reacts as if his life has just ended; and, as far as life on an NFL field is concerned, it probably just did. The pain is very real, and if you watch closely, you can feel back to any time you blew a major chance in your life and knew it right then and there. Raw, unbridled, human emotion we can all relate to.
An Honest Day's Work
The guys who need this game live and die with each possession, which is evident during these time frames. By the end of the game the field is littered with the intestines of fringe players laying it all out to make good on their opportunity. You've gotta love that kind of reckless disregard for personal safety.
It's the guys fighting for their lives, leaving it on the field, and playing with desperation that make these times so wonderful. Sure the talent level is lacking; but often the greater the talent, the lesser the passion.
What these fringe players lack in talent they usually more than make up for in fire and passion, and things can get pretty vicious out there in the late stages of a preseason game.
The stakes for most of the players, coupled with the passion for the game and the desperation of proving themselves one last time combine to make the late stages of an NFL preseason game one of the more intriguing preseasons in sport.
Is it pretty football? Not usually. But is it entertaining? The possibility of seeing someone ruin or make their career, and all the emotion that goes along with it, is worth the price of admission alone.