Preseason in the NFL started last week, and the games in weeks 2 and 3 are typically better than the games in week 1. Optimism abounds in just about every NFL city, and discussions pop up in offices, bars and barbershops around the country. Many of these discussions result in volleys of phrases that start ‘Yea, but’.
In the spirit of preseason fun, we, at PossessionPoints.com, decided to take a break from our number crunching and toss out some of the discussions we’ve heard:
Did you hear the Eagles signed Mike Vick?
- Yea, but he won’t be able to play at least the first quarter of the year?
o Yea, but when they do put him in, think about the wildcat offense they will be able to run.
§ Yea, but the wildcat offense won’t be a surprise to anyone. Everyone in the league is practicing a defense for it.
- Yea, but that wasn’t nearly as exciting as trying to figure out who on Oakland’s coaching staff is beating up whom.
o Yea, but football is a violent sport, and would we expect anything different or less dramatic from Al Davis and the Raiders’ organization?
§ Yea, but this Commissioner isn’t letting anything slide. Who knows what he is going to do here? Does Plaxico need a roommate?
Did you see the Lions win last week?
- Yea, but it is preseason.
o Yea, but it gets their mind off their 0-16 season last year
§ Yea, but they went 4-0 in the preseason last year, where did that get them?
· Yea, but they have that Miracle Man, Matt Stafford. He could be better than Flacco or Ryan.
o Yea, but it’s the Lions, When was the last time they were really good even when they had good players?
That little volley that took place about the Lions going 4-0 in preseason and then 0-16 in the regular season got us to wondering about the significance of preseason wins and losses. So, we also took a look at some teams from last year I know that we said we were not going to numbers crunch. Yea, but we lied.
Believe it or not, the Lions were the only 4-0 team last preseason, but there were two 0-4 teams. The Patriots and Browns were both 0-4 in 2008. In the regular season, Tom Brady got hurt in the first game, and they still went 11-5. The Browns went 4-12.
Until we looked at the Browns, we were thinking maybe it was better if a team lost rather than won its preseason games. The Browns set us right on that thought.
What about last year’s Super Bowl teams? Well the Steelers went 3-1 while the Cardinals were 2-2. Nothing conclusive there. Their championship game opponents? The Ravens were 1-3 and the Eagles were 2-2.
Here we go again, Yea, but, except for the Steelers, all those teams had fewer than 12 wins in the regular season. They played some of their best football in the postseason.
How about the teams that won 12 or more in the regular season? Of course, there were the 13-3 Titans who were 3-1 in the preseason. The 12-4 Panthers and 12-4 Giants who both went 2-2 in the preseason. While the 12-4 Colts were 1-3 (1-4 if you count the Hall of Fame game), nothing of significance showed up one way or another.
To paraphrase former Cardinals coach, Dennis Green: The preseason is what we thought it is. It is a tryout for the regular season.
Coaches tryout players and plays to see what works and what doesn’t work. They don’t care about winning, and they take risks like going for a two-point conversion after a touchdown late in the 4th quarter when their team is down by one. They win or lose on that one play.
In the regular season 99.9% of the time, a coach would opt to kick the extra point and go for overtime.
So, there are two and a half more weeks of tryouts, and like the coaches, we won’t pay any attention to wins or losses. We will pay much closer attention to how individual players perform, and how the teams performed in terms of execution.
We also know fans are looking to the preseason to see a glimpse into how their favorite team will perform. To that we say, “Yea, it may be football, but guess what? It isn’t real football yet”.