This time of year, every fan of every team thinks that this could be the year for their team, well maybe not all, sorry Rams fans.
As the press conferences and comments from coaches and front offices make headlines, fans need to keep in mind that deception in the NFL is rampant this time of year. Deception is a constant in the NFL, but this time of year especially, so take what your favorite coach says with a grain of salt. There are three main targets for this game, and every fan should be on the lookout for them.
Number one is to target is the players. Plain and simple, pressure through the press on a player is a big factor. It could be because they are holding out, as is the case in San Diego with Vincent Jackson and the few rookie hold outs that are still out there.
Coaches will talk up a player that is at the same position to make the hold out feel like they could be at a disadvantage in the situation. This won’t work with players like Darrell Revis, but it will work for some. A more dangerous pressure on a player could be one that is recovering from an injury that the coaches want to make sure is working as hard as they can to get back on the practice field.
Obviously this can be a double edge sword, as they don’t want a guy to come back too early and get hurt again. It could also be to put pressure on a player that is taking training camp too lightly in the eyes of the coaches. They want the starter or competing player to step it up and by hyping the competition at the position as “making progress” or “having a good camp”. They are putting pressure on the other player to get focused.
The second target for deception is other teams. Distracting other teams to keep a long term developing guy quiet is typical tactic. They know a guy they drafted in the 5th round is probably not going to make the team, but they want to sneak him on the practice squad, hoping to develop him over the next couple of years.
So the coaches ignore the guy and don’t say much about him, while hyping a guy that may have more experience and be better known, but isn’t really going to make the cut either. He may or may not be at the same position, but usually is. Both will get cut, but by hyping the more experienced guy, they hope to hide the younger development guy who will make no impact for at least a year. Another reason to distract teams is to hide bright spots and deficiencies of players.
If they can start the season without a lot of film on a particular player, then other teams may not be prepared for what they are good or bad at. So they may hype up how great a player is at all phases, when the player may actually have some holes in their game, and will tell the player that privately. The hope being that they can develop the area of deficiencies over the course of a season.
The third target is the fans. Mostly selling tickets and corporate sponsorships, plain and simple. Some coaches are just high on their whole team, but most coaches are pretty critical in private of their players, knowing their strengths and weaknesses.
But coaches know that in order to sell tickets and corporate sponsorships in the community, the fans and media have to be excited. So they will talk up every player they can to the press and make it seem like the team and each position is better than he might admit in private. The other reason that they might want to hype up the fans is because they know that a full and excited stadium is a big advantage for home games.
This usually only matters for teams that have not been stellar in recent years, but it can help, especially hyping high round draft picks with lots of expectations.
Many times a front office can get all three targets with one comment about a player.
Triple hitter if you will. So keep this in mind as you watch the news reports, especially if you are not local, can’t attend practices yourself and can’t get much information besides reading about press conferences and coaches comments. Often the local news media will have some quality reporters that are good at discerning the truth from the hype, but some reporters are just as much homers as the fans. Find the local guy that tells it like it is if you can.