Yesterday the league moved a step closer to Roger Goodell’s dream of playing 18 games and two preseason games, and from where I sit, this is an awful idea that can only lead to the NFL watering down the product.
I am not a preseason fan, let me just say that up front. But in appearing on “Lloyd Vance’s Inside Football” last Friday, he asked me if I felt four preseason games were too many. After putting some thought behind it, I have come to the conclusion that teams need those four preseason games – here’s why.
Preseason football is like getting your wisdom teeth pulled. You hate having to have it done (or in this case watching it), but it has to be done or your going to have problems down the road. That’s preseason football. You hate sitting though it, if your a season ticket holder you hate paying for it, but for your team, preseason is very important to see what players do and do not belong.
If you watch the HBO series “Hard Knocks,” or have in the past, you know how important preseason is if you are a player on the roster bubble. It may be your only chance to prove yourself to the team, and if you can’t find your way on a roster, but play well, you may find yourself on a roster elsewhere in the NFL.
You tell those guys whose dream it is to play pro ball that preseason doesn’t mean anything. Sure, guys like Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Ray Lewis and Chris Johnson may not need preseason games to prove they are ready, but for guys that are fighting for their pro lives, four games is a good measuring stick to see if they belong.
Can you imagine right now your team playing a game that is going to count in the standings? Yuck. There are plenty of teams around the league right now that have lots of questions to answer, and if this week was week one of the regular season, it would be a mess.
How about these questions that need two weeks to be figured out:
Arizona – Matt Leinart isn’t making anyone forget Kurt Warner, and if he keeps struggling, Derek Anderson may find his way into the starting QB role. Imagine Leinart playing a game that counts right now.
New York Jets – Darrelle Revis and the Jets continue their ‘cat and mouse’ game, and may need two more weeks to get a deal done. The Jets are thrilled they have time before a regular season game to get their best player in camp.
Pittsburgh – The Steelers have to be without Ben Roethlisberger for four games, and Dennis Dixon is pushing Byron Leftwich for the starting QB job for those four games. If the regular season was set to begin, it would be tough for them to have to decide who starts.
Minnesota – They are the walking wounded at the WR spot with Percy Harvin having headaches and Sydney Rice now out half the season. Brett Favre just got in, and will need time to work with some new guys to get things on the same page before the opener.
Not to mention all those injuries around the league that players would be rushing back for if week one was upon us. Players need time to heal after a long camp, and having most of the guys assured a roster spot sit out preseason week four means that it gives coaches a chance for those on the roster bubble to play a game that means something – even if it is just for them.
The NFL regular season use to be 12 weeks, then 14, and now the current 16. That is enough. Pushing to 18 regular season games is going to mean teams that have everything clinched could be sitting players 3-4 weeks at the end of the year instead of sometimes just 1-2. Leave the regular season alone, it’s long enough, and feels right the way it is.
As for preseason, it’s a necessary evil for teams, and while we as fans are not thrilled with watching it, we’ll deal with it to be a means to an end for our teams to be able to sift through rosters and players and get ready for what is already long enough of a regular season.