I really get a kick out of visiting NFL message boards during preseason football. The overreaction from fans is comical. A team looks good, fans start planning their Super Bowl trip. A team looks bad and they’re ready to write off the entire season. Relax people, it’s practice.
Sports talk radio is just as, if not more, comical than reading the comments online. You can seriously feel the angst from some fans. I live in the Chicago area, so you can imagine the chatter after the Bears dropped their 2nd practice game to the Giants. Calm down everyone, it’s practice.
Some fans are ready to anoint the 70th guy on the roster as the next superstar. An NFL roster is set at 53 players, some of those players in training camp are not NFL caliber and will be in a new profession sooner than later.
Those guys playing the 4th quarter that will be accountants, and teachers, and car salesmen in a few weeks are playing football against future stockbrokers, insurance salesmen, and interns. These guys are warm camp bodies, and if one or two can make a big enough splash to stick on a roster or find a gig on a practice squad, that’s gravy.
Coaches don’t necessarily coach how they would during the season in preseason games either. The biggest difference is they don’t game plan. No scouting is done, no scouting reports are handed out, and no specific prep work is done by the players. They are simply installing and fine tuning their own playbooks, you know, practicing.
Coaches are looking to see specific match-ups in preseason. They’ll leave a corner man to man to see how he responds. They’ll leave an offensive tackle on an island against a pass rusher to see his technique. Teams may hold back most of their red zone offense until the games actually count. They’ll keep schemes as basic as possible as to not tip their hand of any new wrinkles in the game plan.
The reason for this approach? Coaches use preseason games as a rehearsal for the regular season. If the preseason record was any indication of regular season success then the Detroit Lions should have made some noise by now. They are 12-2 in their last 14 preseason games.
Say it with me now… P r a c t i c e .