Frank Heinz, NBCDFW.com
Well folks, we made it. The preseason is over. Gone. Vanished into the ether. A week from now, any preseason action you saw will be systematically cleared from your memory, alongside your anniversary date, your child’s favorite color, and where you put your sunglasses (they’re on your head). Goodbye, preseason! YOU WON’T BE AROUND TO TEASE US ANYMORE WITH YOUR PSEUDO-REALISTIC FOOTBALL ACTION! No, from here on out, it’s real games. With real starters, and real beer, and real wings, and real halftime bowel movements. Nice.
We all hate the preseason, of course. The games mean nothing, there’s too many of them, players can get hurt, and many fans are forced to attend them as part of expensive regular season ticket packages. Those are all bad things, of course.
But before you go jumping onto the bandwagon in support of 18 regular season games and just two preseason games, a quick defense. I watched a lot of college football this past weekend. College football, as you know, has no preseason. It should. You will not find a sloppier brand of football than on the first weekend of the college season. The first official game of the college season was NC State’s brutal 34-point loss to South Carolina. The second game of the college season was notable only because a Boise State kid got his jaw destroyed after the game. Even BYU-Oklahoma, which was a thrilling upset at the end, featured two teams combining for 22 penalties for 180 yards. Both teams fumbled three times. The best college matchups of the opening weekend usually end up as routs or sloppy letdowns. And most big-time programs use the first week to crush some I-AA school in a game that may as well be an exhibition anyway.
Say what you will about the NFL preseason, but it at least gives most teams a chance to enter Week 1 in relatively sharp form. Yes, I know the Lions will look putrid, but that can’t be helped. By playing starters in incremental amounts over the first three preseason games, many NFL teams avoid entering the year looking like penalty-prone disasters who just got together a week ago. When the NFL season begins, it does so full bore. It doesn’t start out as a loose hodgepodge of crummy nonconference games before “the real season” kicks in a month later.
The preseason also allows teams to figure out the best personnel to use, both on the playing roster and on the coaching staff (three NFL offensive coordinators were canned during this year’s preseason). The endless stretch of preseason and training camp gives coaches all the time they need to know what works and what doesn’t. Unless you’re Brad Childress, and are unable to ever work out such things.
So yes, the preseason is long, and horrible, and I wish to God real NFL football were being played right now because I can’t wait another minute longer. But it does serve a purpose. Keep that in mind the next time you see Florida beat Charleston Southern by 59 points.