“It’s time for the preseason to be slashed in half”, reads a headline over Mike Florio’s byline late last night through his vehicle, Pro Football Talk. In the comments to the corresponding Tweet, the overwhelming consensus was agreement with that assertion.
The argument is that the quality of play in preseason games is substantially less than that of regular season games, and that, increasingly, coaches are holding out some players more and more, some altogether, while injuries are obviously twice as likely to occur if twice the number of games are played.
I’m not going to say that there are no valid arguments for reducing the preseason. I will say, however, that I still think it’s a terrible idea that would result in lower-quality 53-man rosters and a lesser product in September as a result.
Just think about it. Can you imagine the Pittsburgh Steelers’ current situation at the backup quarterback position being decided in two games? If there were only two preseason games, then Ben Roethlisberger would have already had to eat into the limited among out work that Joshua Dobbs, Mason Rudolph, and Devlin Hodges have already gotten.
It would be incredibly difficult for a player like Hodges to even see a workload that would give the coaching staff a large enough body of evidence to make the decision to keep him over a veteran. Not to make this just about Hodges, because his chances of making the team, as they currently stand, remain low, but that’s also part of the point.
In a world in which two preseason games are all there is, the Steelers would be preparing to face the New England Patriots in a couple of days. The offseason would be over already. All of the work would have already been put in. The evaluations would be over, the 53-man roster would be set. Do you feel content in knowing that you have enough information to put together the best 53-man roster right now?
I certainly don’t. And again, any gains that fringe players might get from a longer look due to the limitations of a two-game preseason would be offset by the need for the starters to see some action as well.
Tuzar Skipper would have no chance. Players like him might shine on offense or defense first, and as the coaching staff sees that, they then put them on special teams to see if they can make the team by fulfilling those responsibilities.
For the casual fan, the preseason is a terrible thing and should be done away with entirely. People even scoff, asking derisively, “you actually watch the preseason?”. But regardless of who actually watches the games, it’s foolhardy to deny the value that exists in the current format.
Because the preseason isn’t just about four trips inside of a stadium. It’s also about five or so weeks of offseason work. And if they reduced the preseason, they wouldn’t simply retain that amount of offseason work. It would bleed into the two regular season games that would inevitably be added. And those additional practices will then be undertaken with just 63 players rather than 90, the remaining 27 (times 32 teams) having had their opportunity to make an impact cut in half, thus greatly reducing their chances of ever making a team.