More Victims Of No Preseason: Officiating And Coaching

Here’s something I haven’t heard mentioned much when it comes to the loss of the preseason: yes, it’s going to have an effect on the ability of fringe players to make teams; yes, it’s going to result in starters being more rusty at the start of the new league year; more still, so too will coaches. And officials.

Especially considering most officials still remain part-time employees, preseason games have actually been critical for them to get into midseason form. They have also been essential in allowing the league to figure out just how they are going to officiate new rules once the games start counting, and as we know, there are always new rules of some sort, every year. By the time the regular season starts, even more new rules may be in place.

I’m sure you can recall a time or two during recent seasons in which there were major controversies in the early weeks of seasons regarding how things were being officiated. This year will be like that, except amplified, and applied to multiple different aspects of the game.

Remember, we have also had veteran officials retire and new officials take their place. We may even see some choose to sit out the season because of the coronavirus, which will mean even more new faces out there officiating.

And not unlike an offensive line, officials are also a crew. They need time to work together and create a cohesion that allows them to best officiate a game. It’s not even clear if crews are going to be visiting training camps this year. Perhaps not, and that could be a big deal.

Yet another factor: the booth. The booth review process is also in ‘preseason mode’ during, you know, the preseason. Not only are they getting themselves into game shape, but they are also working out bugs in their process, especially as it relates to rules changes. And, again, we could still see changes to the rules before the regular season starts. They were supposed to experiment with a sky judge in the preseason this year. Obviously that can’t happen without a preseason.

So, remember, it’s not just the players who will be rusty as a result of the lack of a preseason. In fact, it probably affects the officials even more than it does the players to not play, especially since most starters don’t even play much.

And, again, coaches learn, too. They experiment with approaches in the preseason. They figure out what works and what doesn’t. They try to self-scout and figure out what they’re doing, then try to reverse-engineer their process from the perspective of the opposing team, coming up with tendency-breakers.

All of that is lost without a preseason. Or at least, a lot of it is. And it will take several games into the regular season of trial and error before we approximate a normal. But, again, this is a small sacrifice to make in the grand scheme of things for the safety of those involved, and their loved ones.

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