The importance of the NFL preseason has come into question almost every season but it’s usually a topic that is brushed aside by the time the regular season begins. The increasing number of injuries to star players in 2015 has everyone debating if these games are worth the risk. This is a topic that needs to be addressed during the off-season and should no longer be ignored. Before we criticize the NFL for having preseason, let’s review both the pros and cons of having preseason football.
Pros of preseason
The preseason isn’t just a meaningless month of football to drag out the start of the season and leave NFL fans craving the start of the regular season. Preseason football is important for many people including the coaches, players, owners and even the fans.
Every team in the NFL has players fighting for a roster spot and need these games to help their case. Don’t let others fool you and say that the coaches can evaluate and pick their roster from training camp. These games help coaches see what some of their on the bubble players are really made of.
We see players perform so well at the combine every year just to watch them be a bust the time they walk on the field. The same can be said for players who impress on the practice field. A group of guys can open the coaches eyes on the practice field, but it means nothing if they fail to impress during preseason.
The most important reason for having preseason needs to be looked at in a business state of mind. Let’s not forget that the NFL is a business and they will do anything to make more money. The preseason is an opportunity to gather more fans in before the regular season and help keep money in the owner’s pockets. The fans may not be too thrilled about it but money is what keeps a business going.
The fans may look at the NFL as money hungry owners looking to make the extra dollar during the preseason, but the fans benefit as well. Let’s face it, a regular season ticket can cost a family of four quite the pretty penny. Preseason games run relatively cheap and give fans the opportunity to attend a game they could never go to during the season. It’s also a great preview for fans who want to attend a regular season game but want to see if it’s worth the price of admission.
Cons of preseason
Now that we went through the pros of preseason, it’s time to look at why we’re having this discussion in the first place. The preseason has its benefits but the negatives that come from it can hurt everyone including the fans watching at home.
The number one con of having preseason is the risk of players being injured in a “meaningless game”. The preseason is a time to evaluate players but it also doesn’t count toward the season and doesn’t help veteran players much.
The injury list in 2015 already includes big name players such as Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson and Redskins quarterback RGIII. Some teams like the New York Giants are struggling just to keep one position healthy. The Giants have gone through so many players at the safety position that they may have to experiment with a cornerback soon.
No team wants to see a star player lose out on an entire season and for it to especially happen during the preseason. Many teams will lose a player that was important to the team’s playoff hopes and change the dynamic of the season.
It hurts the performance of the team and may hurt the owners if the team doesn’t put the fans in the seats. Let’s not forget that many fantasy football owners foolish enough to draft so early may have just lost their best player.
Finding a solution to the issue of preseason games may not be as easy as you think. Eliminating the preseason all together just leaves teams wondering how they can just evaluate players in practice and have guys looking sluggish come week 1 of the regular season. The league needs to find a way to both limit the risk of injuries and boringness of four weeks of games that don’t count.
My take on fixing preseason would be to cut the preseason in half and play just two games. The starters can play one half of the first preseason game to get their legs going and give the rest of the game to players fighting for their roster spot. This also gives a full game for the on the bubble players to prove themselves as well.
The veterans are training all off-season and know what it takes to be ready come week 1. One game for these guys will be enough to prepare them for the season. Let’s leave the majority of these two games to rookies looking to catch a spot on an NFL team. This will limit the risk of an injury to a star player while giving young guys the chance to shine.
No more debating, it’s time for the NFL to focus on this topic and finally fix the preseason.