Yes, it’s true. The NFL preseason is meaningless, useless, and generally a waste of your life. It will rot your soul, suck your will to live dry, and make endless re-runs of Matlock look like an appealing alternative.
Whoa. I blacked out for a second there. Let’s clarify: the score of a preseason game is absolutely and utterly meaningless, and by extension so are the overall preseason results. Now that was shocking, wasn’t it?
No, it wasn’t, and we’re aware that although the odd delusional mind lurks somewhere in the weeds of Pigskinland, most fans completely ignore the scoreboard while watching preseason games. We watch to see how the offense and defense is progressing after a long offseason, especially after this past offseason that was particularly long and particularly depressing. We watch to see how new players–both draft picks and free agents–are gelling with their new surroundings, even if their time on the field is brief and they play at best one half. Most of all, we watch because we miss football.
The preseason would be better if the scoreboard was shut off. Of course that’s impossible because we live in a competition-driven society, and because degenerates actually gamble on these games. But as we cruise towards the beginning of Week 4 in the 2011 preseason, it’s important to recognize the enormity of how pointless the preseason scoreboard has become. There are seven teams right now that could finish with a goose egg on one side of their record to close out August, and it’ll all still have zero impact on Week 1 of the regular season.
Let’s look at the undefeated and winless teams during the preseason over the last several years, and how those unblemished or heavily blemished records played out in the regular season. The tale of irrelevance starts with the Indianapolis Colts, the perennial AFC South powerhouse that’s made the playoffs nine straight years, appearing in the Super Bowl twice. Including their winless August this year, the Colts have won just four of their 28 preseason games since 2005. Once the games have meaning they’re 74-21 during that same stretch, with the 2006 season ending in a championship.
Everything is purely coincidental with preseason scores, a time when coordinators are experimenting, and coaches are trying to evaluate players and fill out their depth chart. That likely factored into the Panthers and Bengals going undefeated in 2006, and both teams then finishing with identically average 8-8 regular season records.
Two years ago the Cardinals were among the winless August teams. All they did after that was come a Santonio Holmes heroic moment away from the franchise’s first championship. On the opposite end of the spectrum during that same year were the Ravens, Dolphins, and Bears, only one of which finished above .500 (Baltimore won their division at 9-7).
But the shining prize in our steaming pile of recent nothingness are the 2008 Lions, a team that quickly reverted to its lowly laughingstock form once there was a consequence for losing. The Lions then became the only winless team in NFL history.
Going back further, the power of sheer coincidence grows. An archive of winless and undefeated teams in the preseason was compiled by SportsDelve.com, and since 2000 only 45 percent of the teams that completed an undefeated preseason also had a winning regular season. Less than half of the teams with a perfect preseason record were able stay above water in the regular season.
That’s paltry and awful, but it gets worse. The eight division winners last year (Patriots, Steelers, Colts, Chiefs, Eagles, Bears, Falcons, Seahawks) had a combined 2010 preseason record of 9-21, and two of them went winless (Colts and Bears).
The numbers on the scoreboard in the preseason are little more than drivel and random noise. We all know this, and we’ll see them this way until either the Lions, Rams, or Texans–all undefeated so far this year–win their first three or four regular-season games.
An announcer will inevitably make reference to their clean preseason record, and attempt to say something intelligent yet incredibly clichéd about momentum being created at camp, and grown men bonding in the late summer sun.
Somewhere, kittens will die.