Repurposing Preseason Football

26 Aug

Collegian writer Tyler Dreilling made a good point in his column today: preseason football does not give any true indication of how a team will do in the 16 games that count toward its actual record. Basically, it’s an opportunity for injuries and an opportunity for third- and fourth-string players to make the team. I agree with Dreilling, and so I posit a solution: Why not exclude the starters and second-string players from preseason games?

Many clubs are hesitant to put their marquee players on the field for even an eighth of the game, so why have them out there at all? If I had multiple millions invested in Peyton Manning or Tom Brady or someone else, I sure wouldn’t want to lose out on his contributions for the rest of the season in pursuit of a win in what is basically a practice game.

Besides, the time starters are in the game is robbing some other player of an opportunity to show what he can do in a game scenario. I’m pretty confident Manning doesn’t have to win his spot based on his performance in a preseason game, but you can bet there are plenty of other players that do.

Now, you can tell me that people won’t come to watch or tune in to watch games in which the starters don’t play. I’d agree, except … it’s basically that way already. Why not spend that time developing depth in various positions instead of putting proven players in harm’s way and crossing your fingers that something doesn’t happen?

Also – and maybe this is just me, when I go to a football game, I go to watch a game, not one or two or three particular players. A preseason football game without starters could be compared to a high school football game: maybe these players are not the absolute cream of the crop, but they still want to win. They’re competitive. This opportunity matters to them.

That being said, even the third- and fourth-string players in the NFL are tremendously talented. They would not be playing the game for a living if they were not. As I said, then, it should not be seen as a lesser value to watch them play versus watching the starters for five minutes and then watching the reserves for the rest of the game.

If a lack of star presence really makes the NFL that uneasy, it could suggest that the head coach, starting quarterback, middle linebacker and kicker, for instance, be guests on the broadcast to evaluate their teammates and talk about the team’s hopes for the season. People love to feel like they know the players into which they are putting all this faith for the season, so that could actually be a much better alternative to having them risk injury on the field.

In case you’re wondering, I am well aware that these games (like others) are centered around the potential for revenue. Because this is the case, it’s unlikely that the league would be okay with teams benching their best players for the preseason. However, I wouldn’t mind it, and I think quite a few others would understand the reasons behind it as well.

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