(Note: I wrote most of this last season, but gave it an update. No matter what happens, this piece will always be posted at this time every year.)
There are a number of things on God's great Earth that I can't stand: Girls who are stuck up, people who wear sunglasses indoors, soggy nachos, King Joffery, people who complain about their waitress, and most importantly, preseason football. I can't stand it. It has nothing to do with seeing players in the 3rd quarter who will be bagging groceries by September. It just has to do with the hype. Seriously, does ESPN really need to lead Sportscenter with preseason highlights, much less highlights that go five minutes long with the dramatic NFL Primetime music? Come on!
What makes matters worse is that we get conflict between the happy fans and the angry fans. Take the Bills. I remember after the 2nd preseason game against the Broncos last year, the angry crowd was killing the team because they played like crap. However, there were a number of happy fans who said that the angry fans were just going off the deep end, "It's only preseason so shut up." And yet, two weeks later, when the offense played great against the Jags, it was a reversal of fortune. Happy fans declared that the offense was awesome while angry fans said "It's only preseason so shut up."
It just becomes too much.
History has shown us that we shouldn't read anything into the preseason. During the Bills Super Bowl years, the preseason was always a disaster. The team went 0-5 in 1990. Now, I know some will say, "Well, they were awesome so they could take preseason games off." That might be true, but entering the '90 season, the team wasn't at legendary status yet. Hell, they had just gone through the "Bickering Bills" year.
Last year, the Bills had 9 sacks against the Bears in the first preseason game. Everyone was going crazy! "Oh my god! Shawne Merriman had 2 sacks! Parade!! 9 sacks?! Defense wins championships!" Um, in the regular season the Bills didn't reach 9 sacks until week 8 against the Redskins.
Speaking of Merriman, he looked like a killer last preseason. He was the rave of training camp. Had 3 sacks in like 2 quarters of action. What did he do in the regular season? One sack in 5 games. How about the Bills offense? They were a trainwreck in the preseason. Remember how Andy Levitre was fighting for his job and the Bills had absolutely no idea who would be starting on the OL? Fitzpatrick looked terrible, the running game didn't do much, and the the team scored 13 points in the first two preseason games. What happened during the first 7 weeks of the season? The offense was on fire. Again. It don't mean sh#t.
Don't buy into back-up running backs named Bell or Omen or Joe Burns or Nate Turner. There is always a running back who looks good during these games. Look for special teams players, and legit position battles (WR and LT battle), and enjoy rookies. But don't anoint them. Don't even kill them. Just watch.
Two years ago, Trent Edwards and CJ Spiller had the greatest preseason ever. Captain Checkdown had a QB rating of 102.7, and CJ Spiller averaged 4.6 yards a carry. Did it carry over to the regular season? Um, no. Trent lost his job after week 2 and CJ Spiller rode the bench after week 1. Hell, Aaron Maybin has five career preseason sacks! Yes, FIVE! I remember Rob Johnson throwing for three touchdowns in one preseason game. I remember in 2008, Edwards looked great in the preseason. He torched the Steelers starting defense for 17 points in the first half. I'm pretty sure that was the last time Edwards was on a team that scored 17 points. It's just a fraud. A sham. A mirage. A joke. It's money in the pockets of owners and fodder for reporters who are looking for anything to write about.
The goal for most coaches is getting out of these exhibition games healthy. They don't care about winning. And if there are coaches who care about winning, they are probably going against a coach who doesn't care, and you should just burn the film. I always thought that the reason why Trent and CJ played well 2 preseasons ago was because Chan Gailey really wanted to win and raise the confidence of his players. He gave them decent plays to work with while a team like the Colts, whom the Bills played in Toronto, are notorious for not giving a crap about preseason. Besides the health factor, these teams don't want to give away too much during these games. Why? Because they don't want their regular season opponents to look at film.
What annoys me even more is when the media tries to overanalyze the preseason or practice. The tweets from reporters about guys looking great or bad make me laugh. It is fricken practice. "Everyone is in the best shape of their lives. We know the playbook more. I know so much more because of OTAs. I've been eating red meat and drinking egg yolks which has lowered my body fat to 10%."
Blah, blah, blah. It is the same crap. Your telling me these guys are as intense or focused during St. John Fisher practices as they are during a regular season game? Come on. I remember in 2001, Chuck Dickerson took about 20 minutes to destroy rookie DE Aaron Schobel after a preseason game on his radio show. He went to town on him. Yeah...he really knew he sucked, right? You know we are a Vince Young destroying Washington's undrafted rookie secondary quarter away from a 2-hour talk show dedicated to the QB position. People need to write/talk about the preseason as if it is a clear vision of what the regular season will be. It is crap, so don't buy into it. Please.
There are just too many factors in trying to assess whether a team is making strides in preseason. History shows us that we shouldn't read into it. Every time Shawne Merriman gets 2.5 sacks, I'm telling myself, "It's only preseason." When Fitzpatrick struggles, I'm telling myself, "It's only preseason." It is nothing more than an exhibition. It is like playing Madden 2013 on Xbox 360. Want a positive take? Preseason football is better than no football. So there.
With that, I will continue to write preseason posts, but I will place a giant sign at the start of it that says, "This is all a sham..even this post."