Watch For Preseason Playmakers

 

For many fans, the Kansas City Chiefs 2010 debut in Atlanta was a disappointment. Those fans are part of the most loyal group in the NFL. Even with no substantial championship contender for almost 40 years, all it takes is a “good off-season” to provide hope again. As a member of this amazing fan base, I don’t think it’s time to throw out all the Chiefs gear just yet. One preseason game simply does not provide enough data to start speculating on the year as a whole. In fact, four preseason games isn’t enough evidence. We need watch the preseason with the right perspective, understanding the purpose behind these exhibition games. For most NFL coaching staffs, including Todd Haley’s, the preseason’s primary focus is to evaluate new talent, and hopefully find playmakers along the way.

This evaluation of players began at Rookie Camp, and we saw it continuing in Atlanta. It will continue in Tampa Bay this weekend, and for two weeks after that. Don’t let anyone fool you. These aren’t games, but rather opportunities to evaluate the effectiveness of newly acquired players against proven talent in live situations.

Score is only kept so players can experience real game-time situations, just like they do in practice. The game clock is run only to see how much attention players give to game management. Officials are used, only to help flag a player’s weakness, and to see how they react to lousy calls. It’s basically a live practice against a live team, but they can’t call it that because they have over-priced tickets to sell.

The Chiefs coaching staff says they want to win these “games” to sell tickets. I wouldn’t be surprised, if all the NFL coaches were required to sign an affidavit stating that they will only talk about exhibition games in the context of winning them. Although they don’t count, it seems everyone involved has to talk, act, and play like they want to win, but that’s not their goal.

That’s not a knock on the Chiefs, or any other team. Any good team has their priorities straight – and winning isn’t one of them. Still skeptical? A glance at the Super Bowl participants over the past ten years shows that less than half of those teams had winning preseason records, and almost a third had losing preseasons.

See the chart after the jump:

Year Team Season Preseason
2000 Ravens 12-4 4-0
  Giants 12-4 0-4
2001 Patriots 11-5 3-1
  Rams 14-2 3-2
2002 Bucs 12-4 3-1
  Raiders 11-5 2-2
2003 Patriots 14-2 4-0
  Panthers 11-5 4-0
2004 Patriots 14-2 1-3
  Eagles 13-3 1-3
2005 Steelers 11-5 3-1
  Seahawks 13-3 2-2
2006 Colts 12-4 1-3
  Bears 13-3 2-2
2007 Giants 10-6 1-3
  Patriots 16-0 2-2
2008 Steelers 12-4 3-1
  Cardinals 9-7 2-2
2009 Saints 13-3 3-1
  Colts 14-2 1-3

Not only does winning not count, but neither does starting. Coaches want to see how young players do against as many proven veterans as possible before they make their decisions. They they can’t do much of that in practice. That’s why some years teams have scheduled scrimmages against each other. Preseason games are nothing more than a scrimmage.

We can’t loose that fact that this is also a business and the preseason determines who is offered a job in the NFL. Haley and company have their target in sight, and they aren’t too concerned about winning over the fans during preseason. They know losing will be quickly forgiven, if they win when it counts.

So, why watch the preseason anyway? We want to know the same thing the Chiefs want to know: were there any playmakers added this year? That’s what was on Haley’s mind. As he watched the ball-handling speed of Javier Arenas, and Dexter McCluster, he had to get excited. When he saw Eric Berry play in a game which wasn’t too big for him his first time out, it had to feel good. Watching the performance of Andy Studebaker and Cameron Sheffield, he must have felt a little better about his linebacker corp. I bet Kendrick Lewis even put a smile on his face. We were even reminded of the playmaker already on the roster in Jamaal Charles. Some of us may have forgotten just how good he is.

It’s no wonder Haley appeared reassured on Monday, after what was a disaster of a “game”. He was so confident in their plan that the team took a break and went to the movies. It’s good to see a team having a little fun. It means they like what they see, so far. The addition of playmakers should provide hope to a team who hasn’t seen many in the last few years. The Chiefs may need another year, or so, of adding playmakers before they reach their goal, but for now the direction they are taking is fun to watch, even if they don’t outscore the other team.

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Tags: Kansas City Chiefs; Preseason; Playmakers

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