Dissecting NFL preseason: The good, bad and ugly

Jim Hackett
August 23, 2019 - 10:46 am
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Say what you will about the NFL -- and I have been calling those occupying the league offices on Park Avenue a bunch of feces throwing baboons for a very long time -- but give them this: they know their audience. They don’t show any respect for their audience but they do know us. More proof of that restarted at about 7:30 Thursday night. Preseason Game 3. The big one! The one that matters. The ‘dress rehearsal’ if you will.

Hook, line and sucker, they got me once again.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy watching it and thoroughly enjoyed Brady’s second-quarter touchdown drive. That drive’s highlight reel featured a beautiful Brady first-down throw to Ryan Izzo among other fine tosses. Seeing Sony Michel in near midseason form during our first preseason glimpse of him was a pleasant relief and who doesn’t love a badass James Develin touchdown plunge? Regarding that Patriots defense, as I suspected when I wrote this article below back on May 16th, they look active, aggressive and potentially dominating.

All good things. 

However, the combination of injuries, potential injuries, the queasiness from worrying about injuries versus the moments of instant gratification just don’t balance out equally. The scales are most certainly tipped the wrong way. Watching a league star like Cam Newton come off the field in the first quarter of a preseason game due to injury just sucks. Hopefully, it’s nothing serious, but again, those preseason scales just don’t balance out well enough. 

Last year Patriots fans caught a fleeting glimpse of its highly regarded, top draft pick Isaiah Wynn and didn’t see him again until last Saturday night. His recovery from an Achilles tear took him a full year to rehabilitate and he plays one of this teams’ most valuable positions, left tackle. All the while that same preseason, the Patriots' other first-round draft pick, the aforementioned Sony Michel had yet to be seen on the field nursing his own knee injuries at that time. 

I get it, it's football and players get hurt. But the tension in August in some ways is as real as the tension when the stakes are the highest in the playoffs. That just isn’t right. As I wrote this, Patriots specialist Brandon King was carted off on a stretcher. I need a drink.

So that’s the bad. The fact that one of the most fun months of the entire calendar year, August, is considered to be successful by simply surviving it, is not good. To quote Tony Soprano "It adds to my general stress level."

A phrase we all know very well around these parts, "it is what it is" certainly applies, but I don’t have to like it. For now, however, we do have to deal with it.

Now to the good. Watching the new guys, new schemes and following the camp surprises like Jakobi Meyers is a lot of fun. There are a lot of rookies from the 2019 draft class that are showing really well, like cornerback Joejuan Williams, running back Damien Harris, quarterback Jarrett Stidham, linebacker Chase Winovich and punter Jake Bailey to name a few. If you’re into Fantasy Football like me, August is the best month of the year, but the preseason games are agonizing.

This leads me to the ugly ... 

If you have ever owned season tickets then you know the deal. Preseason tickets are a non-negotiable, must buy. I had Pats season tickets for 17 years and it was the same jack long before and ever since. You don’t buy an eight-game home schedule, you buy10 and its full price. The wild success of the Patriots over the last 26 years, has led many season ticket holders to hold their breath and take their medicine (me included for a very long time) but it’s a total rip job. Paying full price for a game that doesn’t matter and probably gives you more indigestion than the full season of red meat you’ll devour in the parking lot for the months to follow is a total scam. Need proof? Ask someone who has season tickets and ask him how easy it is to give away a preseason ticket. Newsflash, it’s not. 

So that’s the good, bad and ugly of the NFL preseason, now with negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement nearing, I’ll offer some solutions.

First, cut the preseason to two games. The only tangible way to reduce the preseason injury risk and the fan indigestion that comes with it is to lower the odds of it happening. Reduce the games and maybe you reduce the injuries. In this era of joint practices during the offseason, the actual preseason games are becoming less important anyway.

Second, offer your shareholders (season ticket holders) a preseason option. Make the base price for preseason tickets 50 percent. If you pay full freight than you get added weight for the Super Bowl lottery should your team make it to the dance. In New England, making the Super Bowl is obviously a frequent occurrence so the incentive would probably work and the team would come out whole in many cases anyway. This way, however, your best customers wouldn’t be held at gunpoint for games they don’t want or need and there’s an incentive for them to act. 

Capitalism at its best.

Lastly, I’d like to apologize to all the less-thans out there whom I compared to the executives at the NFL offices. Sorry guys, throw to your heart’s content.