View Full Version : RAND: The Puzzle of the preseason

08-22-2006, 10:34 AM
(I think the real puzzle is this article. 2000 words and nothing said)

RAND: The puzzle of the preseason
Aug 22, 2006, 1:50:21 AM by Jonathan Rand - FAQ

Herm Edwards and his team have reached the point everybody hits sooner or later in the preseason. Thatís when you wonder what the preseason means and how much you should worry or exult about it. In the Chiefs case, worrying seems appropriate.

Problem is, the preseason is like a couple of pieces from a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle. And NFL teams donít get the box with a picture of the entire puzzle.

They have to guess: Does an 0-2 start with backups playing most of the games spell disaster? Does an offensive lull now mean that the Chiefsí days as the league leader on offense are ancient history?

In the preseason, simple facts lead to complex considerations. On one hand, we know these results will evaporate opening day. On the other hand, we know that winning is good, losing is bad and losing decisively is worse. So if you tell Edwards not to worry about the preseason, heís going to ask whether he should believe you or his eyes.

Players get mixed messages this time of year. They understand that the games donít count and that the starters just need to get in their work, then let the youngsters and borderline veterans go in and fight for jobs. But if a team stinks up the place, as the Chiefs have done for two weeks, players start hearing that they need to improve their focus and intensity.

Even experienced NFL coaches donít seem quite sure just how to treat the preseason. Edwards solemnly insists before each game that winning is always important. Then the TV cameras catch him having a good time on the sidelines while his team is having another summer swoon.

Thereís no better example of the contradictions of the postseason. The coach lightens up because he knows the results donít count. But heíd also feel a lot better if he saw more good things happening.

Unfortunately for Edwards and his team, itís hard to have the perfect preseason. That would involve winning most of the games, seeing the first-team units playing reasonably well and everybody blowing just enough assignments for the coach to instill a sense of urgency with the opener coming up soon.

But what do you do when a team canít win a game and shows no signs of making a smooth transition to a defensive juggernaut with a relentless ball-control offense?

Well, Edwards could have his first-team units play most of Saturday nightís home game against the St. Louis Rams and exhort his players to treat this as a regular-season game. That surely would enable them to blow out a team thatís probably treating this as just another pre-season game. But would that really tell us any more about the Chiefs than their losses at Houston and New York? Probably not.

These games are like dress rehearsals for a play. The cast often seems so out of sync that itís hard to imagine a halfway-presentable opening night. Then the light comes on, the adrenaline starts flowing and everybodyís true talent shines.

Itís anybodyís guess what this preseason means for the Chiefs so far. But itís a pretty good guess that no matter what happens between now and September 10, the Chiefs will be favored to beat the Bengals. And only then will we see a lot more of the entire puzzle.

The opinions offered in this column do not necessarily reflect those of the Kansas City Chiefs.