Fans cheated in preseason
A full price ticket to see starters play part time unfair to NFL’s base
Drew Brees didn’t play. Neither did Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Dak Prescott, nor Cam Newton.
The NFL is selling one thing and delivering another when it comes to the preseason. The league charges the same price for preseason games as regular season games, yet the quality is vastly different. In last week’s first round of preseason games, most teams kept their starters on the sideline. They’ll do the same in the fourth and final contest. After all, teams have a really strong idea of where their starters and backups are on the depth chart, and avoiding injury to the teams’ playmakers is a smart move from the teams’ perspectives. But that means the league’s stars – those who put fans in the stands and in front of TVs – will only play part of the second and third games. Ticketholders are rightly upset that they’re not getting what they’re paying for, and because teams don’t want to show their cards, they simplify their plays. That makes the games unwatchable for out-of-market viewers and all but the most loyal diehards. Many argue the NFL should cut back the number from four preseason games to as few as two.
In years past, most teams would play their starters for the initial series or two – and a handful did. That makes the first preseason game somewhat redeemable, even if fans only get a glimpse of their full team.
In May, NFL owners eliminated the league-mandated first set of 15 player cuts required during training camp. Now, instead of going from a 90 players to 75 to 53 in preseason, there will be one cut from a 90-man preseason roster to a 53-man regular season roster.
The change gives teams more time to evaluate down-the-roster players’ strengths, weaknesses, ability to learn schemes, and overcome injury. It really improves the chances for borderline players who are hoping the bubble they and their professional football dreams are riding on doesn’t burst.
The elimination of the first cut allows for greater evaluation for the teams, but fans are losing out. The quality of the preseason games are not nearly the same when the stars sit.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says he wants to shorten the preseason. The league will have to get the players’ union permission to change the schedule, but all need to remember it is the fans who built and support the league and the individual teams financially.
The league should reduce the number of preseason games and encourage teams to scrimmage against teams in their region either at one of their home facilities or at approved neutral sites. For instance, the Saints could face the Houston Texans at McNeese in Lake Charles, the Dallas Cowboys at the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, the Tennessee Titans in Birmingham, or the Jacksonville Jaguars in Mobile. This would allow teams an opportunity to “visit” fans and expand their reach.