This Thursday, the National Football League will complete their preseason schedule with all 32 teams in action.
It wasn’t always that way.
Years ago, they even had a nationally televised Monday Night Football contest to complete the preseason with the rest of the games scattered over the weekend. Then, one of the teams complained about the need to play on a Monday night before their regular season opener and the disadvantage that gave them in making final cuts and preparation for the following Sunday.
So, the NFL did away with the Monday night game.
Those teams playing Sunday contests on the last week of the preseason then realized the squads that got to wrap up their summer games three days earlier had a perceived advantage over those playing on Sunday. So, like moths to a light on a dark night, all 32 teams gravitated to the Thursday night slot.
And that is why, for the past decade, the preseason has concluded on the first possible date a team could complete their summer schedule. This movement is but one of the signs that all the teams are out to gain a competitive advantage in ways that are obvious and those that are more subtle.
Does it really make a difference?
Not as much of a difference as personnel and game plans … and for my money, motivation.
If the preseason is simply glorified practice in preparation for the games that count, do the scores matter at all?
Some teams don’t think so, and some teams want to teach their teams to win even when the results are meaningless. But, much more important than the scores during the preseason is the rhythm a team is establishing that they can employ to win games when the scores do matter.
With that in mind, the defending Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles might not be overly concerned that they are winless in three preseason encounters, but the fact that their first string offense has failed to crack the endzone is a major concern.
The Super Bowl Most Valuable Player, Nick Foles, has not been able to lead a touchdown drive in three starts and last Thursday his team got shutout by the Cleveland Browns, losing on the road, 5-0.
Now, once he is cleared for full contact, Carson Wentz is expected to be in control of the Eagles offense. But, he will be working with the same personnel that the man who filled in for him last winter and led the Eagles to their only Super Bowl drive in team history, has been unable to successfully move the ball with this preseason.
Now, for the record, after Foles guided the Eagles to the Super Bowl last year I would have traded him before their victory parade in Philadelphia. His value was never higher than it was in the glare of a winning Super Bowl locker room, and it will never reach an apex like that again.
Instead of shipping him out of town and getting premium trade value, the Eagles are now heading into the season with a backup quarterback unable to engineer a touchdown against preseason defenses and a starter coming off a serious injury.
When a team rises from the ashes to win a Super Bowl thier next season is consistently one to forget. Although, because I remember all that, we will be cashing a ticket next January when the Eagles finish under their projected win total of ten games.