Preseason matters

As the owners of the NFL lobby for an 18-game season, thereby
eliminating two preseason games, the question has once again emerged: Does
preseason really matter?
Detractors say no; preseason games are ugly,
sloppy, increase the risk of injury, don’t mean a thing and should be
eliminated from the game forever. I would agree with half of that sentiment.
The games are ugly and sloppy, and injuries do happen. But the games are
meaningful in a variety of ways.

Several years ago, we wanted to determine, once and for all,
whether preseason records were indicative of regular season records. If you did
well during the preseason, were you more likely to do well during the regular
season?

We started the data set at 1995 when the Glazers purchased
the team. What we found was a moderate correlation between the Bucs preseason
performance and regular season performance.

Now, the data shows a moderate correlation
(correlation coefficient of .51 for you stat nerds), meaning it’s not the end
all, be all. Going 1-3 in the preseason doesn’t automatically doom your season.
But, it’s not meaningless either – the preseason carries more weight than often
suggested.

As fans, we can learn a lot about the team based on the
preseason. As we’ve discovered with the offensive line this year, the preseason
reveals where the team is deficient. This can be a double-edged sword because
as fans we start to panic before the regular season even kicks off. But at the
very least, you’re not surprised when the regular season rolls around.

You also get a gauge for the coaching staff. Do they want to
win above anything else? How hard are they trying? How do they interact with
the players? How do they react in a game? With as much coaching turnover as the
Bucs have had over the years, this can be valuable when a new coaching regime
takes over.

Likewise, the preseason also gives you a feel for the
players, old and new. Almost every preseason, we find a diamond in the rough who
may not get the fanfare of a franchise player like Mike Evans, but make an
impact nonetheless. Rakeem Nuñez-Roches and Jordan Whitehead in particular have
made a splash this preseason. On the other hand, the rookies who garnered a lot
of attention in training camp have yet to show up during the games.

This is another benefit of the preseason – every year, a few
training camp warriors emerge who outshine everyone else. But once they
actually hit the field and play against a non-Buccaneer opponent, they fail to
show up. The speed of the NFL is unlike anything these guys have ever
experienced, so it’s no wonder some easily get lost. Without the preseason, however,
we wouldn’t be able to weed these players out until they were already on the
roster.

On top of all of that, the most valuable part of preseason is
what it does to the fanbases around the league. We’re all on a level playing
field. It’s any given Sunday, and fans around the league have yet to be let
down by their team. Everyone’s excited for real, actual football. The coaching
staffs, while keeping most of their playbooks close to the chest, give us
little morsels of what’s to come. This preseason, we’ve gotten a little taste
of what a Todd Bowles defense can do and It. Is. Exciting. I cannot wait to see
that defense in full effect Week 1 against the 49ers. But until then, I’ll
settle for preseason.

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