The biggest sham in professional football is not the fact that rookies are earning $20 million guaranteed before ever stepping onto the field. While that is troublesome and should be addressed at some point, the fact is that NFL team should be charged with robbery for forcing loyal fans to shell out regular season ticket prices to see meaningless preseason games.
Honestly, unless it’s the team’s third preseason game then chances are the marquee players the fans came to see are hitting the showers before most fans even have a chance to get settled into their seats. To put it in perspective, before the Washington Redskins-New York Jets game I asked Hall of Famer Sonny Jurgensen, “what can we expect to see from Brett Favre tonight?”
And that was about it. But that doesn’t mean that the Jets are giving their fans a break at the ticket office. Tickets for this game were the same as they would have been for a week 17 matchup with the playoffs on the line, and that’s the traveshamockery of it all.
While none of that may be groundbreaking news, it’s still enough to get even the most dedicated fans agitated with their favorite football team.
But I’d like to look at the preseason issue from a different perspective. We all know what the fans think about preseason, but what’s it like for the players who know they’re making the trip from D.C. all the way to the Meadowlands to play for less than 15 minutes? How tough is it mentally to prepare yourself to get in and get out, with the primary goal to simply avoid injury?
After seeing the Redskins play an uninspired brand of football for 58 minutes, I was lucky enough to catch up with the always refreshing Chris Cooley, who in addition to being a great interview also happens to be a Pro Bowl tight end. Here’s how it went:
Be honest, did you guys want to be here tonight?
“It’s hard to prepare yourself when you know you’re only going to play one quarter,” Cooley said. “You know, we didn’t gameplan the Jets – at least, as far as the players go. We practiced against our defense all week and we didn’t practice against the 3-4 look offensively. I know our defense didn’t prepare very much for them. Like I said, you know you’re only going to play a quarter. You know when a quarter ends you’re going out, so it’s hard to get in a mental state to get fired up to play hard.”
So what are you guys hoping to accomplish during that one quarter?
“I think our biggest goal is to just do what we want to do and to have a great drive,” Cooley said. “We did put one nice drive together and move it down the field. We had a penalty there that moved us back in the redzone and we didn’t score a touchdown, but I think we felt confident that we put a good drive together with our first team.”
Well, an ugly win is still a win. Talk to me about that ending.
“It was exciting. I was happy that we could have such a successful two minutes, and it’s fun to see Colt [Brennan] throw the ball,” Cooley said. “Even the guys on the sidelines are excited to watch Colt pass. I was surprised that they didn’t just go for the touchdown. I was surprised that they went in to tie it up in a preseason game. It’s different that they went for the overtime shot. I thought that they could get two plays at the endzone, but that’s them. We had a good time though. It was exciting and we had everyone up on their feet.”
You mentioned Colt Brennan. What do you see from the kid?
“Colt has a lot of confidence,” Cooley said. “Colt said to me on the sideline ‘As soon as I go in, I’m going for it.’ He wants to throw the ball down field. He’ll make smart plays, but he also wants to throw the ball down field. I think it’s good for a young quarterback to have that confidence.”
And with that I let Cooley off the hook as he headed out the door of the locker room. The biggest thing that stood out to me about the interview was when he mentioned that the offense hadn’t really gameplanned for the Jets and their 3-4 defense. You get the feeling that the coaching staff is still focused on making sure the offense grasps head coach Jim Zorn’s version of the West Coast offense. I guess they figured the team would be better suited ironing out the details of their offensive gameplan rather than worry about an AFC team’s 3-4 defense in the preseason.
While that’s understandable – afterall, the preseason is the time to work out the kinks – it does offer an explanation as to why quarterback Jason Campbell and the offense didn’t look as strong as they did in their first two preseason games. Let’s just hope everything goes smoother once the regular season rolls around and this offense sees a 3-4 defense again. Otherwise, some might look back to the Jets game as the offenses first sign of trouble against an aggressive and attacking defense.
(photo by Brian Murphy)