Moral of the preseason: Don't take it too seriously.
The Patriots lost to Tennessee and Tampa Bay in the 2007 preseason, then went 16-0 in the real games. The Colts lost 21 of 25 preseason games in the Manning Era at one point, and averaged 11 wins per regular season at the same time.
I bring this up because fans of the Cowboys (three points in the opening 3-0 snoozer at Oakland Monday), Rams (38-3 losers to a rookie coach and quarterback Sunday) and Bills (7-6 losers to Washington) are a little antsy this morning. The offseason promise has been tarnished. Fans are nervous.
I'll tell you what should make you nervous:
Smart coaches use the preseason to do things they want to do. Lovie Smith benched Jay Cutler, Matt Forte, Urlacher and Julius Peppers for the opener. Denver 31, Chicago 3. "Some people in Chicago might be upset with that game,'' Smith told me, "but I've got to take care of my team.'' Maybe some coaches would want Cutler, who is not injured, to play two or three series in the first preseason game, but on a muddy field, wanting to see Jason Campbell play a lot? That was preferable to Smith.
One more thing: Teams don't gameplan for preseason games. So the Jets aren't going to be on offense in the preseason what they'll be against the Bills on opening day. "What bothers me about people who make judgments on preseason games,'' one coach told me last week, "is that they don't realize how little coaches care about them. [Bill] Belichick walks off the field after a preseason game, and what he cares about is whether Chandler Jones fits into his defense and plays well. I can tell you he couldn't care less about the final score. None of us do, really.''
Care about the play of the young players who your team needs to fill a major hole. Care about rehabbers. Care about coming out of games healthy. Care about your first unit's play in the third preseason game -- a little. That's it. And look forward to the real games, not these.
Now on to your email:
ON THE PETRINO APOLOGY.
I didn't see it, but read his words. It's a start. But it's pretty hard to undo the mess he left in Atlanta, and the way he left.
STOP KILLING THE REPLACEMENTS.
They're probably not going to get one from me. I realize they're in a tough spot, but they chose to put themselves in that spot. They, in effect, crossed a picket line in a nationally televised spotlight, and when one of them spots a punt at the 4-yard line and calls it a touchback -- I'm sorry, he's going to get skewered.
Pete, I think you'll see some of that after, say, the third preseason game, if the real officials are not back. And I agree with you -- the players should step up, as Victor Cruz of the Giants did, and say it's time to get the real officials back.
THERE'S A GOOD REASON.
Five NFL officials are supervisors of officials for major college conferences, and they will not allow their officials from conferences like the Big East and Big Ten to do NFL games. And the other major conferences, in solidarity, will not allow their officials to do NFL games either. So the NFL games are being called by small-college, high-school and dismissed officials from large conference.
THANKS, DAE HO.
The average salary for the 120 game officials in 2011 was $149,000, according to the NFL, and that would increase to $189,000 per year in 2018, the last year of the NFL's contract proposal. Many people feel that's a fair wage for working two to three days a week for five months a year. There are two things at play here -- the officials want a little more than what the league is offering, and the officials want to keep their current pension plan instead of moving to a 401(k)-type of plan for retirement.
This is important because under the current pension, officials have a guaranteed payout upon retirement, and it isn't subject to the fluctuations of the stock market. The NFL's point is that many businesses around the country, including NFL teams, are taking away the guaranteed pensions, and the NFL's proposal to the officials is simply reflective of an American trend. It's up to you to decide which side to take.
PEOPLE WOULD WATCH.
The NFL has proven that it could televise anything and get ratings. As I've gone from camp to camp, I've noticed quite a few camps televised lived on NFL Network. Don't think the league's not thinking about it.