“You Be the Coach-What do you do?”
The decision making this time of year on the job is very hard. What’s an NFL coach to do?
Not talking roster cuts, which will be tough a week from now, not talking about winning preseason games either. But really talking about health.
How much do you play your starters in these NFL preseason games? How much a risk are you willing to take to try and get some answers about your team, and its players? What happens to your team if a key player goes down, in a preseason game in August?
The NFL continues to be bashed about charging full ticket prices to see exhibition games. A bad business model for sure, but then again show me an NFL owner who is not committed to making money off the richest sport in the United States.
It’s easy to use the word ‘meaningless’ when referring to an exhibition game, Chargers-Cardinals, or last nights Bucs-Bengals game. But that is not necessarily true. Some of the games have been atrocious to watch, but you have to find out who can and cannot hold up in a battle of elite players.
Coaches, like Mike McCoy, or Denver’s Gary Kubiak, Andy Reid in KC, and new head coach Jack Del Rio with the Raiders, have to get answers about how their players hold up in ‘live action’ fire, in game conditions. You cannot produce that type of environment on a Tuesday in practice at Chargers Park. You get that only when Pro Bowler Corey Liuget lines up against some rookie left tackle from the Seahawks.
Coaches have to find out how the learning curve of young players is going and that comes in game action, not a walk thru, or a film session.
Teach them footwork. Show them technique. What they practice in the week leads to having to do it on game night.
The end result is learning on the job. The risk, are players going down in the second quarter of that exhibition game, and how it impacts your squad..
It’s been a tough first three weeks of NFL camps. There were 81-major injuries from the opening of camp thru last weekend. Add on another 12-significant injuries this past weekend, and you have a numbers problem.
Just ask Green Bay how they feel now that star receiver Jordy Nelson, their big money-big play guy, is gone after tearing knee ligaments this weekend.
Carolina lost both their top receivers, including Kelvin Benjamin, with season ending injuries in camp. Then over the weekend, pass rusher Frank Alexander went down with a torn Achilles, and center Ryan Kalil got hurt..
The Giants are without 6-safeties in camp. The Cowboys had 5-running backs hurt. And it goes on and on. 5-running backs in Buffalo have been dinged. Game-time injuries are part of the sport, but guys are going down in non-contact drills in practice too.
McCoy has been questioned as to why Philip Rivers has played just one series in two games. Why first round pick Melvin Gordon has just six carries in two weeks, and needs reps.
Rivers is like many other star QBs. They don’t need practice games, just full speed practices to get ready for opening day. But Gordon has to learn the speed of the game, the responsibilities of the position, and how to handle the wear and tear.
Dallas hasn’t had Tony Romo nor Dez Bryant on the field together yet. Colin Kaeperneck and Russell Wilson have played some in San Francisco and Seattle..
Tough call for a coach. You wouldn’t want to create a Ryan Mathews syndrome, where he kept getting hurt in preseason.
The NFL has openly talked of cutting the 4-game preseason slate to three, or even two. But they never moved on the proposals. They’ve already cut off season workouts, the OTA-world, in half, to help players heal and deal with the offseason. But that has a downside also, teaching time in the off season is limited. Practice time in pads in camp has been cut back. And downgraded even more in-season.
Alot of other veterans are playing games, and in a sense taking risks. Will the Rivers-led offense be ready on opening day? We know they will likely be healthy, but polished and ready? Who knows.
The NFL wants these games played, to make money. The coaches need these games to evaluate talent-vs-talent. The stars don’t want to get hurt unless it counts for real.
What would you do?