Can we all agree that NFL preseason football is a complete waste? Well, not a complete waste. It’s a great way to scout talent and find those diamonds in the rough that might just grow to become future stars on your football team. But as far as your starters go, can we all agree that it’s a complete waste for starters to play in meaningless preseason games?
Injuries are nothing new to the NFL. Just look at last season where some of the biggest names fell victim to inevitability and poor luck in a violent sport. Names like JJ Watt, Odell Beckham Jr., Deshaun Watson, Carson Wentz, Aaron Rodgers…the list goes on and on. But when it comes to injuries in the preseason, there’s just no reason to tempt it. Which is why teams like the Los Angeles Rams, the Green Bay Packers, and the Chicago Bears opted to rest their starters at a point during the preseason.
When Bears Coach Matt Nagy announced on Friday that he wouldn’t be playing his starters in the third, technically fourth for the Bears, preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs. I admit, I was shocked at the move and disappointed because I was looking forward to seeing how this No. 1 offense would respond following an improved but still needing-improvement performance.
But when Nagy explained why he was making the decision — half fueled by a desire to keep his starters healthy for Week 1 and half because he felt like his team was where it needed to be come Week 1 against Green Bay — I understood. And it made complete sense. Why risk things? Why risk then-No. 1 receiver Cameron Meredith tearing his ACL in the third preseason game only to be lost before the season began leaving your rookie quarterback with practice squad receivers to throw to?
Honestly, I’m part shocked, part entertained, part concerned surrounding the outrage of Nagy deciding to effectively rest his starters in the third preseason game.
There are so-called “columnists” clamoring for fans to get their money back — and how the NFL is ripping off fans in the preseason is another conversation entirely. But the audacity of these media to believe they know this football team better than the head coach is laughable. Sure, they get paid to start conversation, which is probably the only reason why they have this so-called “hot take.” But do they really believe they can gauge the pulse of this team from the outside looking in?
Where were these people last season when the Bears played rookie quarterback — and future starter in Week 5 — Mitch Trubisky in a meaningless, dangerous fourth preseason game, where a low hit made us collectively hold our breath in anticipation praying the future of our franchise wasn’t lost for the season on a meaningless play in the most meaningless game of the year. There was outrage. And all seemed to be asking the same question: “Why are you playing your valuable offensive piece in a meaningless game of preseason football?”
What changed? Has preseason become more important? Someone enlighten me because I didn’t get the memo.
But let’s be honest here, most of the outrage is focused around one starter in particular that was sat: Trubisky. For people that are confused or infuriated by Nagy’s move to sit the starters, they’re only focused on the fact that Trubisky wasn’t playing in what we’ve come to expect as the “dress rehearsal” game, where the starters play a good portion of the first half, maybe even into the third quarter.
Are snaps valuable for a second-year quarterback in a new system? Absolutely. But people forget that the Bears reported to training camp a good week before 30 other teams and have logged over 2,000 practice snaps, along with two preseason games worthy of snaps.
“For somebody to tell me that 25-30 reps is going to go ahead and make (Trubisky) a better player Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, it’s not going to happen,” Nagy told the media, where he passionately defended his decision in a press conference that lasted 13 minutes.
Why is it so important to put the most important piece of your offense out on the field in a meaningless game where he’s not even going to be running plays you’re going to be utilizing in this offense? Have people forgotten that preseason brings out vanilla offenses that won’t resemble the scheme that these teams will run come Week 1? So, in that vein, aren’t practice snaps — where you are running the plays you’re actually going to use this season — more valuable?
But the battle cry seems to be, “Mitch needs more reps!” Which is understandable. But it’s also wise to believe that a half of reps in a preseason game where Trubisky isn’t running the offense he’s going to be leading isn’t going to make or break his season. Or his season debut.
“If we win that game against Green Bay (in Week 1), trust me, it’s not because we didn’t play 25 (snaps on Saturday),” Nagy said. “And if we lose it, it’s the same thing, I promise you that.”
Nagy might only be four preseason games into his head coaching tenure with the Bears, you can already tell that Nagy is unlike any coach the Bears have had in recent, deflated memory. He can be unconventional, daring, and passionate in his decisions, and he doesn’t give a damn what you think or criticize him for.
“I know this team better than anybody right now and I feel strong about that,” Nagy said.
But what does he know? He’s just the head coach.