For years now, the NFL preseason has been deemed unwatchable — with the exception of the hard-core fan who gets excited watching the undrafted rookie free agents playing the majority of the reps in preseason games, me being one of those people. For most fans, they disregard preseason action and look forward to regular-season play.
This year, the term “unwatchable” has been taken to a whole new level. During the contest between the Philadelphia Eagles and the New England Patriots, there were 21 penalties enforced for a totals of 169 yards. Another 11 penalties were declined for various reasons.
For those people who don’t like mental math, that’s a whopping 32 times the field was littered with yellow laundry. Before the game occurred Friday evening, the officiating crew spent the week in Foxborough, Massachusetts where the Eagles and the Patriots held joint practices.
According to Andy Hart and Paul Perillo of Patriots Football Weekly, the visiting officiating crew told the local media this week that their goal was to throw between 20-25 flags per preseason game, with that number decreasing once the regular campaign begins.
That is an asinine notion. How can anyone have a predetermined number of penalties in mind before a game begins? Isn’t the entire purpose of an officiating crew to call illegal infractions? What if there are only two legitimate rules violations during one of these preseason contests? Are the officials going to make 18 or so phantom calls to ensure they hit their quota?
During the New England and Philadelphia game, the dirty laundry all over the field overshadowed an extremely interesting contest.
New England quarterback Tom Brady played the first two series, which chewed up the majority of the clock in the first quarter. After receiving the opening kickoff and driving the length of the field, Brady wasn’t on the same page with tight end Steve Maneri who was signed by the squad on Sunday (Aug. 10), and the result was a pick six by Philadelphia cornerback Carry Williams who injured his hamstring leaping over a diving Brady and didn’t return to the game after his TD celebration.
Once he returned to the field after the miscue, Brady led the offense back down the field and threw a 15-yard touchdown pass, on a back-shoulder fade, to wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins.
Once the starters excited the game, it turned into an offensive shootout on both sides of the ball. With four minutes left to go in the contest, the Eagles trailed 45-38 but had the ball on the Patriots’ five-yard line. After four straight rushing attempts, Philadelphia was turned away.
Despite the excitement and action on the field, the dominating headline was the officiating, which is disappointing. The NFL has explored with the idea of eliminating two preseason games and going to an 18-game schedule during the regular season.
Maybe that’s the thought process from the NFL. If they continue to make the preseason pathetic, then they will have a strong case during negations for the next Collective Bargaining Agreement, which is still years away and is another mind-numbing conversation in itself.
Whatever their ultimate goal is, the fans that are attending these games are really wasting their money. Fans are paying the same price as regular-season games and they are getting to watch the officials dominate the entire night. It’s pathetic to say the least.
The preseason needs to be overhauled and the sooner, the better.
Chris Slone can be reached at 353-3101, ext 1930, or on Twitter @crslone.