NFL preseason games routinely dominate everything else on TV at any given time. From a marketing/branding perspective, it matters.
But what about the games themselves? How many regular season hits do you have after finishing the preseason with a winning record?
What about the players who rack up the most stats? Will leading the NFL preseason in passing yards, for example, ever serve as a future indicator of success?
About 10 years ago, when I was a fantasy football fanatic, I consumed NFL preseason games the same way Joey Chestnut consumes hot dogs on the 4th of July.
And in some cases, that knowledge has helped me pick up some overdue GEMS. Mainly because I had learned a particular team’s depth chart and could handcuff the guys or at least have a general understanding of trends and possible outcomes.
Fast forward to now, and watching preseason is like watching your favorite NFL jerseys battle each other. After the starters and known players walk out, the average NFL fan has no idea who the kids are who enter the game and fight for their future NFL lives.
Back to the original question: Does the preseason impact regular season performance? To find out, I googled « all-time NFL preseason records. » And was surprised to find that there is no complete list. even I tweeted Pro Football Reference Speaking of which.
The NFL brags/advertises all the data/analysis provided by Amazon and other sources. Measuring Tyreek Hill’s top speed on a long gainer. Provide catch probability on difficult catches. Being the most watched thing on TV, there are stats for everything. Apparently you can find out what Vince Lombardi had for lunch in 1962.
Except all-time preseason records. Which perhaps underscores the notion that preseason games have no real purpose or purpose?
I took my Google search further, actually scanning the results on page 2 for the first time in recent memory. And I came across some interesting croquettes. Like this:
“If you are interested in whether W/L impacts the regular season, it doesn’t at all. The Patriots 16-0 2007 when 0-4 in the preseason. The 0-16 Lions went 4-0 in the preseason.
Lots of talk and content about the Baltimore Ravens and their weirdly erotic undefeated preseason streak.
But then away Google page 4 found this PDF. It looks legit and was titled « PRESEASON COUNTS » in all caps. Data only includes NFL seasons from 1966 to 2003. But definitely worth reading/scanning on a rainy Friday afternoon in your office.
But for the purposes of this post, pay attention to this upcoming factoid:
“Preseason success translated into Super Bowl victories throughout NFL history. Of the 38 Super Bowl champions, 30 (78.9%) had a preseason winning percentage of . 500 or better. Overall, the 38 Super Bowl winners combined to post a preseason record of 115-65-2 (.637).
It also includes this quote that could easily be attributed to Ravens coach John Harbaugh:
« My approach to the preseason is to try to win every game we play, » says new New York Giants head coach TOM COUGHLIN. « It’s so much easier to teach and learn when you’re in a win-win situation. »
Here’s a direct quote from Coach Harbaugh a year ago (via WTOP) when the Ravens tied it Then NFL record 19-game preseason streak set by the 1959–62 Packers, led by the aforementioned Lombardi.
“I mean, there are going to be people who are going to say this doesn’t mean anything, and there are going to be people who are going to look at it and go, ‘Wow, that’s something.’ So, I think everything is something,” she said.
“I am convinced that everything has meaning in life. So, I guess you can take two things; nothing has meaning and everything has meaning. So if we’re doing it, it’s worth doing, it’s important and it’s worth doing well. »
From this post YES: « Since it started in 2016, the Ravens have won at least eight games every regular season. »
I mean, this is somethingRight?
Personal opinion: I think preseason is important in terms of establishing workflows and attitudes. Which are eventually grouped under the term « Culture ». At the very least you are building patterns and habits.
Ok, so as for individual efforts. Do those have any value? For me, I’d like to spend the rest of my human existence walking the earth telling everyone I led the 2022 NFL preseason in receiving yards. Or contrasts. OR ANYTHING. I would put that in my LinkedIn headline for the show.
Check out this great title I found: Sage Rosenfels was the Tom Brady of the NFL preseason
Released in 2019, it’s a great deep dive into NFL preseason QB performances since 2000. Some standout names on this list: Billy Volek, Joe Webb, Josh Johnson (who started a preseason game last week), Trent Edwards. Once you read the data, there’s no denying that Sage WAS the TB12 of the NFL preseason.
One preseason performance buried deep in my subconscious is former Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz. In 2010 Cruz suddenly became APE SHIT.
In four games, the undrafted rookie produced 15 receptions for 297 yards and 4 TUDS. He absolutely blew up TF on MNF against the Jets. This Bleacher Report article sums up the insanity brilliantly. From there, he won a Super Bowl and made the Pro Bowl (when it counted).
So since we can’t find a ton of individual data, we use that QB list to extrapolate.
And what you’ll find is that the greatest value in preseason player performance appears to be for fringe players who become reinforcements and occasional starters. Those players can swing individual games. But you won’t find a future NFL Hall of Famer.
The Ravens’ NFL hitting streak record was extended to 22 games. The final preseason game of 2022 is this Saturday against the Washington Redskins… err Commandos.
If the Ravens win, we’ll have another year to reflect on what the preseason means. And for Pro Football Reference to start storing all-time preseason data.