By HCR Staff | August 27, 2020
The NFL season is nearly upon us, and the football debates – and predictions – will heat up and escalate as well.
At least that’s the conventional wisdom. And why not? The Chiefs appear loaded, they’ve gotten their best players under long term contracts, and they had another speed-laden draft. On the other hand, the Jaguars look like a mess. They’re unproven at the QB position, they’ve unloaded a lot of talent on defense, and their division opponents all appear on the rise.
But we’re not so sure how Vegas sees it today is how it’s going to play out. Our instinct is that COVID is the most formidable opponent all 32 NFL head coaches have ever seen, and we’re pretty sure that not all 32 are going to respond with poise and good Plan B’s and C’s.
If we’re right, every traditional metric you might be using to assess the upcoming season may be irrelevant, and worse, completely useless.
For example, every NFL head coach values stable routine in their preparation. They want clear and precise schedules, planning, and the minimization of unforeseen events. There’s a reason the very best head coaches have had long tenures; they’ve had a lot of reps – and years – perfecting their routines.
One of the most important measuring sticks for every head coach’s preparation is the use of preseason games. There’s a rhythm to every training camp, and it revolves around the preseason game schedule. Preseason games are the dress rehearsals for everything – game reps for players, meeting times and protocols for coaches, logistics of travel, sharpening game management skills, etc.
Now, of course, there are no preseason games, and consequently, no measuring stick. This will unnerve some head coaches. Their speculations and educated guesses about the status of their team won’t have a platform to yield data that’ll confirm or reject their thoughts.
In addition to the lack of preseason games, scrimmages with other teams also have been eliminated. That’s a loss of more data, more information.
Now add on top of all this, the stress of making sure your entire football operation is operating on a daily basis per COVID safety protocols – protocols all 32 head coaches have never had to deal with.
We think that every NFL team is operating right now in a darker closet than they think. Some will respond nimbly, others will panic.
Right now, the Chiefs are looking at – on paper – a talented roster. Right now, the Jaguars are looking at – on paper – a less talented roster.
But Andy Reid has never had to deal with this type of preseason, and neither has Doug Marrone. Most importantly, their players have never had to deal with it either.
Are we absolutely sure Chiefs players will respond better? Maybe – but everything this season is one of first impression. And everything we’re thinking right now, according to the traditional metrics, could be wildly wrong.