Preseason a Myriad of Mixed Messages
August 8, 2004 at 12:00 AM
By Brett Pahler
It's that time of the year again. After a half-year drought of football, Rashaun Woods could eat a bowl of oatmeal and have my full attention. Tim Rattay could tie his shoes and I would drop everything. Kevan Barlow could fumble a grapefruit in a grocery store and I would be gravely concerned.
Preseason is a deeply perplexing catch-22 of a month. If your team loses, it's an indication of how the season will go. If your team wins, it means your team showed too much of the playbook. If your team wins the 1st quarter but loses the rest of the game, it means you have limited depth. If vice versa, well, vice versa. Some coaches like to win while others could not care less. The only tangible meaning comes from the play of the rookies and second year players, which is, of course, meaningless, unless considered in light of the quality of the opponent. In order to use the preseason as a prognosis for the regular season you would need a BCS-style equation, and we all know how well that works.
With that said, you better believe I will be glued to the television set come Saturday. Watching to see if Rashaun Woods is as good a route runner as everyone proclaims. Hoping that Isaac Sopoaga can drive two offensive linemen into the quarterback's lap.
Someone should devise a meaningful way to evaluate a preseason game. Impossible? How about assigning points for every good play a rookie makes. Like the stickers they put on college football players' helmets. This would measure our draft class against the draft class of our opponent. Highly worthwhile information. Or we could make Ross Perot-style charts showing the preseason records of the coaches over the course of their careers and correlating that to the success their teams had that year. And while we're at it, why don't we consider our conclusions in light of current year and previous draft classes, the record of the teams the year prior to those preseasons, and the tenure and job security of the coach.
But then again, perhaps we don't want to know too much. Unlike the often-times painful reality of the regular season, the preseason goes down easy. If Shawntae Spencer gets burned for a 70-yard touchdown, it doesn't matter. He's a rookie. He's just one of those rookies that will need time to develop. Thus, no matter what the score, there's always at least one rookie somewhere over the course of the preseason that makes a tackle or catches a pass, and therefore, will soon be all-universe.
And not a moment too soon. Last year, Brandon Lloyd stole the show. Remember his touchdown from Tim Rattay in the first preseason game against a first string Kansas City cornerback? Remember his spectacular catches against the New Orleans Saints? Those were worth getting off the couch.
Will we have anyone special this year? Woods has been slowed by nagging injuries. Smiley will be a rock, but like most offensive linemen, about as exciting to watch as a baby elephant. Unless Shawntae Spencer is the next Deion Sanders, he probably won't be shutting receivers down anytime soon. Derrick Hamilton is probably too raw to make much of an impression. Same with Isaac Sopoaga and the rest of them. The most exciting guys to watch will probably be Cedrick Wilson and Brandon Lloyd, both of whom have worked incredibly hard this off-season to stay atop the depth chart.
Keep an eye on Wilson, Lloyd, and Woods. If any two of them can play like legitimate starters, the 49ers should make the playoffs. If not, we'll be good when Woods and Hamilton develop. Either way, we're no more than a season away from the playoffs based upon my unquestionable pre-preseason calculations. So sit back, and enjoy the preseason for more than it's worth. September will prove us wrong soon enough.
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