Freak-outs, Knee jerk reactions and three preseason games

Three preseason games... that should be enough, right? Enough to determine how good or bad the Carolina Panthers will be in 2011, enough to know what kind of quarterback Cam Newton will be in the NFL, enough to know what this coaching staff is like.

Preseason football is the modern day bellwether for our microwave society. A way to watch 9 hrs of football and make grandiose, overarching claims about what will happen in the future. Granted, I'm painting with a large brush here, really I'm referring to the lunatic fringe; those fans whose emotions swing so wildly from week to week that a 20-10 victory over the New York Giants portended hoisting of Lombardi trophies, and now two losses has their minds embroiled with visions of Roger Goodell standing at the podium in 2012 saying "With the number one pick in the 2012 NFL draft the Carolina Panthers select _____". What I've learned is that you can't reason with these fans, it's just not possible. They get too emotionally invested in the week-to-week to understand that the journey is as important as the destination, and that Rome wasn't built in a day.

Instead, today I'm appealing to the vast majority of fans to take a candid and logical look at the 2011 preseason to see if there's anything we can pull from it to see if it foreshadows future success or failure. I'll look at this...

After the jump

The record

I'm going to assume the Panthers will lose to the Pittsburgh Steelers this week because, well, they probably will. This will end the 2011 preseason at 1-3, but does that really mean anything? 



  • The 2010 Kansas City Chiefs went 1-3 in preseason. They finished the season 10-6 and made the playoffs.
  • The Indianapolis Colts are 7-17 in the last 5 preseasons. Their regular season record over this period is 61-19. 
There's no rhyme or reason for how the preseason works as it appears on box scores. This is because preseason games are about nuance, not transparency. All of the same hallmarks we've discussed play a role here, hiding the playbook, changing the game plan, and using games to examine nuance rather than make fans feel secure with a win. I understand and appreciate why fans are weary of a bad start in the preseason, but on occasion preseason wins do nothing more than placate the lunatic fringe, making them think the team is better than it is. The 2008 Detroit Lions are the example of this going 4-0 in preseason and then 0-16 in the regular season.

The quarterback

Just as we peel back the plastic film on our Stouffers when it comes to preseason games themselves the same can be said for the QB position. Again, we want to see success immediately because it helps allay our fears and validate the decisions made by the team. Unfortunately, not much we can learn here either. The NFL do not have preseason box scores available prior to 2008, but here are what some QBs since then did in preseason.

  • Joe Flacco: 35/67 (52.2%), 284 yards (4.2 YPA), 1 TD, 0 INT, 68.3 rating
  • Matthew Stafford: 30/55 (54.5%), 389 yards (7.1 YPA), 1 TD, 4 INT, 52.8 rating
  • Josh Freeman: 22/49 (44.9%), 238 yards (4.9 YPA), 1 TD, 3 INT, 41.0 rating
  • Cam Newton: 21/52 (40.3%), 275 yards (5.3 YPA), 0 TD, 0 INT, 58.2 rating
Cam Newton is a bust... right? I've heard it mentioned here on CSR, and I've heard it from the strains of the masses on PFT, Yahoo, ESPN etc. Football fans are like Guy Pearce in Memento they have no memory. As it stands right now with one more game to play Newton has a better YPA than Flacco or Freeman had, had a QB rating higher than Stafford had and a completion percentage fairly close to Josh Freeman. 

The QB ratings of Flacco, Stafford and Freeman last year? 93.6, 91.3 and 95.9 respectively.

The moral of this story: Lets lay off the freak-outs and knee jerks... because it's only been three preseason games.
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