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Preseason is Meaningless: Except When It Isn’t

Jeff Janis

It’s the bye week. So let’s take a moment and go back in time to what is still the biggest single moment so far this season. Early in the second preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Jordy Nelson went down with a dreaded non-contact injury. He tore his ACL and was out for the season.

Aaron Rodgers was quoted after the game as saying that it was especially tough losing Jordy in a “meaningless” game. That fit well into the narrative against the preseason that the media was hawking and thus the rending of clothes and gnashing of teeth over the preseason was on.

Let’s bottom-line this. There are two reasons why people bitch about the preseason every year: injuries and the full price of the tickets. That’s it. The very notion that the games themselves are “meaningless” or unnecessary is ludicrous.

Every other major sport plays a month of exhibition games or more before kicking off their season. And none of those sports require the timing or teamwork that football requires. Football not only involves 11 guys working together at the same time, but it also involves the thickest rulebook and, by double, the largest roster. If any sport requires an exhibition season to prevent looking like garbage for the first month of the regular season, it is football.

I understand where Rodgers is coming from. It is a big emotional blow to lose a key player like Jordy, and it DOES feel worse when it happens in a game that he didn’t need to play in. Technically, however, as I uncovered when I researched the Packers’ injury woes during Mike McCarthy’s tenure, teams are definitely better off losing a player in the preseason than during the season.

Just by looking at the Packers’ injury history and seasonal success, I found that the correlation between injuries and team success wasn’t how many players were put on the IR, but WHEN they were put there. The number of players put on IR from training camp and preseason injuries had no apparent affect on the team’s success that year. However, the number of players put on IR midseason had a direct affect on the team’s success. The two seasons when the Packers put the fewest players on the IR midseason were the two most successful regular seasons during McCarthy’s tenure. In 2007, the Packers had just four season-ending injuries during the season and went 13-3. In 2011, the Packers repeated that feat and went 15-1.

Losing Nelson in the second preseason game allowed the Packers to adjust their offense to his absence. It allowed Rodgers time to build some chemistry and trust with the guys who could potentially make up for Nelson’s loss. Unfortunately, that is something that we are still regularly hearing about today. Rodgers needs time to develop chemistry and trust with his other receivers.

Why isn’t Jeff Janis playing a bigger role? What do Richard Rodgers and Ty Montgomery still need to work on? And Davante Adams and Rodgers weren’t exactly firing on all cylinders at the start of the season either. Well, gee, sounds like it might have helped to work on those things before the season, against an actual opponent, in game-like situations, like maybe in an exhibition game or two.

So, Rodgers was right. Jordy Nelson didn’t need to play in that game. It was a meaningless game for him. However, for Rodgers and the newer guys in the passing game, it wasn’t meaningless at all. It was a great opportunity to work on something that would have made the team better during the season. If Rodgers could have foreseen that Adams and Cobb would both deal with injuries, he probably would have put more time into the preseason, working on it. Hindsight is 20/20, but that is why you don’t pass up the opportunity.

Now, it isn’t necessarily Rodgers’ decision, and it is completely understandable if the coaches don’t want to expose Rodgers too much during the preseason. That’s fine. However, our quarterback and leader shouldn’t be saying the games are meaningless when they aren’t. With every week that goes by and Rodgers continues to hesitate to throw it into coverage for Janis, Montgomery or Rich Rodgers, we see that they aren’t.

Until Rodgers and his pass catchers get on the same page, the Packers offense will continue to struggle. It would have been nice if that page had already been found.


Shawn Neuser attended UWGB and lives and works in Green Bay. He enjoys long walks on the beach and being intimate with game film.



  1. Chad Lundberg October 23, 2015

    You know what? I couldn’t be happier that you posted this. For once, I feel like there’s someone out there who agrees with me on this issue. Fans tend to react emotionally instead of logically thinking about it first.

    I’m one of those who just doesn’t understand where this idea that Aaron Rodgers is cocky or arrogant comes from. Seriously, the fuck?

    But what I can say is that he can be incredibly stubborn. Rodgers tends to think that the only way you can possibly earn time on the Football field is if you’ve proven yourself to be useful in practice first. This is some deeply flawed thinking, and I’ll point to the example I’m sure everyone is aware of: Desmond Bishop. This guy couldn’t earn his way onto the field through practice, if it weren’t for Nick Barnett’s injury, we would never have seen Bishop’s playmaking skills.

    Like I said, I don’t think Rodgers conviction comes from being a prima dona, I think it comes from “honest” overconfidence, and an unwillingness to admit when he’s wrong.

    This problem has been nagging at me for years now. Rodgers needs to accept the fact that it’s ok for him to risk his stats if it means developing a young raw player that much faster, even if it means he might break a nail.

    I’m actually kind of glad that he’s being forced into this situation for once. He has been very clear of how he feels about Jeff Janis, but now that the offense has been struggling, he has simply no other choice but to feed the ball to him. This is what is best in the long run. Janis could take a long time to develop if all he does is play everywhere BUT the football field. I honestly think that this is the reason Janis had the productive day that he had against the Chargers, because he’s actually been on a real football field and has had some real playing time. Rodgers is risking letting him make the mistake first and then learning to play better, as opposed to the said alternative.


  2. Geopack October 23, 2015

    Bravo, Shawn and Chad. Just Bravo.

  3. Bojan October 23, 2015

    Rodgers has an excellent memory but seems to forget how bad he was when he arrived at the Packers and how much he needed the matches.

  4. MMTTDCSUCK October 23, 2015

    While I would not swap Rodgers out with any other QB (save Brady possibly). I do believe that Rodgers has his dark side (as most all of us do). I believe that he may be solely interested in stats above anything else. Perhaps that is why he got so many sacks in the past rather than getting rid of the ball (incompletion). So naturally he may be reticent to throw it to someone that would make his numbers (stats) drop if he was not certain of their ability. Right now I believe he is in a quandary as to how to work with the “unproven” and it has shown with his accuracy and his missing many players that have been wide open. To be as good as he is, his ego must be very high. Sometimes I believe that this impacts his decision making over who to throw it to. Just an observation.

  5. UpNorth October 23, 2015

    I agree with this article as a whole and pretty much all the other comments left on here. Aaron Rodgers is without a doubt the the most gifted quarterback in this game today, but he does indeed have a personal weakness when it comes to him operating in this system.

    Now that Rodgers has been in the league for some time and experienced the highest manner of success he could, I think he’s become far too worried about his stats and perfection that it’s made him gunshy. Remember all those insanely accurate passes that were just grazing the fingers of defenders before a terrific catch? Those were not always balls that would have been thrown by most quarterbacks because it is technically a dangerous throw, but Rodgers truly has the ability to put balls in insanely accurate spots. He seems to have shied away from that the last few years.

    The best time to take injuries is always the pre-season, but as many have pointed out before, that will now force Rodgers and the team to develop the prospects they have had in house for some time now rather then letting them linger, and Rodger’s will have to get over the fact they don’t have perfect “chemistry” yet for the good of the team and the season. Be the leader we know you can be and help these guys become even better players, with his raw talent alone he already makes them better then most receivers on any team in the NFL.

  6. Kato October 23, 2015

    I completely agree. Hate being an armchair qb and criticizing one of the best players in the teams history, but he just needs to go out there and play ball. Schoolyard style. This whole ultra conservative play thing is not going to work going forward, especially in the postseason. Unless you have 2000 ravens defense, which they most certainly dont.