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On the Meaning of the Preseason, in Six Parts

The endless preseason statistics I was hoping to pound you with are slightly less compelling now that the preseason seems to be over. Still, with Our Heroes at 0-4 and people continuing to wonder "What Does It All Mean?" I'll drop six nuggets.

(As will often be mentioned, the LaCa Blog is your No. 1 source for heavy metal, bad beer and Redskins news, possibly in that order. However, I will also feel free to intrude on LaCa's territory, and it is my fondest hope that his people will also post here, especially P. Diddy, Pink C.C. and Mucus Membrane. Man, I love the Internet.)

Does it Matter, Part I: An Analysis of Preseason Records

The TwoMinuteWarning guys have done extensive research on the preseason, which is sort of like going to med school and then specializing in psychosomatic illnesses. Anyhow, from 1997-2005, 18 NFL teams went winless in the preseason, just like Our Heroes. Those teams went on to average 7.1 regular season wins, with only four of the 18 winning at least 10 regular season games.

More tellingly, teams that won 10 or more games the year before (like Our Heroes) saw "little correlation between preseason results and regular season wins."

A physics grad student, on the other hand, analyzes preseason significance by comparing the first half results of preseason games (when more starters are on the field) with final results of regular-season rematches. Much of the math makes about as much sense to me as a Joe Salave'a sound bite, but his conclusion fills the heart with dread:

Certainly the preseason is less important than the regular season -- after all, these games don't actually count. Plus, coaches don't usually put backups in when the game is close, and we know they gameplan differently in the regular season. But it seems like the data are trying to indicate that preseason does, in fact, mean something -- at the very least, fans should be concerned when teams are blown out in the first half. Dismissing the games outright is probably a little irrational.

Conclusion: Unclear.

Does it Matter, Part II: The History of Our Coach

Joe Gibbs career preseason record: 33-30 (.524)
Joe Gibbs career regular season record: 140-76 (.648)

Conclusion: Our Coach tries harder once the regular season starts. As will I.

Does it Matter Part III: On Scoring

Our Heroes averaged a Brendan Haywood-esque 6.75 points per game in the preseason. (Actually, Haywood averaged more points last season). That, needless to say, was the worst preseason points per game (pppg) in the NFofL.

In the 23 seasons since 1983, the Skins have averaged fewer than 16 points in the preseason just three times. In 1992 (15.2 pppg), they went on to a 9-7 record and Our Coach retired. In 2001 (11.5 pppg), they went on to an 8-8 record and Our Former Coach Marty Schottenheimer, how shall we say, "moved on." In 2003 (13.0 pppg), they went on to a 5-11 record and Our Former Punching Bag Steve Spurrier, how shall we say, "unceremoniously fled town as an unmitigated failure."

Furthermore, the lowest scoring teams in the 2005 NFofL preseason were the Green Bay Packers (8.2 pppg), the Detroit Lions (12.5 pppg) and the Houston Texans (14 pppg). Those teams finished with a composite regular season record of 11-37. Those teams also finished the regular season ranked 18th, 27th and 30th in total offense.

Conclusion: Ok, it doesn't "mean" anything, but isn't it sort of odd that in past the 23 seasons, three of Our Heroes' five coaching changes came in seasons featuring the three most abysmally wretched offensive preseason performances (AWOPP)?

Does it Matter, Part IV: An Analysis of Redskins Preseason Records

The Skins finished the preseason with either zero or one preseason win for the 15th time since 1961. Of the preceding 14 stinkfests, three times the Skins had zero preseason wins. Their composite regular season record in those three seasons was 12-24-1. Eleven times they had one preseason win. Their composite record in those seasons was 82-88-2. Our Heroes, as has often been noted, did win the '83 Super Bowl after a winless preseason, and the '92 Super Bowl after a 1-3 preseason.

On the other hand, the Skins have finished with a preseason winning percentage of at least .750 16 times. Their composite regular season record in those seasons was 132-113-4. They won the 1988 Super Bowl after a 3-1 preseason.

Conclusion: It's probably better for the Skins to be 3-1 in the preseason than 1-3, all things considered, but either way they're gonna win the Super Bowl.

(BTW, any statisticians out there who want to do something more scientific with this stuff, please let me know. I gave up on science after dissecting a fetal pig in the 10th grade. Just opening an Excel spreadsheet makes me think of formaldehyde.)

Does it Matter Part V: An Analysis of Redskins Regular Season Records

Twelve times since 1961, the Skins have finished with a regular season winning percentage of .375 or worse. Their composite preseason record in those years was 21-33 (that's bad).

On the other hand, 18 times since 1961 the Skins have finished with a regular season winning percentage of .625 or better. Their composite preseason record in those years was 45-38-2 (that's averagish).

Conclusion: If the Redskins are stinky, that tends to manifest itself in the preseason. But if they're dashing and handsome and all around swell, successful guys, the preseason won't necessarily let us know.

Does it Matter Part VI: The History of Super Bowl Winners in the Preseason

Well, the past 10 years anyhow. My tolerance for preseason research is rapidly decreasing. As, I hope, is yours.

Your past 10 Super Bowl winners went a combined 29-13 in the preseason of their championship seasons. Only one had a losing record; the 2004 Patriots (1-3).

Conclusion: Yowzers. I take everything back. It's hopeless. Start paying attention to NASCAR. I recommend you support Denny Hamlin.

By Dan Steinberg  |  September 5, 2006; 12:04 PM ET
Categories:  Redskins  
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This post hurts my head, big-time

Posted by: Mike | September 5, 2006 12:39 PM | Report abuse

yikes......... those stats are worrysome.... but hey we could always be looking at years like '83 & '92 (I hope!).

Well, if this season does go down the toilet I hope it starts happening at the beginning of the season. That way it will give the coaches motivation to put Campbell in and see if he really is the future. I can deal with a year of no playoffs if it means finding out what Campbell's got. What I'm worried about is that he may not be the next Big Ben/Tom Brady...... then where will we be?

Posted by: Mucus Membrane | September 5, 2006 1:17 PM | Report abuse

In summary -- the preseason record means a lot. Unless it doesn't.

Posted by: El Diablo | September 5, 2006 2:52 PM | Report abuse

If this season goes down the toilet, I'm going back to playing Uno and boozing heavily. As has been noted before, so long as there is Cooley news, there is a season worth watching.

Posted by: P Diddy | September 5, 2006 3:40 PM | Report abuse

Or, the preseason record means nothing -- except when it doesn't.

Posted by: Cosmo | September 5, 2006 4:24 PM | Report abuse

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