|Graphic via The Pentultimate Word|
As July rolls to a close and sweet, sweet football season creeps ever closer, we enter the dreaded period known as the preseason. For college football fans this means a month of reading mainstream media articles about intra-squad scrimmages and listening to platitudes from position coaches about how every player is now bigger, stronger, faster and in "the best shape of his life." Ultimately it leads to rummaging through blogs and message boards that will surely convince you that last year's third string tight end is going to be this year's game-breaker.
As far as the NFL is concerned, its five weeks watching of preseason games featuring a lot of guys who will be applying for temp jobs in September at the local podiastrist's office. Every year your favorite team will have some unknown guy that dominates these games, only to end up on the practice squad by week three.
The common thread through all of this is hope. Let's face it, there are nearly 100 Division I football teams that finished last year outside the top 25 and 20 of the 32 NFL teams didn't make the playoffs. There's a very good chance the team you root for wasn't very good last year, and might not be very good this year. As Syracuse fans it is a concept we are intimately familiar with.
Coaches know this as well - which leads them to spout miles upon miles of endless bullshit about how your crappy team will somehow be great this year. Since reporters don't have actual games to report on, they are forced to rely on these cliched soundbites, thereby giving the fans of the teams they cover a glimmer of hope that this is the year the misery will end.
The following guide breaks down the most common terms you'll be hearing until meaningful football games kick off in a month. Let's face it, for most us, this is the best our team will be all year.
Common Offensive Cliches
Every year teams that were putrid on offense make changes that will most assuredly turn things around. Coaches describe these changes thusly:
"Physical" or "Power" Running Game: You'll hear every coach talk about how THIS YEAR their team will be a physical or power running team. As if the concept of running through 11 large men clad in full football pads could somehow NOT be physical.
What it's supposed to mean: We weren't tough last year, but this year, it's going to change.
What it really means: We couldn't pick up a yard on third and one last year if our lives depended on it.
Explosive or Vertical Passing Game: Coaches love to tell you this is the year they will complete some long bombs down the field - as if throwing the ball deep down the field is a revelation on the scale of discovering plutonium.
What its supposed to mean: The scheme this year will be so full of trickeration our receivers will run unfettered through the opponents secondary and we will complete more long bombs than the last decade of Adam Sandler movies.
What it really means: Last year our receivers were slow as crap and our QB had a an erratic noodle arm. By using adjectives like explosive and vertical we hope you forget this fact.
A "Multiple" Offensive Scheme: If you can find a coach -- other than Mike Leach -- that will claim his offensive philosophy is anything other a varied masterpiece, let us know. Coaches give more lip service to being "balanced", "multiple" and unpredictable, than politicians do about making this country a better place to live, work and raise a family. Let's face it, no matter what he says, Andy Reid is still going to throw the ball 923 times a game.
What it's supposed to mean: Our offensive concept will be varied and more unpredictable than Rex Ryan's dinner plate at an all you can eat buffet.
What it really means: We don't think we can do anything really well, so we're going to throw some stuff at the wall and see what sticks.
Common Defensive Cliches:
An Attacking Defense: Every year teams change defensive coordinators and the new guy ALWAYS has a philosophy that emphasizes pressure and attacking the quarterback -- as if the meat head that came before him purposefully let opposing QBs have picnics in the pocket (noted exception - Greg Robinson).
What it is supposed to mean: This year we will actually TRY to sack the QB.
What it really means: We hope our new scheme results in the guard stepping on the QB's foot during his drop back and we can get a few cheap sacks because last year we Brian Cashman's stalker got closer to the quarterbacks than our defensive ends did. Also, please ignore the fact that our corners are playing 8 yards off the line of scrimmage.
A Simplified Defense: Almost universally that same new coordinator whose philosophy is to "attack" brings a "simplified approach" that lets players "play faster" and "make plays." This is meant to imply the last guy was trying to make the players do organic chemistry in every presnap read.
What it's supposed to mean: This year are guys don't have to think, they just have to kill the man with the ball.
What it really means: Our guys are really dumb. The chances of any halftime adjustments are slight, since none of them can comprehend what's on the back of a box of Frosted Flakes.
In August, every team is filled with guys that are in the best shape of their lives. This includes NFL teams loaded with guys in their 30s who have lost two steps and college teams filled with skinny guys no one wanted (pretty much the entire Big East). According to every coach at every level, their team is filled with guys that make Jean Claude Van Damme of the late 1980s look fat. These players have spent the entire off-season training (notable exception, the Detroit Lions).
So rest assured long suffering football fans - in August your team will undoubtedly have a power running attack, mixed with a multiple, explosive, vertical passing game. On defense you'll play fast, aggressive and attack the quarterback and you'll certainly own the fourth quarter, since every member of the team, including the long snapper is in the best shape of his life.....
Drop some of your favorite preseason cliches in the comments below.