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Reminder: NFL coaches don’t see preseason the same way fans do

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It’s fun to have opinions about what happens in preseason, but we just don’t see it the same way coaches do

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Please... take a breath. It’s all going to be OK.

It happens every preseason, but it’s still always amazing to watch NFL fans — specifically Kansas City Chiefs fans — lose their minds after the first preseason game.

It doesn’t matter if the Chiefs win or lose the game. There’s always something that gets people riled up, and ready to write off the whole season — before a single down has been played.

Take a chill pill, my friends.

It’s just like what they say in Vegas: what happens in preseason... stays in preseason.

If you don’t believe me, consider this. As a rabid, dyed-in-the-wool Chiefs fan (as an Arrowhead Pride reader, we assume this is true), I bet you can reel off the Chiefs regular-season record in each of the last three seasons. But can you do the same with the Chiefs’ preseason record in those three seasons?

You can? Well... keep reading. This article is for you.

Preseason games exist for only one reason: for coaches to evaluate their players.

And not necessarily in the way you might think.

When asked what he’s looking for in preseason games, Chiefs head coach Andy Reid has given different versions of this same answer more than once during training camp.

“You’re looking for assignment football. You’re looking when the juices get going how you handle that. You’re in the stadium with the fans there. We’ve had a great turnout here [at training camp], but it’s a little different with the lights on and it’s game time.”

What Reid was saying is that he and his coaches are trying to find out how players respond to the coaching they have been given in a game situation. When the lights are on and the crowd is cheering, do they stick to what they have been taught? Do they do a certain thing a certain way in a certain situation? Do they stay on their assignment when their adrenaline might be telling them to do something else?

Consider what Reid said when he was recently asked about what it was like to coach Terrell Owens when he was with the Eagles.

“[Terrell Owens] is one of the most coachable guys I’ve ever been around,” he said. “You’d ask him to do something, and he would do it at 100 miles per hour — live. There is a difference when you are coaching. Some guys will do it on the bags at 100 miles per hour, but when they do it live, they kind of go back to what they are very comfortable doing. That wasn’t TO. You [would] give him something, and he would do it.”

As fans, we focus on when players win or lose their individual battles. It’s perfectly natural — and absolutely OK — for us to do that. Coaches do, too. But coaches are also looking at whether players are doing their jobs the way they have been instructed.

When you think about it, it’s not that much different than what happens at your job — whatever it is. It’s not always the person who does it the best that gets all the perks. Instead, it’s often the person who does it the way the boss wants it done.

So when we see an opposing player break for a big gain, we might easily conclude that defensive players X, Y and Z — who were close to the point of attack — are hot garbage. But a coach might look at the tape and say, “Well, player X passed off the assignment like he was supposed to do, player Y didn’t stray from his lane and player Z simply missed a tackle.”

Or words to that effect.

The point is that coaches are looking at entirely different things than we are, because they have a different job than we do. Their job is to use the preseason game as a means to determine how players will respond to their coaching in front of a crowd.

Our job is simply to be the crowd.

In fact, you could argue that because fans are providing NFL teams with this valuable service by attending preseason games, the league should pay fans to attend them — rather than the other way around.

But I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for that one!

So by all means... keep cranking out your opinions about which players are bad (or good) in preseason games. It’s fun, and we’re supposed to be having fun... right?

Just remember that when the final decisions are made, the coaches will make them after looking at what happened in preseason through an entirely different lens.