Preseason counts, even for the Chargers

The San Diego Chargers have gone 4-4 over their last two preseasons and 3-1 the year before that but they needed overtime to secure two of those victories and won by one in the other win. History shows a strong preseason campaign can translate into good things when the regular season begins.

Winning preseason games is important.  Just look at the numbers.  As a barometer of regular-season success, preseason records are a remarkably accurate gauge.

The past 10 Super Bowl champions had a combined 30-12 (.714) preseason record in the year they won the Super Bowl.  Nine of those 10 teams posted .500 or better preseason records.  Last summer, the eventual Super Bowl teams – New England and Carolina – were unbeaten (8-0) in the preseason.

In the free agency/salary cap era, developing veteran cohesiveness and team depth in preseason is more important than ever.

"There are certain things you can do in preseason to establish the foundation of your football team," says Houston Texans head coach DOM CAPERS.  "We place great value on the development of our team through the use of preseason games."

Preseason records of the past 10 Super Bowl champions:

YEAR

TEAM

PRESEASON RECORD

 

YEAR

TEAM

PRESEASON RECORD

2003

New England

4-0

 

1998

Denver

3-1

2002

Tampa Bay

3-1

 

1997

Denver

3-2

2001

New England

3-1

 

1996

Green Bay

3-1

2000

Baltimore

4-0

 

1995

Dallas

2-3

1999

St. Louis

2-2

 

1994

San Francisco

3-1

TOTAL: 30-12 (.714)

Preseason success has translated to Super Bowl victories throughout NFL history.  Of the 38 Super Bowl champions, 30 (78.9%) posted a preseason winning percentage of .500 or higher.  Overall, the 38 Super Bowl winners have a combined 115-65-2 (.637) preseason record (see chart on page 2).

Since 1995, the final four playoff teams (AFC and NFC Championship Game participants) have combined for a preseason record of 95-53 (.642).

"My approach to the preseason is we try to win every game we play," says new New York Giants head coach TOM COUGHLIN, whose Jacksonville team played in two of those championship games.  "It's much easier to teach and to learn when you've been in a winning situation."

AFC and NFC Championship Game preseason records (1995-03):

YEAR

RECORD

PCT.

TEAMS

2003

13-3

 

.813

Carolina, Indianapolis, New England, Philadelphia

2002

8-8

 

.500

Oakland, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay, Tennessee

2001

11-5

 

.688

New England, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, St. Louis

2000

8-8

 

.500

Baltimore, Minnesota, New York Giants, Oakland

1999

10-6

 

.625

Jacksonville, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Tennessee

1998

12-4

 

.750

Atlanta, Denver, Minnesota, New York Jets

1997

14-5

 

.737

Denver, Green Bay, Pittsburgh, San Francisco

1996

10-6

 

.625

Carolina, Green Bay, Jacksonville, New England

1995

9-8

 

.529

Dallas, Green Bay, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh

TOTAL: 95-53 (.642)

Over the past 10 seasons, 81 of the 120 teams (67.5%) that made the playoffs were .500 or better during the preseason.  Division winners combined for a 153-119 (.563) preseason record in that span, while all playoff teams posted a 282-224 (.557) preseason record.

"Preseason success gives the players and coaches something to build on," says Dallas Cowboys head coach BILL PARCELLS.  "It's something positive to think about."

Following are the number of playoff teams (out of 12) that were .500 or better during the past 10 preseasons:

YEAR

TEAMS

 

YEAR

TEAMS

2003

9

 

 

1998

9

2002

10

 

 

1997

7

2001

7

 

 

1996

8

2000

8

 

 

1995

7

1999

8

 

 

1994

8

TOTAL: 81 of 120 (67.5%)

 

PRESEASON RECORDS OF ALL SUPER BOWL WINNERS


YEAR


TEAM

PRESEASON RECORD

 


YEAR


TEAM

PRESEASON RECORD

2003

New England

4-0

 

1984

San Francisco

2-2

2002

Tampa Bay

3-1

 

1983

LA Raiders

1-3

2001

New England

3-1

 

1982

Washington

0-4

2000

Baltimore

4-0

 

1981

San Francisco

2-2

1999

St. Louis

2-2

 

1980

Oakland

2-2

1998

Denver

3-1

 

1979

Pittsburgh

3-1

1997

Denver

3-2

 

1978

Pittsburgh

2-2

1996

Green Bay

3-1

 

1977

Dallas

3-3

1995

Dallas

2-3

 

1976

Oakland

5-1

1994

San Francisco

3-1

 

1975

Pittsburgh

3-4

1993

Dallas

1-3-1

 

1974

Pittsburgh

6-0

1992

Dallas

2-3

 

1973

Miami

4-2-1

1991

Washington

1-3

 

1972

Miami

3-3

1990

New York Giants

4-0

 

1971

Dallas

6-0

1989

San Francisco

3-2

 

1970

Baltimore

4-2

1988

San Francisco

3-2

 

1969

Kansas City

6-0

1987

Washington

3-1

 

1968

New York Jets

3-2

1986

New York Giants

3-1

 

1967

Green Bay

6-0

1985

Chicago

1-3

 

1966

Green Bay

3-2

TOTAL: 115-65-2 (.637)

 

NFL HEAD COACHES STRESS THE VALUE OF PRESEASON

  • HERMAN EDWARDS, New York Jets, who in 1977 as a free agent parlayed a start in his first preseason game into a 10-year NFL career:  "We want to win every preseason game.  If they're keeping score, then it's our jobs as professionals to win the game.  I put a lot of value into preseason games.  It's an opportunity to prepare for the regular season, work on new plays, and evaluate our draft picks and free agents." 
     
  • DENNIS ERICKSON, San Francisco 49ers:  "The preseason has three important values for us.  First, it allows us to put in the basis of what we are going to do offensively and defensively.  Second, it gives our first unit a tune-up for the regular season and allows us to evaluate some of our younger players.  Finally, with a new defensive coordinator this year, the preseason will give us a chance to implement our new style of play."
     
  • JEFF FISHER, Tennessee Titans:  "The preseason is an integral part of preparation for the regular season.  It is imperative that players experience all aspects of the game.  This includes pregame warmups, competing in games, adjusting to the speed of the game and learning how to win."
     
  • JOHN FOX, Carolina Panthers:  "Everybody goes into these games trying to win them.  It certainly beats the alternative."
     
  • JIM MORA, new Atlanta Falcons head coach:  "The preseason is extremely important for a couple of reasons.

"Obviously, it is important for players who are fighting for positions and for a team with a new coaching staff that is learning a new system.  It is important for another reason, too.  The preseason gives both coaches and players a feel for the way things will be in the regular season.  It is our first chance to go against another opponent, and see how they react to our schemes. The most important part is that preseason sets the tempo for the regular season.

"If you really watch the games and study the way the teams play, you can see that the tempo and the way that a team will conduct itself starts with how the team plays in the preseason."

  • MIKE SHANAHAN, Denver Broncos:  "As a coaching staff, preseason games are an important part of our evaluation process.

"Not only do they give our veteran players a good opportunity to work together in a game situation, but they give us a great chance to take a look at our rookies and younger players, to see how they respond in a game setting.

Any time you can see how a guy responds and how he handles himself in that situation, it helps your evaluation that much more.

"I think the fans get excited about seeing these new players for the first time.  You're seeing guys competing and playing their hearts out to try to earn a spot on the roster."

  • MIKE SHERMAN, Green Bay Packers "Preseason games serve two purposes for me.  First, there is no substitute for game experience.  Even your most seasoned veteran needs to acclimate himself to the tempo, speed and fatigue a game presents.  Secondly, it offers me an opportunity to evaluate our younger players in game situations where it matters the most."
     
  • LOVIE SMITH, new Chicago Bears head coach:  "I believe the preseason is important to our football team for two key reasons. 

"First, playing preseason games is the best way to get ready for opening day.  Veterans and rookies both need the preseason schedule to prepare mentally and physically for the speed and intensity of the regular season.  We keep the intensity level high in practice, but you can never truly simulate game conditions. 

"Second, these games are critical in the evaluation process of our players, especially the draft picks.  We need to see how players raise their level of play in the competitive atmosphere of a game."

  • DICK VERMEIL, Kansas City Chiefs:  "This is a physical, fundamental, technical game.  The more reps you give your players, the more time it gives you to teach them to do it better.  The more you get to work with young kids, the more they get to do some real good things."

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