The referees got in as much work as the coaches in Week 1. Joe Robbins/Getty Images
As excited as we all were to see the start of the NFL season this week, there has been one overriding theme in my mind. Starting with Thursday night’s Falcons-Eagles opener and continuing throughout Sunday's games, the quality of play has been less than stellar and in some cases, downright awful. Add to that the surplus of penalties and you have a product that the league cannot be proud of and the fans find hard to take. A lot of that can be blamed on the current state of training camp and the preseason. The time has come to reduce the amount of preseason games, increase the amount of full contact practices, and get the players up to speed so that they are ready to perform at a high level in week one of the regular season.
I realize the owners have a cash cow by charging season ticket holders regular season prices and making the games mandatory purchases for anyone who wants to attend all eight regular season home games. Season ticket holders hate having to pay for these games as they are a waste of time and very bad football overall. Viewers at home cannot stand watching this below average product and can only stomach one or two quarters of a game before having to change the channel to something more compelling and interesting. The Real Housewives of any city you chose to indulge in has more action than any game in the month of August. Even advertisers would much rather pay full price to have their ads run during games that mean something and are being played by the best players, as opposed to half price for half-assed attempts to emulate NFL football. Everyone knows that there will be more eyeballs with more focus on the games between September and the first week in February than any nonsense prior to that.
I hearby suggest that the league eliminate two of the four preseason games and add to the amount of full contact practices every team in the league can have. Training camp is all about the battle for roster spots and depth at every position and not about forcing the fans to watch sub-par football in game conditions. If teams only had two games against other league foes and more full contact workouts, you would get more time with starters on the field in games to get reps and establish timing and chemistry. You would also get more practice time to evaluate talent, create competition and make decisions. Coaches and team personnel can use practice time to set up extended situational periods to further break down position battles and roster depth, as well as getting more film on more players on the bubble. Maybe this subtle change would allow teams to use games to knock the rust off and fine tune the A-team, while letting practice decide the B's, C's and practice squad?
For the record, I am not suggesting adding any games to the regular season. Sorry Jerry Jones, you owners already make enough money. I'm trying to up the level of play, not bring it down with more and more injuries, wear and tear. This isn't about revenue streams, marketing or anything business related. This is all about making games more competitive and the brand of football and quality of play better in the first few weeks of the regular season than we have seen over the past few years. Most teams don't play their starters more than one half of football total in the pre-season, if that. That's not nearly enough time to get timing down and everyone in a rhythm on either side of the ball for the games that mean the most. Practice time is never at full game speed and playing against your own jersey colors doesnt exactly get the juices flowing or the starters ready for a 16-game war. This is all about the quality of the sport and integrity of the game for the long haul. If the games are good and the best players in the world are at peak performance levels, the business of football will be booming and everyone involved will be ecstatic.
The Houston Astros were in need of some serious help in the bullpen with Phil Maton, Hector Neris, and Ryne Stanek likely leaving this year in free agency.
The Houston Astros have acquired RHP Dylan Coleman from the Kansas City Royals in exchange for RHP Carlos Mateo. pic.twitter.com/hDYuBLn2Kv
— Houston Astros (@astros) December 6, 2023
While some fans were getting concerned about the quiet offseason, the club has made two moves this week to get the ball rolling.
First the team signed Victor Caratini to be the backup catcher, and now they have added some relief pitching.
The Astros traded pitching prospect Carlos Mateo to the Royals for RHP pitcher Dylan Coleman.
Coleman appeared in 96 games in the past three seasons for KC, including 68 games in 2022 and 23 games last season. He has a career 3.88 ERA and 1.37 WHIP. He’s fastball (95 mph), slider (81) and cutter (90) and walked 57 batters and struck out 99 in 92 2/3 innings.
— Brian McTaggart (@brianmctaggart) December 6, 2023
Coleman is under club control for the next several years, and made just over $700,000 in 2022. With the Astros right up against the tax threshold, this is a good way to add to the bullpen without having to hand out a large contract.
The Royals had a tough roster decision to make with Coleman, and the Astros made the decision easy for them by making the trade.
Something to note
There's a reason Kansas City wasn't determined to protect Coleman from the Rule 5 Draft. Despite his decent numbers over the last three seasons, 2023 was a rough year for him, posting an 8.84 ERA over 23 games.
In fact, Coleman pitched more innings (30.2) for the Royals AAA team than he did for the big league club (18.1) in 2023.
Hopefully, the Astros can get him back on track this season with some help from their highly touted player development program.
You can watch some of his 2022 highlights above.