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Wednesday, August 7, 2013
Why not admit preseason wins don't matter?

By Paul Kuharsky

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- It's instinctive for a coach to say his team will try to win in the preseason.

Mike Munchak
Mike Munchak is sticking to the script when he talks about winning in the preseason.
Many do it out of routine.

They think no fan wants to hear, at any point, about how winning doesn't matter. They are also kissing up to the league office, which still doesn't want any one who's part of exhibition games acknowledging the obvious about them.

In Jacksonville, Gus Bradley isn't talking about winning at all.

In Tennessee, Mike Munchak couldn't resist the standard, cookie cutter answer when he was asked, is it important to win in the preseason or just to play well and improve?

"You know what, we want to win, that's it," he said. "We want to win. I don't look at it any other way. I'm not going to sit here and say, 'Well, we played so-and-so, that's why we didn't win.' We want to win no matter who's out there. I think you always have to have that attitude for the first quarter to the fourth, no matter who's in there."

That's one approach.

But we know preseason "success" and regular-season winning percentage don't correlate. The Eagles were 4-0 in the 2012 preseason, then went 4-12. The Falcons were 1-3 in the preseason, then went 13-3.

We know that, no matter what he says, coming out of Thursday night healthy is far more important to Munchak than coming out with a win over Washington.

Munchak and many of his coaching brethren aren't going to say it, but here's the better answer:

"It doesn’t matter who wins or loses this game, and we know the fans know that. If we won four games convincingly or with great comebacks, it really wouldn’t do much to instill anything about winning to our guys -- because half of the guys involved in the preseason opener won’t be on our opening day roster, and because the guys we are counting on will be out of their pads as it ends. We want to play well, especially when our key people are in the game. Move the ball on offense, get off the field on defense."

Say that, though, and you give people who are less and less willing to buy the season tickets that force-feed fans preseason game more fodder to complain about them.

Gary Kubiak offered a bit to our Tania Ganguli about a trade-off he makes  when it comes to preseason wins.

"I think (winning) is important," Kubiak said. " I think it's a habit, just like anything else. We're going to play a lot of guys but obviously you're going in there to win a game. But you want to have enough stuff on players so you can evaluate. One thing you do in this league when you're out chasing (undrafted) free agents and stuff, you promise these kids you're giving them a chance.

"To bring them in here have them stand around for a few weeks never get an opportunity, you don't feel good about that as a coach. Well, I feel good. These guys are all fixing to play. They've had plenty of reps and they know it. From a program standpoint you feel good about giving them an opportunity."