There’s a reason Week 1 played out like it did

That reason is game script.

Oh. Wait. No no. No no, nonono. You’re thinking of when coaches discuss ahead of time how best to create pathways to victory, through efficient and strategic playcalling, then follow through on game day. So, A) you’re thinking of another team, and B) a different kind of script. Think, more, Hollywood. Or, if you want specific Google Maps details, a strip mall in Inglewood.

 


It’s Wednesday, September 4th, the eve of the season opener. Six screenwriters and one producer huddle around a folding table whose feet don’t all meet the floor of a dingy conference room, so that it wobbles a little when someone’s elbows rest on it. There’s a Mr. Coffee brewer of indeterminate age on the counter by the sink. It’s going, partly to cover the faint but unmistakable smell of cigarette smoke.

A paunchy man clears his throat and begins to speak.

Producer: Deadlines, people. Let’s get our best work done today. Head writer? Where are you? Susan? Hi Sue, this is your week. But you knew that. We all knew that. Anyway, can you recap the Bears-Packers story lines first? I know we ironed most of that out in August, but pretend I’m new. We gotta cross every i and flag every t. Then I wanna get to a couple important Sunday and Monday subplots.

Sue: Sure, thanks Mitch. We’re going with minimal offense in the opener, one touchdown tops, probably a Rodgers toss. So the kind of game that makes people wonder if it’s still preseason or if the Green Bay and Chicago defenses are good. No kicker controversy yet on the Bears, we need that for Weeks 4-5-6 when the rest of their season hits the shitter. Pardon my French, and go Lions.

Looks to her left and delivers a brisk nod.

Speaking of my Lions, we’ll take the blown fourth-quarter lead and the tie with your scrappy Cardinals, Pam. You have a deal.

Mitch: Good, no substantial changes. Packers win ugly, I like the early bottoming-out for Trubisky and Rodgers, so their character arcs have somewhere to go —

Sue: — actually Mitch, we have Trubisky cratering later in Week 4 with the zero-completions past the line of scrimmage game. Remember how we made use of that ominous plot device with Carr last year against the Seahawks?

Mitch: I do remember. Oh, you brought up the Seahawks. I imagine the checklist there is the same as every recent opener, yes?

Sue: We got rid of the Wilson interceptions, those felt contrived in 2016, 2017 and 2018, like we were trying to meet turnover quotas early on. But the rest of it, yeah, it’s there. I’ll let Jordan take it from here.

Jordan: It was a long checklist for Seattle, but the Northwesternerds have a lot of legitimate gripes and we wanted to get to each one right away, because I mean, they’ve been waiting for months to pounce on any number of potential missteps.

Pulls out a receipt, marked with what looks like a shopping list of filled boxes.

My latest plan is to try and kill three birds — so to speak, haha, nyuk nyuk — with one stone. We’re expecting some LOB 2.0 signage at the game and scattered optimism for the new-ish defense under Pete Carroll. If we give Dalton 400 yards passing in Seattle and make a safety whiff on on easy play that costs them a touchdown, we could kill any LOB talk, cause some starter controversy and keep the game close, all with one play.

Mitch: How bad is it? You want to make a professional look like a high schooler? That would be bad. We need believable, too.

Jordan: Yes. First off, you know they’ll believe what we tell them to believe. Secondly, it’s not a pretty ploy, but it’s efficient. I’ve got the screw-up scripted for right before halftime, so it looks extra incompetent. We have a heck of a lot to accomplish in not a heck of a lot of minutes. You think it’s easy…

Begins reciting from list.

…to re-awaken offensive line concerns, cast doubt on playcalling, reassure the fans about special teams, disappear Tyler Lockett for 95 percent of the game, hit the under, ruin the spread, elevate some reserves, and keep Russell Wilson operating at an elite level when he’s not being devoured, so every other play? Sure, I understand we have to hit all those goals, and they are worthy, but I’m working with a limited amount of plays. No thanks to the slowpoke coaches out there, either. This is a lot to cram in.

Sue: You can do it. But 400 yards for Dalton?

Jordan: It’s perfect for analytics sabotage, which has always been the goal of everything we do with the Seattle storylines. Make the Bengals pass all the time, put Dalton above eight yards per attempt, make the Seahawks win because of efficient passing that the coaches don’t want to do, but also because of outstanding running back play that defies conventional, data-centric streams of thought. Everyone’s unhappy.

Sue: You guys are good at Seattle. One of my favorite characters. Love what you’ve been doing since the second half of that NFC Championship Game almost five years ago, pulling the “team of destiny” plug in and out of the socket.

Jordan: Yeah, chopping off one of Russell Wilson’s legs so he couldn’t immediately duplicate 2015 was a necessary evil, emphasis on necessary and evil. Drafting a first-round running back and then not using him, always fun because you’re pissing off two separate groups. Giving the Rawls guy vision amnesia and voodoo dolling the poor Prosise kid, while dumping Eddie Lacy onto the roster, for a team that wants to run all the time. We’ve written some good seasons and that doesn’t even get into the Jimmy Graham and Sheldon Richardson dead ends. I still don’t understand why we’re not allowed to give the Seahawks more than one good lineman at a time, other than the stupid parity laws. Have to defer to the showrunners sometimes I guess.

The Mr. Coffee burps. The writers discuss various other Week 1 tropes while Mitch refills his cup, which reads “World’s Best Producer” in block capital letters. He returns to the discussion as Sue takes charge again.

Sue: That’s great, compelling stuff all around, but I’d like to go over the Rams-Panthers details. Obviously we need to get the Rams off three points, that was fun once for a humiliating encore in the preseason, but come on, they are stacked at offensive line. That means points, no matter who you have dancing around the big boys.

Hank: Thirty is a multiple of three. Like a big three point oh without the point.

Mitch: SOLD!

Hank: We can get to thirty if we hose Cam Newton. Call a tipped pass a fumble, spoil his fourth-quarter comeback with a well-guessed interception, hit the Panthers with an alphabet soup explanation on review that costs them a timeout.

Sue: On to Week 2 previews then. Let’s dive into our list of Steelers-Seahawks “coincidences” and give the people what they want: something to talk about.

Everybody murmurs in agreement.

We have choices: A) reverse a quarterback sneak touchdown against Russell Wilson with flimsy evidence, B) add some phantom holding calls, C) Give D.K. Metcalf the old Jermaine Kearse treatment with an OPI in the end zone, D) assign the dropsies to…

(/fade out)