Thursday, March 31, 2011

Hey Moron, football is kinda complicated

The NFL draft is quickly approaching and I, of course, am on my annual search for the little pill that’ll put me to sleep for the next month and conveniently wake me up on draft day, so I no longer have to wait.  But since that lil fucker still doesn’t exist, why not take the opportunity to discuss a pet peeve I have with general football discourse:
Just because a coach doesn’t win, it doesn’t invalidate his ability as a coach.
When it comes to sportstalk, especially sportstalk radio, fans have a tendency to boil down arguments to basic points without considering any sort of variable, and in this case, they typically omit the fact that coaches don’t actually play the game.  In fact, listening to them speak, you would assume coaches use control pads to move the players like they were engaged in a real life Madden football video game, often absolving players of crappy performance.  But regardless, if a team wins the coach is brilliant and if they lose, the coach is garbage even though said coach has had a fairly small effect on the actual game.  And more often than not, and definitely more than any other sport, if the team loses the coach is generally the FIRST one blamed.
Now, it’s true that football coaches influence games more than coaches in other sports.  In fact, I’ve long thought the difference between me managing the Yankees and Joe Girardi is probably minimal.  But a football coach must implement a complicated offense/defense/special teams while making complex adjustments on the fly.  He also controls a sizeable roster that requires the plugging in of specialized players to fit a multitude of situations.  It’s certainly no easy task and often resembles a high speed chess game.  But if a player drops a ball, this isn’t the coach’s fault.  If a QB makes a bad read, this is not the coach’s fault.  If a cornerback jumps the wrong zone because of a mental error on the fly, this isn’t the coach’s fault.  Unfortunately, all the aforementioned events (and countless others) influence the outcome of a game a lot more than a questionable coaching call and the inability of the players to execute the dubious call. 
Football, more than any other sport, is a game of inches in every sense of the term.  While MLB has 162 games and the NBA has 82, the NFL features only 16; which is a pretty small sample size where anomalies will have great effect on your overall record and success.  And with the distancing of time, when wins and losses are the only records of true note, fans will easily forget the luck and circumstance that heavily influences a close game.  A coach could call an amazing game, but if the game is lost due to player error, the perception of the coached game completely flips, often times in an instant.  A good example of this was the Broncos/Jets 2010 match up in Denver.  The Broncos, a team much less talented than the Jets, easily outplayed them on their home field, though the game was kept close which is an ordinary occurrence on Sunday due to the nature of football.  The Broncos coach, Josh McDaniels, executed a masterful game plan that kept the Jets off guard.  He orchestrated an unexpected switch from the base 3-4 defense, to a new 4-3 look that baffled Jets QB Mark Sanchez for most of the game, and also established then unused quarterback Tim Tebow in brand new subpackages that netted tough yardage and a touchdown against an extremely talented, yet confused Jets defense.  But during the final Jets drive, on a 4th and forever, Mark Sanchez threw a Hail Mary pass that had little to no chance of being completed.  While defending on the play, Broncos safety Renaldo Hill reached back and unintentionally caught his hand in the facemask of a Jets receiver, a pass interference penalty was called, and the ball was placed right near the Jets goal line which led to a subsequent score and last minute lead change.  Had Hill’s errant hand fallen an inch below the face mask (or the questionable penalty never called), the Broncos win the game and Josh McDaniels is hailed for his great coaching job.  But, even though the penalty was an uncontrollable variable, McDaniels’ coaching performance is viewed in a completely different way simply because the Broncos lost the game due to an instance 100 percent beyond his control (now, this probably isn't the best example because McDaniels failed in many other ways and deserved his dismissal, but that doesn't dismiss my general point about that game.)  But really, what changed other than distorted perception?
So why do people take a complicated sport they love and take very seriously only to boil it down to a meaningless zero sum game?  Is it laziness or a lack of ability to see beyond a pretty thin surface? 


  1. Out of all the Broncos games you could have blogged about, you had to pick the one that broke my heart the most last season. Thanks for making me relive the painful memory.

  2. yeah, im still crying over this one too