NFL Coaches Matter In Winning

‘I’ve never seen Hanalei this crazy!’ says Julie Kaneali‘i of the huge surf that rolled in Dec. 30 and attracted a huge crowd of onlookers, and a few surfers willing to brave the waves
Photos by Julie Kaneal‘i

I think we’ve become less patient as a society. Our sensory overload lifestyles lend themselves to wanting immediate gratification and little tolerance for anything subpar.

If something we’re watching or reading isn’t satisfying enough, we move on faster than ever before. I can’t say I have any data to back that claim, but it sure seems to be how my own brain works these days. Change the channel, turn the page, click the next link, play the next song, etc.

That lack of patience and desire for change was prominently on display during the wee hours of 2012 as the NFL had a record-setting day of coach cannings. Less than 24 hours prior, these men were all gainfully (albeit pessimistically) employed. Now they were updating their LinkedIn profiles.

The laundry list of head coaches fired so far includes Andy Reid (Philadelphia Eagles), Lovie Smith (Chicago Bears), Ken Whisenhunt (Arizona Cardinals), Norv Turner (San Diego Chargers), Romeo Crennel (Kansas City Chiefs), Chan Gailey (Buffalo Bills) and Pat Shurmur (Cleveland Browns).

Five general managers were immediately handed pink slips, as well.

“I’m the turnover king, and this much turnover in one day is surprising even to me,” said Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez.

(OK, cheap shot. Sanchez didn’t say that. He did hold a press conference but quickly dropped it.)

(OK, another cheap shot.) Coaching an NFL team comes with plenty of prestige and plenty of scrutiny. A “great” coach always gets the benefit of the doubt. An unproven coach, or a coach proven to be terrible, always will be in the hot seat.

simon_2While some prominent sports figures usually get too much praise or too much blame, in the coaching world head football coaches are probably the most-deserving of their labels. When compared to the other major pro sports coaches, NFL coaches have the most influence and the most direct relationship to their team’s record.

NBA coaches are much more marginalized. A great basketball coach will be responsible for a few wins here or there per season, but the NBA has become a much more talent-based league. Talent usually will win out, as long as it has the proper chemistry. The importance of chemistry in basketball cannot be overstated. A great coach has less to do with drawing up X’s and O’s than in putting players in their optimal chemistry rotations.

Baseball managers are essentially baby sitters. I don’t mean that to sound condescending. But in my opinion, the most important task for a baseball manager is to maintain positive attitudes. Sure, there are plenty of in-game decisions a manager has to make every game, and they all can impact its outcome, but there are very few in-game decisions that would be considered “outside the box” these days. Baseball is an individual sport masquerading as a team sport, so keeping the players’ confidence levels high is of major significance. The Sabermetric stats gurus have estimated Major League Baseball managers to be worth no more than a few wins either way over the course of a 162-game season.

Football is a much more militarized sport in both its preparation and attitude. A head coach has so much responsibility and the good ones embrace that role. They thrive with that responsibility. They need to put together a staff of assistants and coordinators who can relay the team’s message. They organize practice schedules and routines upon which the players become reliant. They make personnel decisions. They create game plans so the players can prepare and not have to deal with any surprises come game day. In a 16-game season, all these little things are magnified.

The good coaches know how to create the winning atmosphere and the bad ones haven’t figured it out quite yet. When you see where Jim Harbaugh has taken the 49ers in his two seasons, without any major personnel changes, you can understand the significance of competent men in charge.

In a season that has only 10 percent as many games as baseball season, an NFL coach is probably 10 times more valuable than an MLB manager. So while Dec. 31 was a rough day for NFL coaches, football is probably the one sport where owners are justified in displaying that impatient, attention-deficit-disorder attitude that pervades our society.

It took a while to make that point, so hopefully you haven’t already turned the page or clicked the next link.

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