I have to chuckle as NFL analysts begin their annual “fireside chat” ritual to solemnly discuss what a terrible, horrible time of year this is for coaches and their families. The agony of being fired and not knowing where your next check will be coming from…the anxiety of not knowing if and when that decision will be made.
My take is every single head coach, assistant, trainer, etc. spends at least some part of their time throughout the season networking and making friends with all sorts of potential new employers. They have their next interview down pat in their head just like the requirements of their current team’s playbook and players…and likely are making multiple contacts looking to improve their lot while…yes folks…allegedly working only on and exclusively for their current employer.
In other words…they’re no different from the rest of us.
In fact, taking up the coaching or staff professions commit you to living out of a suitcase for the most part. Only a chosen few are “sticky.” Only a chosen few get to live in one location for years on end.
Much of the last week of the regular season is spent speculating on who will be fired…who will be retained. Sometimes, I think we fail to recognize while NFL coaches set the tone and call plays they think will succeed…ultimately…ya gotta have players, player.
I’m more interested in which players are getting fired and which players will be retained.
Football is a rapid-fire, think-on-your-feet, non-stop collision of coaches’ chess pieces. While the goal for any chess master is to arrange pieces in the manner they best think will checkmate the opposition, the reality in the NFL is you really…really have to have quick-thinking, highly skilled pieces that process what they see in milliseconds and act accordingly.
This ain’t chess. It is the pieces that make up the whole. It is the pieces that determine which coaches get fired…and which are retained…for another go-round.
1. There was much angst a year ago about how very, very bad the NFC West was and how their champion should not even be in the post-season. That the entire playoff format should be reviewed for reseeding. And then the Seattle Seahawks sent the defending world champion New Orleans Saints home. Well, talk to me about the AFC West this year. Is it because of the angelic aura around Tim Tebow we’ve given that gang of four a free pass? His Denver Broncos win the division by losing their last three games in gruesome, train-wreck fashion…only advancing due to a tie-break advantage over the similarly challenged 8-8 San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders…with the Kansas City Chiefs only a game back at 7-9. All four teams were 3-3 in the division. Only the Chargers managed to finish the season with more cumulative points scored than given up. The only team the Chiefs managed to score more points than? The 2-14 St. Louis Rams. To me, we have a right to call out the AFC West this year…no matter who the quarterback is for the division champion.
2. When you are down by a couple of scores and one of them is required to be a touchdown, I’m always a big, big fan of getting that TD out-of-the-way first. The likelihood of recovering the onside kick is slim anyway. If you do pull that off, at least you don’t have to drive far for a field goal try which will either tie or win the game for you. Recovering an onside kick and driving for a winning TD…harder. Much harder. So…you can imagine I was levitating out of my chair when my dear friend Marvin Lewis kicked a 23-yard field goal after the momentum of a nine-play, 75-yard drive…to cut his Cincinnati Bengals’ deficit to eight vs. the Baltimore Ravens. At the Ravens’ five-yard line with three minutes remaining…I would have gone for the touchdown. Would you? Marvin, you and I never seem to see eye-to-eye. That being said, congrats on joining those Broncos tripping over yourselves into the playoffs. Then again, if the Arizona Cardinals’ Early Doucet hadn’t tripped over himself on your stadium’s goal line the week before while a TD pass sailed over where he should have been standing…alone…you may very well have been home watching the post-season with the rest of us. (By the way, Early…Larry Fitzgerald’s dad would like a word about your season)
3. The Green Bay Packers-Detroit Lions season finale was great theatre. The frozen tundra of Lambeau Field. The snowflakes flying. Matt Flynn setting the all-time Packer records for TD passes (6) and yards (480) in a single game. Whoa. Matt Flynn? Yep, the same guy who lead LSU to the 2007 BCS Championship and then went into witness protection for the most part until last Sunday. All of a sudden we have people questioning how good Aaron Rodgers is. It’s the system! Anyone can do it! No! Let us not forget the opposition…and I use that term loosely. If the Lions’ D does not get to the quarterback it gets ugly fast. Then again, if they do get to the quarterback they usually commit a moronic penalty which advances the ball…even if the oft-inevitable pass completion has not. Nice job Matt, but we’ll keep in perspective what you were up against…not much.