All coaches an inch away from insanity
"I noticed that with a piece of chalk, this man is blocking all kinds of people."|
-- Bill Cosby, on failing to carry out his coach's game plan during his playing career
THIS is coaching: All week you go on and on. Right, right, right. You hammer it home until they've got it, everybody's on the same page. Then, Saturday night comes and a kid goes left and then some guy who has to write "L" and "R" on his slippers calls up and calls you an idiot.
This explains why coaches are so stressed out. As a profession, I mean. All of them. A good deal of the time. They're all another "left" away from losing it for good, which is why it seems like the smallest things can get them all salty. Sports columns; calls to talk-radio shows; people disagreeing with their taste in fashion design or techno music. That kind of thing.
The job is impossible enough without any extra aggravation.
No, the stress in coaching isn't that you'd better win or you're gone. They can deal with that. That's pragmatic. That's life.
No, the stress is that, when it comes down to it, coaches are control freaks. And once play starts they have little to none.
That's why Steve Spurrier throws the visor. His plan was perfect. The problem came when the college kid couldn't quite work it out in real time with a 260-pound, 4.7 40 monster from Auburn in his face.
"It's very frustrating," June Jones said, "but that's part of coaching."
It is. And it's good to hear him say that. In past years he'd talked about his guys not executing -- when, in fact, that's what coaching is -- getting your guys to execute. No matter how impossible the process may sometimes be.
So yesterday he talked about young offensive skill players still occasionally struggling to get it. About guys making mistakes on plays they'd scored touchdowns with in weeks before. On, yes, having called the right play, because, upon further review, it would have been a touchdown had everyone done his job.
"They see it," he said of the players, "and so it makes you feel better after you watch the film. They know it and they see it. ... when you turn on the film it's the same plays that they made two weeks ago or one week ago they did it correctly and hit the open guy. But for whatever reason, what goes through a young kid's mind, you don't know.
"When that ball's snapped -- you hope they mature and repetitively they just do the same things they'd been doing, and all of a sudden they decide, let's not do it that way. So, frustrating."
That's why it seems half the coaches in the NFL have had heart attacks.
A guy misses a block, hits the wrong gap, makes the wrong read.
A quarterback might, say, take off running before exhausting the entire run-and-shoot playbook.
"Well, guess what," Jones said, "you go through (receivers) one, two, three and four, if every play is that way, somebody's open!"
But that's football.
The plays often don't end up the way they're drawn up.
Players don't always react the way you'd like.
Things tend to change quickly, with, say, Fresno State in your face.
That's not even to mention a guy has the Dead Sea Scrolls on his wrist and might, in the heat of the moment, call the wrong play.
"And don't get me wrong," Jones said. "This happened before. I had Timmy (Chang) do the same thing. I want him to read it. Hold it up and read it to the team in the huddle. Don't close it, run in," and try to remember the play.
"Little things like that," Jones said. "You think it's easy, but it's not. Under pressure, you look at the thing, you know the play, you walk in and you say something different."
This stuff happens. That's why coaches go crazy. When the play starts they give up all control and they can only watch to see if their guys get it right. But it's good this year to hear Jones (and Jerry Glanville has been incredibly quick to throw himself on these live grenades) taking responsibility for this stuff. Because it is his responsibility. That's why it's such a tough job. That's what coaching is.
And they're going to get there, Jones insisted. They're going to get it, together.
In fact, he's going to adapt his style to them in order to make sure they do.
But then there's Jones, asking the reporters at his press conference to come watch the Na Koa game film. Come see that his plays were the right ones, come see that they would have been touchdowns, if only someone had gone an inch to the right.
But then, that's what every coach sees in every film. If only that guy had done this, this guy had done that, another guy had done what he was supposed to do -- it would have been a touchdown.
Of course, that's why so many coaches are always that inch away from insanity. Football is rarely perfect. But in that film room, they allow themselves fresh hope.