Head coaches: the most underrated facet of the game
Published: Tuesday, October 2, 2012
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 20:11
“Oh, come on. Even I could coach that them to the postseason.”
These words have flowed out of my mouth countless times when talking about teams such as the Lakers, Yankees or the old-school Bulls, but never about the masterminds behind the Patriots, or who people can now refer to: the New Orleans Saints.
Coaching professional athletes, regardless of their talent level, is one giant headache. Not only are you dealing with enlarged egos and bank accounts, but sometimes their wives and girlfriends as well. This is not to mention the constant badgering of the media, demanding quotes, interviews and inside information. Meanwhile, if you don’t win, you’re gone.
Still don’t think having someone who can handle all of this is important? Let’s look at recent history.
There is no need to look any further than the 0-4 Saints, who have a Super Bowl MVP in record-setting quarterback Drew Brees. Without his partner in crime (no pun intended) – head coach Sean Payton – around, Brees looks like just another average NFL quarterback, not a superstar.
This offseason, Payton was suspended for the season due to an alleged bounty system that had been going on in the Saints’ locker room. Many expected Brees to take over and pick up where he left off after an unparalleled 2011 season. This hasn’t been the case.
Through the first four games, Brees has completed only 57.6 percent of his passes, by far his lowest of any season as a Saint. By comparison, he completed 71.2 percent last year and threw for 5,476 yards, an NFL single-season record.
Payton has been with him since the start. He immediately traded for the veteran when he found out Brees was about to be sidelined in favor of a hotheaded Phillip Rivers in San Diego. Brees and Payton clicked instantly, winning their division and going all the way to the NFC Championship.
Brees had potential in San Diego. Did he somehow just wake up one day in New Orleans and learn how to be an elite quarterback? He was a second-round pick, for crying out loud. He was just never given the chance to prosper in San Diego.
Still not convinced?
Peyton Manning had a miserable first season. But Tony Dungy, a fantastic coach, saw his talent and never questioned his starting role. A great coach has patience, sees what the player can do and gets the most out of the athlete’s skills.
It’s clear his new role as player, leader and coach figure has impacted Brees’ performance in a negative way.
Along with their head coach, they seemed to have lost their home field advantage. The Saints have already lost two games at home this season after going 19-5 at home over the last three seasons.
A change in coach leads to a change in culture, attitude and results, which UB fans know all too well.
Buffalo football has been less than stellar lately. In 2006, a former baseball player and Green Bay Packers offensive assistant turned out to be a savior for the Bulls. This man was Turner Gill.
Gill, who took over for Jim Hofher and his 8-49 record as UB’s head coach, was in charge of cleaning up a mess. Buffalo was one of the three or four worst FBS programs in the nation when Gill came, according to an article posted on collegefootballrivals.com.
In 2006, Gill’s first season with the Bulls, they only won two games. However, they scored the most points they had in a season since joining Division I. Finally, there was some reason for excitement in Buffalo, despite the record.
In 2007, the Bulls achieved their first winning record within the conference. Then they came out firing in 2008. They were poised, confident and ready to be known. This was thanks to Gill.
2008 was a year that will never be forgotten for Buffalo football. The Bulls posted their first winning record and won the MAC East. They then took down the No. 12 team in the nation, the Ball State Cardinals, on ESPN to win their first MAC championship. They made it to their first bowl appearance, the International Bowl, in which they lost to Connecticut 38-20.
Gill left for the head coaching job at Kansas the following season. Since then, the only bowls Buffalo sees are the ones lit up around campus.
The Jeff Quinn era has begun 6-22, including a 3-14 conference record and a 0-8 mark against non-conference Division I schools.
Still don’t think a head coach is a big deal?
A good head coach can ignore distractions. He can take criticism and find ways to turn it into motivation for himself and his players, without it looking like smoke blowing out of his ass. Especially in the college game, players need a guy they respect. And nothing demands respect more than what’s on the scoreboard.
Do you still think you and your buddy can coach Brady, Rodgers or Brees to postseason football?
No. Not a chance.