General Sports

You’re On Your Own

In this day and age, being a head coach for a major college program, or professional team can be demanding.  And as most coaches eventually find out, lonely.  Now since it is in season, this article highlights NCAA football, and the NFL.  But just like football, it can hold true in basketball, and baseball as well.
So far, there are five teams that are looking for a head coach.  Out of those five, only Bill Cowher and Nick Saban could decide their own futures.  The three others were fired because of their respective team’s performance, or their attitude off the field. Or both.

Jim Mora was recently let go as the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons.  His recent off field antics, and the Falcons dismal performance led to his demise.  What started it all was a conversation on a sports radio show.  

Mora was “joking” around about wanting to take the Washington Huskies head-coaching job, if Tyrone Willingham resigned.  This “joke” started an uproar all around the country.  Most people took what he said literally.  And apparently so did the Falcons owner, Arthur Blank.  Eventually, Mora apologized for the joke, and all was fine and dandy he thought.  But he could not have been more wrong.

The “nail in the coffin” for Mora was a resounding 24-17 loss to Philadelphia to end the season.  This was no an ordinary loss though.  It was as if the Falcons were a varsity team, and the Eagles were a junior varsity team.  But Philadelphia, with reserves on both sides of the ball, won the game.

And to add insult to injury, not one Falcon player defended Mora after the game.  In fact, most of the players had been disgusted with Mora for a long time.  Including the team MVP, Michael Vick.  

But that is something a coach should be use to.  Why?  Because coaches are on their own.

The next coach up is Dennis Green, former coach of the Arizona Cardinals.  Now this coach had a strike against him already, because lets face it, Arizona is where NFL coaches go to die.  And proof of this was Green’s horrifying 16-32 record, in his three years held captive in the desert.

But Green definitely set the forest (Cardinals) on fire when he could not capitalize on the free agent signing of Edgerrin James, and sensational rookie quarterback, Matt Leinart.  Also, he had two of the league’s best receivers in Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin.  But in despite of these offensive weapons, the Cardinals were ranked eighteenth in the league in total offense.

The thing that was different with Dennis Green was that he was blamed 110% for his team’s failures, but when they won, or put up a good fight, he would not get any credit.  Sometimes he was even blamed for something or another when they won.  But Green still stayed with the team.

In the end, the Cardinal’s upper management did not feel that Green was efficiently using his weapons.  And although I feel Green is a fantastic coach, I would have to agree.  And really, management was not on Green’s side at all during his three years.

But that is something a coach should be use to.  Why?  Because coaches are on their own.

Art Shell has been the most recent coach to be on the unemployment line.  His exit (The second on in 13 years) came after his Raiders had fifteen games where they could have played better if they would not have shown up.  But Shell should have never really been considered a head coach.  He was there because he used to play for the organization.  That is simple enough.

Like the previous paragraph says, Oakland was not competitive by any stretch of the imagination at any time during the past season.  The Raider’s make the Lions look like this year’s Super Bowl champion.

I have a little sympathy though for Shell.  It was like he was walking into an avalanche.  Of course, it would be black snow, but you get the point.  He walked into a team that was full of selfish players (Randy Moss), disgruntled players (Jerry Porter), and an owner that will probably never again have the joy of seeing his team in the playoffs (Al Davis).  

So how can you have a successful team off that?  The answer is you cannot.  Which is why the Raiders will be the first team on the clock in these years NFL Draft?

Like Green, Shell took a lot of the blame for the failures of the Raiders.  He really should not have to, because he should never have been coach in the first place.  The league already has enough oversized coaches in the league (Andy Reid).  And to have a successful program, there first has to be an owner that cares more about his coach and his team, than what people think about himself.

But that is something a coach should be used to.  Why?  Because coaches are on their own.

The fact of the matter, is fans have a short memory.  As do most owners.  A degree of progress has to be shown in order for a coach or general manager to keep his job.  That is unless you are William Clay Ford.  Just ask Bill Cowher about the loss of memory of the Pittsburgh Steeler’s fans.

Bill Cowher is one of the best coaches to coach the game, college or professional. He is right up there with the Lombardis, Maddens and Bryants.  Now that he is officially retired, he will be embraced.  But before the season was over, some fans were calling for Cowher’s head.  Why?  Because the Steeler’s were denied a playoff berth with their 8-8 record this year.  And you are saying, “They just won the Super Bowl.”  Yes, they did.  But once you win all you are allowed to do is win.  And even if you go 15-1, the fans will find something to blame the coach about.

That is how it is for every coach, no matter what division or sport.  If the team wins once, it must always win.  And if the team does not, the coach is kicked to the curb.

But that is something a coach should be used to.  Why?  Because coaches are on their own.

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