Sunday, October 21, 2007

Nothing Left to Lose

I love football. I was raised to love baseball in the way that some children are raised to follow a religion. But if baseball is my faith (I'm monotheistic—St. Louis Cardinals only; no other team even matters), then football is my passionate mistress.

I play pick-up games with friends from my workplace, which, since it's a college, includes some guys half my age with whom I have no business playing. I always feel like Samuel L. Jackson in "Unbreakable" for at least two days after I play. And even though my arm is worse than Chad Pennington's, my teammates insist that I play quarterback.

Why? In our games, the QB is also the play caller, and I'm a great offensive coordinator. I use the run a lot, which is almost unknown in pass-wacky touch football games, again mainly because of my crummy passing arm, and I try to be as creative as possible with mismatches and misdirection plays.

But here's the thing: I'm a terrible head coach. I tried to coach flag football a couple of years ago, and my team was a disaster. We didn't win a single game; we tied the last game of the year. I realized that what makes me a good offensive coordinator—an almost obsessive concern with moving the ball and scoring—didn't serve me as a head coach.

Why not? Great offenses are about "right brain" thinking: creativity, unpredictability, taking goofy chances. But football teams are based on discipline and teamwork, which is the hallmark of the defensive side of the ball. I don't care about defensive strategy. I want to figure out how to beat a defense. It's no accident that my favorite players throughout the ages—Fran Tarkenton, Kurt Warner, Peyton Manning—have been quarterbacks.

Look at last year's Superbowl coaches: Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith, both defensive coordinators at some point in their career. Bill Belicheck was Bill Parcell's defensive guru. New Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin is a defensive guy. Wade Phillips? Succeeding in Dallas; defensive guy. Norv Turner? Stinking it up in San Diego; offensive guy.

That leads me to the point. I like Scott Linehan. He was a great offensive mind in Minnesota, the reason for all the success between Daunte Culpepper and Randy Moss. He also had success in Miami with that offense despite a lack of talent. But he's an absolute disaster as a head coach in St. Louis. He'd probably be a great offensive coordinator, but he's not going to win a game this year with this Rams team. They don't respect him.

No one respects the offensive guy. The offensive guy is weird. We're nerds. Mike Martz is our king, and he wasn't the greatest head coach in the world, either. I'm not saying offensive guys can't make it, but if I owned a team, I'd be looking for a defensive genius. Good defensive guys create good teams. Good offensive guys are better off sticking with the offense.

Hey, there's no shame in being the #3 or #4 guy on the organizational flow chart. Come on, who would you rather be right now, George W. Bush or the President Pro-Tem of the Senate? (By the way, that's Sen. Robert Byrd, D-WVA, and yes, I had to look it up.) So, whether he decides to resign on his own, or whether the Rams fire him, it's time for Scott Linehan to go. I hope he finds success running an offense somewhere. We already have the ideal interim head coach in place: defensive coordinator Jim Haslett. This needs to happen now. If I was the team owner, I'd already be making it happen.

Oh, and one more thing: Vikings head coach Brad Childress was offensive coordinator for the Eagles before he went to Minnesota. What's he done so far? Only relegated shoe-in Rookie of the Year Adrian Peterson to a backup role while starting Tarvaris Jackson at QB, who sounds like a fill-in distant cousin of the original Jackson Five lineup. "Ladies and Gentlemen, here they are: Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon, and filling in for Michael...Tarvaris!" Just shoot me now, please.

At least Peyton Manning's head coach is a defensive guy.

p.s. Check out the new link at the top of the page for "Tuck's Baseball Toons." Sandlot supporter and comrade Tuck is now publishing his work at The Hardball Times. Support those who support The Sandlot!

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