Who needs football when you can play the “blame game”?

by Mindy on January 3, 2011

Is it the fault of the coach, or the players? Do you blame the guy calling the shots, or the huddle of helmets on the field? Make accusations about inadequate training and management, or poor performance and lack of ability?

As the NFL season moves into playoffs these are questions swirling in the minds of many football fans like myself. On one hand, you have coaches such as Wade Phillips and Brad Childress losing their jobs due to consecutive lackluster game days. On the other hand, big name players such as Michael Vick and Eli Manning are taking on the fault themselves, asking for the assignment of blame to team members instead of their sideline leaders following fumbles and failure to score. Numerous teams throughout the NFL are being shaken up this season with both sides of the coin — coaches and players — taking the heat … to some extent. For so many of us it likely hasn’t gone unnoticed that those coaches yelling plays and boosting team morale as best possible are the ones encountering the brunt of the blows.

Do some coaches possibly deserve these repercussions? Likely so. But in what other venue do bosses find themselves unemployed due to employee shortfalls? Very few careers seemingly face this issue, yet this football season has proven that game loss after game loss can quickly become job loss for the men at the helm. Coach John Fox from the Carolina Panthers is an example of this obvious trend. Despite leading his boys to more wins than losses throughout the past nine years, Fox coached his last Carolina game yesterday following a few years of less-than-ideal player performances. Was Fox to blame for the many interceptions thrown by quarterbacks Jimmy Clausen, Matt Moore and Jake Delhomme? When defensive players succumbed to injury, such as linebacker Dan Connor* earlier this season, was Fox at fault? As teams from Pittsburgh to Tampa Bay ran laps around the team in Charlotte, did Fox encourage his players to admit defeat? I think not. Blame cannot solely be assigned to coaches such as John Fox, and perhaps it hasn’t been. However, they are the ones whose lives seem to change most when players poorly perform.

Am I saying every coach whose team can’t manage a W should merrily continue on in his job? Not at all. But perhaps a bit more emphasis should ride on the shoulders of players. They are the ones who have to take the coach’s words and teachings to the field, turning those training sessions into points and wins. When it truly comes down to it, the players are the guys who have to perform. Coaches cannot do it for them. Coaches cannot run on the field and run a quick play, cannot kick a field goal when three points are needed, cannot sack a quarterback or even block a punt. They can only teach, train, encourage and educate. Blame should be equally divided and repercussions should apply to all parties involved. I know that’s unlikely and I know my words would undoubtedly fall on deaf ears, but these are the musings of one frustrated football fan who wishes the word “fair” was part of the NFL vocabulary.

* Penn State alum, woot woot!! My fave Panther!

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Leonnie January 4, 2011 at 2:33 am

Hmm, I see your point, but I think that for the most part, coaches absorb the right amount of blame. In the case of someone like John Fox, who was most likely not coming back anyway, his failure was not entirely that Jake Delhomme kept throwing interceptions, or that certain players got hurt; his failure was that over nine years he only got to the playoffs three times, that’s not enough. At a certain point that’s not just bad luck, that’s a failure to adjust your system to the team’s strengths, or a failure to find the right guys for your system. Coaching is, more than anything else, about adjusting, Bill Belichick and Andy Reid being proof. Those guys adjust when it’s time, and have stayed at the top of their profession because of it. Plus, player evaluation is much harder than coach evaluation, so it seems fair that they receive a bit more leeway for their failings. Coaches have one job: win, it’s not like that isn’t understood by all involved, therefore, the relative lack of room for failure.

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TOPolk Reply:

@Leonnie,
I was going to drop by and leave a well thought out comment, but it appears that Leonnie beat me to the punch.

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Mindy Reply:

@Leonnie, Excellent comment, and one I expected. Should coaches never be fired for failing to lead their team toward wins? Of course not. There has to be a level of evaluation for anyone, in any job. I’m just a glutton for fairness and somewhat see the treatment of players versus coaches as a bit unfair. Coaches are far more susceptible — so it seems — to job loss and repercussions for poor performance than players. And while I understand that it might be more difficult to gauge a player’s actions than a coach’s, I don’t really believe that this provides a decent excuse for not equally looking at both facets of the team.

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OmegaRadium January 8, 2011 at 5:55 pm

I too had some things in mind, but Leonnie said it all.
Coaches are leaders, and ultimately the success/failure of your team rests on the leader. Sure the players are to blame an extent, but unless the coach is powerless to hire/fire/recruit, reassign players and their positions, I find the blame is fairly placed on the leader.

In the military, the success of an operation is based on teamwork. Without teamwork, the mission is doomed to failure. Leaders, whether on the ground (quarterback) or at the mission command center (coach) all share the responsibility of their successes and failures. After all, aren’t leaders part of the team?

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Mindy Reply:

@OmegaRadium, Part of the team? Without a doubt. But in any sort of group, the whole needs to perform and the whole needs to be evaluated. Scrutiny can’t fall just on the coach because the entire team didn’t succeed. It needs to find fair placement among all involved, and I don’t exactly see that in the NFL.

For some reason, I always hinge on fairness. I always have. And when things don’t seem to be fair across the board — and I surely don’t think they are here — then I speak up. Life isn’t fair, and neither is job performance evaluation, but damn it, it should be, lol.

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