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!