Monday, December 10, 2007


No, this has nothing to do with Michael Vick.

Nothing at all. I promise.

It's also not meant to be venomous in any way. The NFL's officials work their tails off, and unless they screw up monumentally (or are Ed Hochuli), they are anonymous on the NFL landscape.

NFL coaches also work hard. They log insane, inhumane hours in the name of game-planning and preparation (well, ego, too). They work in the face of constant pressure, both from a vulturous media and rabid fan bases. They're on-camera more than they should be, bringing unnecessary visibility to an already-difficult job.

So this isn't about making them seem inadequate or unqualified.

I'll start with the officials. We've been left now to deal with some realities with regard to the officiating in the NFL.
  • There is little to no consistency. What is "illegal contact" in one game is "good defense" in another. Actually, what is "illegal contact" in the first quarter can be "good defense" by the third if you get the right crew.
  • Replay will never be a perfect system. As long as you force coaches to risk timeouts to challenge obviously bad calls, and limit them to only two challenges per game, the system is fundamentally imperfect. But when you allow officials to have obviously differing standards on reviews, you're not going to get far, either. A good example of this is the "catch" for a "touchdown" by New England's Jabar Gaffney last Monday night. If that was a catch, then why wasn't Marcus Pollard's play for the Lions in 2005 ruled a catch?
  • The NFL is very selective about when they admit their mistakes. The pass interference call on Green Bay's Tramon Williams in the Dallas game, a game-changing call, was said to be a good call by officiating overlord Mike Periera. It wasn't. The intentional contact made by Williams on the play was completely inconsequential, as the receiver didn't break stride. Only when the players' legs tangled did the receiver fall, and that contact was incidental. If that's pass interference, then why aren't all 32 teams throwing 45-yard bombs on every down? The chance of a penalty makes it worth a shot.
  • They're not going to get any better. We always hear about how great the officials are, and if the past three or four years are any indication, improvement is not on the horizon. As long as the NFL is so outwardly satisfied, why bother?
Coaching is a whole different deal. As noted genius Peter King pointed out today:
Since 2000, by my count, NFL teams have hired seven big-money geniuses (average salary per year: $4.3 million) to take their teams to the promised land.

The Magnificent Seven: Nick Saban (Miami), Steve Spurrier (Washington), Dick Vermeil (Kansas City), Dennis Green (Arizona), Bill Parcells (Dallas), Joe Gibbs (Washington) and Bobby Petrino (Atlanta). They have coached a combined 21 years with those teams. Playoff appearances in those 21 years: 4. (It's mathematically possible to be five this year, if the 6-7 Redskins run the table and get some help.)

Playoff wins in those 21 years: 1. Championship Game appearances: 0. Super Bowl appearances: 0. Gibbs won the playoff game with Washington, 17-10 over Tampa Bay in January 2006. Parcells made the playoffs in two of his four Dallas seasons. Vermeil had the other playoff season, a one-and-done job in 2003 with the Chiefs. One playoff win by the geniuses in 21 years.

Wow. That's a lot of money for a lot of nothing in return. And it's not out of the ordinary. Consistent success is hard to find anywhere in the NFL, and at least part of that falls on the coaches. It makes what Tony Dungy (Indianapolis), Bill Belichick (New England), and their respective staffs have done all the more impressive.

It also makes it all the more maddening. In a league full of guys who obsess over preparation, there are still two teams doing it better than anyone.


After six years of Brady and a decade of Manning, isn't there enough film on those guys yet? What are those coaches doing with their players that others don't do?

These are things I don't understand, but shame on the NFL for continuing to talk up the greatness of its chess-master coaches, but forgetting that there are two teams doing it better than anyone. By a lot.

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