Sunday, January 23, 2005

Conservative Coaching

I wonder if the legacy of the NFL playoffs this year will be to show that conservative coaching is usually bad.

We had the Chargers lose when Marty Schottenheimer settled for a longer field goal than need be because he didn't want to risk a play where they might actually gain yards and because a 40 yard field goal with a rookie kicker is such a chip shot in the playoffs. Then Herman Edwards and the Jets lose because not only are they too afraid to run a play that might gain yards, they are so afraid they will have to kickoff that they run a play intended to lose yards, again because a 35+ yard field goal, on the road in Pittsburgh, is such a chip shot.

Now today we have Bill Cowher kicking a field goal down by 14 on the Patriots in the 4th quarter rather than going for it from the 2. Did he really think they would score another 11 on that defense in less than a quarter without allowing another point. Just incredibly stupid. Had the Steelers scored a TD, it would have been a 7 point game. Instead the Patriots stayed in control for the rest of the game.

On the other hand, Belichick runs a reverse for a touchdown to ice the game. OK, if that play fails or if there is a fumble, maybe he looks bad. But you win by being bold and smart. Smart and conservative rarely wins you games when you are tied or behind.

Cowher's a really good, if not great, coach and should be lauded for an excellent job coaching a team with a rookie QB to a 15-1 record and the AFC championship game. And his move is not in the same class as Edwards, who borderline deserves to be fired for it.

Nonetheless, I wonder if coaches will being to rethink their 4th quarter strategies after 3 significant playoff failures.