Decisions, decisions and the coaches who make them

Last Sunday night, the Broncos and Chiefs squared off in a crucial AFC West battle.  Currently only two games separate three teams in that division.  As the season winds down, the winner of this game would have a huge advantage in the wild card chase.

Tied at 27, the game went into overtime.  With time expiring in overtime, facing a fourth-down decision to either punt or try a very long field goal, Denver coach Gary Kubiak decided to let his generally steady kicker attempt a 62-yarder.

He missed.

That miss gave Kansas City a chance, with the limited time remaining and advantageous field position, to drive downfield and kick a game-winning field goal of their own… which they did.

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Denver BroncosMany Monday morning quarterbacks second-guessed Kubiak’s decision to allow his kicker to attempt such a long field goal in sub-optimal weather but had Kubiak punted and played for the tie, he would have been second-guessed for that decision as well.

NFL coaches are paid top dollar to make these calls.  It’s up to their players to execute.  The Broncos could miss the playoffs as a result of that loss.

This past Sunday, the Falcons scored a last minute touchdown to go up by a single point over the Arizona Cardinals.  Like splitting aces or doubling down on eleven at the blackjack table, the book tells you in that situation, you go for two.  The two-point conversion puts you up by three meaning your opponent can only tie with a field goal.

Things didn’t go as planned for Atlanta.  Matt Ryan threw an ill-advised pass to safety Eric Berry (who plays for the opposing team) and who ran it back to turn Atlanta’s one point lead into a one-point deficit.  It was the first time in NFL history a game had ended in that fashion, partially because the rule was recently changed to allow two points if you run one of those conversions back.  Either way, that loss will sting Atlanta for some time to come.

Like Kubiak’s decision in Denver last week, Dan Quinn’s call to go for two was the right one.  The play he called was not.

berry-picks-ryanOn Sunday night, Panthers coach Ron Rivera was seen talking to his MVP quarterback Cam Newton as they got off the team bus.  At first, no one knew what this was about.  It later turned out that Newton would be suspended the start of the game for not following the team dress code.  Without rules, there is anarchy.  Without a tie, Cam would not start.

In place of the swiftly suspended Newton, back-up Derek Anderson got the nod.  He summarily threw an interception on the game’s very first play resulting in a Seattle field goal and a lead they would never relinquish.  The Panthers ended up losing 40-7.

Many questioned Rivera’s decision to bench his star quarterback in such a big game but rules are rules.  Newton later said all the right things, that he respected Rivera’s decision and that he understood that team rules are in place for a reason.

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton wears a black coat and hat as he talks with reporters during a post-game news conference after an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016, in Seattle. The Seahawks won 40-7. (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)

Like Kubiak and Quinn before him, Rivera made a decision that cost him team a win… but was right for doing so.

And finally, we have a coach whose decision may have cost his team the biggest win of all.

Switching to the college ranks, after his team’s incredulous victory in the Big Ten Championship Game, Penn State head coach James Franklin could have lobbied for his team to make college football’s final four.  After all, an argument could have been made.  Instead he took the high road, we think.  When asked whether his team belonged in the college football playoff, Franklin used words like “honored” and “appreciative” and “opportunities” to describe his team’s Big Ten championship… and ultimate Rose Bowl bid.

I’m not one to play hypothetical here but you can bet your bottom dollar if the situations were reversed and a much higher-profile coach like Urban Meyer were the coach of Penn State, he’d be lobbying his ass off to get into that final four.  I get that Franklin wants to set a good example for his kids but screw the politeness; he should have at least made a play for what he thought was rightfully his.

A harder stance by Franklin, while still appreciative of the opportunity, might have influenced a committee to take a closer look at who to include and who to leave out.

Instead, Franklin, his boys and their Big Ten championship will be off to Pasadena.

franklin-penn-state

Coaches make tough calls.  They are constantly under the microscope for all us to sit and criticize.  All these coaches made the right calls and ended up getting the short end of the stick.  None of these four suffer from job insecurity, at least not at the moment, but losses are never good for a resume.  And sometimes nice guys finish last.

15 thoughts on “Decisions, decisions and the coaches who make them

  1. I would have punted and said so before Denver attempted a 62 yard field goal. There has only been 16 made kicks of 60 yards or longer in NFL, 6 of 62 or longer yet you think the right choice was to kick it…what?

    Again we will agree to disagree.

  2. D…

    It is Denver and McManus is a steady kicker.

    While conditions weren’t optimal, punting concedes the game and plays for the tie.

    You know as well as I do that coaches in the NFL can’t play for ties.

    Even with the miss, Denver’s defense should be good enough to hold Kansas City out of field goal range with the time they had remaining.

  3. I agree the other 3…this was an absolutely horrible decision by Kubiak. You yourself said it might cost them the playoffs. The coach needs to know the standings and implications. Way worse things than playing for a tie. It was such a low percentage choice that I can’t even believe he made it. I hope it cost Denver because it was flat out stupid.

    Why should Denver’s D be able to stop somebody from going 15 yards? I mean they gave them the ball on their own side of the 50. That is 1 completion. Ridiculous decision IMO. The other 3 got it right he didn’t. You as a gambler have to know that was a bad bet he made. Bad bets are bad decisions

  4. He he…you and me both. Alright I will let this subside until we do battle in the twitterverse again.

  5. With the Kubiak situation, I can certainly see both sides of the argument. I do believe metrics said McManus had a well under 50% chance of making that kick.

    That being said, I don’t think you can play for the tie… although a tie is better than a loss.

  6. Oh the joys of being an NFL head coach . Now consider the plight of Todd Bowles of the New York Jets. Last season he had this team playing solid football. One year removed and this team can’t find it’s @ss from a hole in the ground.

  7. Rivera dead right, Falcons dead right but wrong play, Kubiak dead wrong, and Franklin absolutely right showing class and sportsmanship. Boy did Penn State hire the right guy to right that floundering ship.

  8. We all make right calls that go wrong almost every day but nobody knows about them. That’s why these guys make the kind of money they do. They get roasted by us know nothings as well as their bosses. If I had to pay a dollar for every time I’ve cursed at Lane Kiffin (UA OC), I’d be in the welfare shelter. Now he’s head coaching material again. BTW SC, I’m sure you’ve you tubed Funny Maine by now – if not, check him out re: SEC football.

  9. Penn State – If a coach lobbying for his team can actually sway the committee we need to get back to computers stat. Truth is, that committee has to decide who will bring the best ratings and polish to the sport on the reality TV show they are charged to fill finalists for. Even James F knew Penn State would never get a sniff of the Final Four considering the PR lagoon the Nittany Lions are still stuck within.
    Carolina – If Coach Ron is such a hard-ass on those fashion rules and has been all along I have no issue at all with sitting Cam. That being said, who was the genius who let Derek pass on the first play?
    Atlanta – Loved the try for two. Just didn’t get it done.
    Denver – Hated the try for three. Punt the ball. I’m a go-for-the-win guy but you can’t do it there IMHO.

  10. Moose…

    I’m in the minority here but I think Kiffin stays put, although the Houston gig does sound intriguing.

    He’s got it made where he’s at, minus the occasional ass-chewings from his boss that make for good fodder, but who doesn’t get those.

    Why not stay a little longer and learn from the best? Heck, if Kiffin wrote a tell-all book about the Saban years, wouldn’t you read that? I mean it would be written in crayon but still.

    He’s already been the head coach, and rather unsuccessfully, at UT, USC and the Raiders. Why not soak up a little more knowledge, rack up a few more championships and go from there.

    It’s not like he’s old or anything.

  11. Burnsy…

    This all boils down to, or at least the Franklin decision does, to did the committee get it right.

    I’m not going to sit here and tell you Penn State was better than Ohio State.

    I am saying that the conference championship now means squat.

    Fix the system so that we no longer have to debate about it unless of course, that’s what they want.

  12. Chris, all anyone needs to bring up now is Penn State winning that championship and not getting in when evaluating the fairness and logic of it all. Their exclusion has taken the nonsense to a new level. I totally agree with you. I also totally think they LOVE the debate.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*