I've had a lot of hobbies. A whole lot of hobbies. Way too many hobbies. They keep me busy, and help me avoid spending too much time gazing into the mirror admiring my beauty. Keeping me rooted, and in touch with the common (and less stunningly handsome) man, is important to me. One thing that I've found, is that every hobby has a small circle of gurus in it, some of whom are an asset, and some of whom are blustering buffoons. The buffoons are more interested in maintaining their "expert" status, than helping somebody to figure out a problem. As long as somebody knows one thing that you don't, there is a good chance they are going to hold this over you. That's how it seems to work; possess one fact that the next guy doesn't have, and wait for your pedestal to be erected.
Even in the lowliest of jobs that I have had, there was always a lingo that needed to be acquired, so that everyone could maintain an air of professionalism. "Would you like your butter pecan in a sugar cone, a cake cone, or a waffle cone, sir?", I said before scurrying back to my peers to madly cackle about the fool who had requested the "sharp cone". Yes, as a teenager I scooped ice cream for a "living" (ironic quotation marks included to comment on my decades ago salary of $3.65 an hour). We even had someone request a "danger cone" once, suggesting that the pointed tips of a sugar cone could be used as a menacing weapon. The point is that we derided the common man's lack of knowledge regarding such vital information about the ice cream industry. We were idiots, but idiots with our hands on the praline filled nectar of the gods. My current profession in Cryptozoological Phrenology just makes me even more of a menace.
Have you ever been with someone when they are discussing their work, and they throw out a term that is clearly unique to their work environment, as if you are supposed to understand what they mean? Well, of course you aren't supposed to know what they meant when they referred to the hassle of filing a "TPS report". They just want you to inquire as to what this mysterious term means, to create the impression that they are masters of some sort of mysterious domain, where memos to accounts billable turn into unicorns sprinkling pixie dust, which keeps our world afloat. If you didn't ask, they would probably have to shoot themselves. Your awe keeps them alive. I do believe in lawyers. I do! I do!
Now, I'm not saying that all coaches are blustering buffoons, but it does seem likely that a good number of them are. For a game that is basically a combination of tug-of-war, and tag-you're-it, with perhaps a pinch of keep-away thrown in once the passing game was adopted, there seems to be a great deal of effort given to obscuring what any clumsy four year old should be perfectly capable of comprehending. If you've ever had an older sibling plant the palm of their hand into your forehead, and watch gleefully as you flail about unable to reach them with your stubby arms, then you already get the basics of being an offensive lineman. Class dismissed. You can pick up your degree from the University of Iowa at the door.
For this reason, I am submitting Charles De Mar as my candidate for the next open head coaching position. His resume as a fictional character, albeit in an Oscar worthy film, may a bit of an obstacle to overcome, and I'm not sure how the Rooney Rule applies to nonexistent applicants, but I think it is worth a shot. His straightforward, no bullshit approach to the game, seems like just the sort of thing we all need. Here is a brief except from one of his inspirational speeches, that I think captures what he brings to the table.
I think that pretty well sums up what most coaches need to tell their players. It is true, that he probably doesn't know the difference between an X, Y, or Z type of receiver. Still, there seems to be a good argument for the idea that three distinct classifications of receivers is somewhat pointless, when many teams can't even find more than one guy who can reliably catch the ball. Simplifying things to a more basic "he sucks" and "he doesn't suck" criteria, just seems to make sense. The same thing applies to the different personnel groupings and the peculiar number system that is used to describe them. An "11" grouping would be a formation with one running back, and one tight end. A "21" grouping would consist of two running back, and one tight end, and so on. I'm sure Mr. De Mar, could simplify this to a more refined and obvious approach of not letting the "guys who suck" onto the field. This may sound too simplistic, but it would certainly keep Shonn Greene off the field, a victory for the De Mar supporters. So, again, there is a language which exists in the world of football, which mainly seems to exist to obfuscate some simple truths. I suppose using the word "obfuscate" also obfuscates things a bit, but that irony only serves to aid in making my point.
To a large extent, what I find most shocking is the degree to which players come into the league with certain well known shortcomings that either can't be, or aren't corrected. Players inevitably mature to some degree, and their stats improve. The degree to which this happens just by becoming comfortable in their new environment, seems likely to outweigh any sort of coaching. When is the last time a receiver came into the league with a reputation for having bad hands and poor college productivity, and suddenly found himself snaring balls with great proficiency? Generally, the players who sucked at certain key aspects of their position, continue to suck at those things. Of course, when an undrafted player like Cameron Wake gets booted from the league, only to go off and dominate the CFL, he is hailed as someone who has been improved, or "coached up", rather than to admit that people probably completely squandered his talent for a few years. When Arian Foster or Victor Cruz went undrafted, and participated very little in their rookie years, did their sophomore explosions of productivity owe to being "coached up"? Or, were the management and coaches of their respective teams probably oblivious to the talent that they were sitting on. If they were somewhat oblivious, then it raises a question. To what degree can you critique a player, and guide them to improve, if you don't even possess the ability to recognize the talent that is there in the first place? The same eye for correcting flaws, should be capable of identifying what is exceptional, shouldn't it?
In the end, I do think that there are a number of coaches who bring valuable skills to the table. It's just that very few of them seem to be in areas that we consider "coaching". Managing a large group of maniacal prima donnas with drinking problems and 'roid rage, is no small task. Recognizing your opponents' tendencies and weaknesses, and coming up with an effective game plan to exploit this knowledge, clearly is valuable. It just doesn't seem like actual coaching though. So, the annual hopes that fans develop around particular draft prospects, and how they will become stars once certain issues are corrected, leaves me feeling a bit pessimistic. The inbred nature of the coaching world where multiple generations of certain families end up with head coaching jobs, doesn't really aid in dispelling my doubts. The possibility that some ancient tome of secrets is being passed down through the Ryan, Harbaugh, or Shanahan families, possibly written in the blood of long snappers, seems unlikely. I like to envision a stone in a field outside of Canton, where young boys are brought by their fathers, from which they try to pull a millennia old jock strap, which will signify their role as the chosen one, who will one day lead the Browns or the Jaguars to a 7-9 season. It seems plausible to me.