Tuesday, October 19, 2010

New U football coach needs old fashioned gumption

There’s a new breed of football coach stalking the sidelines these days—a 21st Century man. A dispassionate Chief Executive in expensive slacks. A corporatist with systems for offense. Systems for defense. Systems for everything, right down to scheduling Booster Club snack stand duty.

Coach Vince Lombardi built his Packer system around the sweep play. Bud Grant’s system just out-gritted the opposition. This new breed of coach relies on a system of percentages, data, and options so complicated that he carries it around on a plastic coated, color coordinated chart the size of a pancake house menu, and he seems to consult his chart at length on every play.

It’s complicated at the high school level, more so in college, and all but impossible to comprehend in pro ball.

Watching Vikings coach Brad Childress study his chart, my friends and I have taken to turning to one another and shrugging. Fans are screaming, Momentum is surging or ebbing. Players are panting, sweating, striving and grunting. And there stands Coach Childress, studying his chart, the picture of actuarial dispassion.

It’s, the chart, the whole chart, and nothing but the chart with these guys. Even when common sense dictates they do something else.

Up 41-16 against the Gophers two weeks ago, the Wisconsin coach went for a two-point play after a touchdown late in the game. It was rubbing the Gophers nose in the score. It was just plain bad sportsmanship. Asked why he did it, the coach said the chart told him to.

All well and good, as long as “Coach” wins. But when their teams lose, all these modern coaches seem able to do is stand there and look analytical. Evidently, indignation and outrage are not on the chart.

It’s unprofessional. It’s juvenile. But sometimes coaching football calls for a good old fashioned expletive-filled meltdown. The kind oldtime coaches with 2.0 grade point averages and degrees in Geography and bum knees from their own football glory days used to have.

Sadly, no. Not to be. Not from this new breed of coach. He’s playing the percentages, not our traditionally-reviled rivals. Meanwhile, up here in the bleachers, we fans fume and fulminate.

It’s time to dig in and make a stand. C’mon. Put some heart into your system, Coach. Stop crunching numbers. Start crunching the other guys.