Friday, October 21, 2011

Why Are Coaches and Managers So Dumb?

If a week in DFW sports has taught us any truth that continues to be pounded, it is that managers and coaches have many crucial decisions to make in their games. There are millions of eyeballs watching these decisions. And as long as every decision is proven to be correct, they will escape criticism from those who observe.

But, the second one of these decisions goes wrong, guys like me grab their laptops and prepare to unleash our fury - knowing full well that we really seldom ever know that the decision is wrong. Simply that the decision did not lead to the proper outcome of the sporting event that they are managing.

And yet, the media and fans - despite knowing this absurd standard of perfection that is expected - seldom ever change up our routines, because it is simply how everything works. Who needs logic when we have an easy target when our team doesn't win?

I have no idea if Ron Washington and Jason Garrett know each-other or just live in parallel universes about 500 yards apart in Arlington. But, in the last week, they are both on stages where they have been reduced by many as nearly unqualified for their own jobs. And it is all "outcome based" logic.

For Garrett, it is back-to-back weeks with back-to-back scenarios that are near identical. 4-minute drills against Detroit and New England with slim leads and about 4 minutes to play and a 3-point lead. In either game, if they can move the chains once or twice, the lead is salted away and the game is won. His choice is whether he should run the clock while running the ball (against all logic which indicates that the team is unable to run the ball) or roll the dice and take a shot over a defense that is sitting on the run.

So, against Detroit, the decision is to take a shot down-field and to go for the kill. His logic is proven sound since Jason Witten is matched up against a slower defender and appears open down the middle for what could be a touchdown with a proper throw. But, the play breaks down when Kyle Kosier and Doug Free cannot hold up in pass protection, collapsing the pocket around Tony Romo. Romo decides to throw the ball despite being forced to a back-foot posture and the ball is under-thrown and intercepted.

Poor decision, coach.

The very next week, the same coach realizes that depending on his OL for pass protection late in a game might not be any wiser than depending on his QB to make a great decision in a split second. So he opts for close-to-the-vest. He wants to run the ball and run the clock. If he can find 3-5 yards after 2 run plays, his offense will surely look for a high-percentage pass on 3rd and reasonable. Instead, the decision looks ridiculous when a simple run play loses major yardage - compounded by another penalty - and quickly, it becomes 3rd and 18.

Poor decision, coach.

But, it was the exact opposite decision? How can this be? Because neither worked. It wasn't the decision that anyone had a problem with. It was the outcome. The Cowboys lost both games.

His neighbor from across the parking lot can surely relate. Ron Washington had 2 incredibly high leverage situations in the first 2 nights of the World Series. Does he pitch to Nick-blanking-Punto or no? Does he respect the 8-hole batter for the Cardinals or work around him to get to the pitcher/pinch hitter spot in St Louis?

In Game 1, Washington opts to anger the masses by treating Punto and Albert Pujols the same way, and carefully walks Punto to get to pinch hitter Allen Craig. Of course, since Craig singles in 2-runs off the untouchable Alexei Ogando, it is the wrong decision, skip. You make Punto beat you.

Poor decision, Wash.

So, as baseball seems to do, the exact scenario is duplicated the next night.

Here comes Punto in Game 2. 2 outs. David Freese on 1st base. Colby Lewis has been brilliant all night. But, with Punto next, he can either force Tony LaRussa to bring on Craig, or go after Nick-blanking-Punto and get out of the inning. So, Colby does the opposite of what Washington decided the night before. Clearly, this will work.

Except, Punto lined to center field and the rally was on. Next, Craig amazingly gets another hit off Ogando, and St Louis takes a 1-0 lead in which it seems evident that 1 run is all it would take.

Poor decision, Wash.

Yes, the exact opposite decision was also wrong. Why? Because Ogando couldn't erase Craig either night. If he works around Punto, it is wrong. If he challenges Punto, it is wrong. Basically, if Ogando can't retire Allen Craig either night, then Washington is wrong.

But, I suppose the sports gods giveth, as well.

Because in the 9th, the aggressive Rangers get the breaks they need. Kinsler swipes 2nd by an inch. So they are "aggressive". If he is out by an inch, they (and their manager) are "reckless". Pujols misses a cut-off throw, so Washington was a good manager last night. LaRussa, of course, was not. His team lost. So, bad decisions, skip.

These guys make decisions, and so do the rest of us. But, most of us make decisions like whether we should have a burger or pizza tonight with the family. Millions of eyeballs don't and won't care. And then, this weekend, we will act like we have all of the answers that these guys don't when their teams take the fields in Arlington.

We shall all be ready to 2nd guess again. They will make many decisions to attempt to get their teams a victory. And provided the players they trust deliver, they will face no further scrutiny. But, the second a decision doesn't deliver it will be time to unleash that fury again.

Just remember; the only way they can win with you is if they do, in fact, win.

Pretty high stakes, huh?

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