By HCR Staff | Sept. 21, 2019
Being an NFL head coach is a tough job — lots of moving parts and people to manage, all under the brightest lights and most intense scrutiny. There is far greater pressure and scrutiny than what an MLB manager or NBA head coach faces. So, we are sympathetic to the complexities of the job.
However, one general and non-complex concept should be easily understood and practiced by all head coaches: Don’t Harm Your Own Team.
Doctors follow the maxim “do no harm” with respect to patients. Well, the same underlying concept applies to NFL head coaches too.
On Thursday night unfortunately, we saw Doug Marrone and Mike Vrabel harm their own teams – at least in our view.
Let’s start with Vrabel.
The Titans were shut out in the first half and the offensive line couldn’t keep the Jaguars’ pass rushers away from QB Marcus Mariota, who was also struggling on his own. But they opened the second half with the ball and executed a nice drive. The drive ultimately stalled at the Jacksonville 11-yard line, leaving the Titans with a 4th and 6. It still was early in the third quarter and almost an entire half of football was left to play.
Instead of taking a 29-yard field goal, Vrabel decided to go for the 4th and 6, despite the offensive line struggles. The Titans had the opportunity to keep the deficit at two possessions early in the second half, and in a divisional road game off a short week. They were also facing a rookie quarterback and gaining some confidence after this drive. Still, a 14-3 deficit wasn’t a good enough position in Vrabel’s mind. Vrabel preferred to risk failure on 4th and 6 and giving the Jaguars an opportunity to go up three possessions — which is a huge second half hole that rarely is overcome.
The decision failed after Mariota was sacked, and of course, the Jaguars immediately went up three possessions, and the Titans were unable to recover.
Now, let’s get to Marrone.
Up 20-7, with less than four minutes left in the game, Marrone had a 4th and goal from the Tennessee 4-yard line. Instead of taking a 23-7 lead with a 22-yard field goal, Marrone decided to go for the touchdown.
4th and 4 is not a given, even in a preseason game. Marrone created the opportunity for Tennessee to beat Jacksonville with two touchdowns. It’s a remote possibility, sure, but the possibility didn’t even exist until Marrone created it. What reward outweighed risking breathing your buried opponent back to life?
Winning is a conclusion and learning how to win is a process. In our view, Vrabel and Marrone need some remedial classes on the subject.