By HCR Staff | Oct. 20, 2020
Obviously, today is Tuesday. Typically, we publish our Observations on a Monday, but Sunday’s head coaching performances were so bad, that we had to take an extra day to digest what we saw.
Let’s get to it.
The Football Team’s Losing Culture Will Only Deepen Until They Get A “W”…Any Way They Can. The entire football world sympathizes with WFT’s head coach Ron Rivera in his cancer fight – everyone wishes him well. But since he’s coaching, we have to look at his performance, and there’s no way we can agree with what he did on Sunday.
In a see-saw affair against the Giants, his squad scrapped back at :36 left in the 4th quarter to close within 20-19 – WFT now was just an extra point kick away from tying the game, and probably sending it in to overtime.
But unbelievably – at least to us – Rivera chose to go for the 2-point try, and in his view, the ‘win.’ The try failed, WFT lost, and post-game, Rivera attempted to justify the attempt by (and we’re paraphrasing here) saying he was brought in to win, and that he’ll always go for the win.
We agree with you Coach Rivera; one should always try to win. However, the key inquiry under these particular circumstances is whether we should try to win right now.
Tying the game at 20-20 was the better decision here, especially when one considers the micro and macro contexts. From a micro standpoint, WFT was facing QB Daniel Jones, who has been a turnover machine in his brief career. So if WFT goes to overtime, it’s not as if they’re having to defend the Kansas City Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes.
From a macro standpoint, if WFT goes to overtime, with an extra quarter to pull out a win, a win would have put them into a tie for first place in the NFC East.
Look, WFT has long had a deep, losing culture. That only changes with W’s – any way one can get them. Right now, WFT is more adept at kicking extra points than converting 2-point tries. Kicking the extra point was the best option available to Rivera at the moment, and kicking the extra point would have served the larger purposes of the divisional race and the culture issue.
Mike Zimmer And His 4th Down Philosophy. After the Vikings’ loss at Seattle and a controversial 4th down attempt, Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said he’d do the same thing again. Well, he did it again.
Trailing 10-0 at home, the Vikings had the ball and a 4th & 1 at the ATL 1, at 11:44 in the second quarter. HCR is thinking, ‘just kick the FG, get some confidence, and play defense down just 10-3 because you can’t risk going down 3 possessions at 17-0, especially since ATL is showing good energy right now.’
Well, Zimmer went the other way.
He went for the 4th down.
Of course, he didn’t get it – the Vikings aren’t executing well right now. The Falcons got the ball, flipped the field, and after an exchange of punts, got another series with good field position and converted for a TD and 17-0. The Vikings were in catch-up mode all game and eventually got blown out.
First rule at HCR: do no harm to your own team. Zimmer keeps violating this one with regularity right now.
Romeo Crennel And How To Extinguish A Season. The Texans have had an awful start to the season, but showing tremendous grit, fought back in this game against Tennessee to be on the precipice of establishing a two-game winning streak and great momentum for the rest of their season.
The Texans had first half deficits of 14 and 11 points against a good Titans squad, started the 3rd quarter facing long odds – after all, teams trailing by two possessions with only a half to go have a very small chance of winning. But Texans interim head coach Romeo Crennel’s defense made some nice adjustments in the third quarter, and pitched a shutout. On offense, the Texans found a rhythm, and with 1:53 left in the game, actually took the lead at 36-29 after a touchdown.
Now the Texans could kick the extra point, and lead by 8.
Crennel passed up the kick; he went for the 2-point try…which failed.
The Texans subsequently surrendered a TD to the Titans on the ensuing possession, and lost the game on the first possession in overtime.
We were dumbfounded. We know there are those out there that support Crennel’s decision, but it simply was the wrong decision in our view. Let’s look at the micro and macro considerations again.
From a micro standpoint: the Titans were on their heels. They had lost all momentum. The Texans had all the momentum; they were showing more fight and enthusiasm than they had all season. An 8-point lead means that the Titans would have had to score a TD, then convert a two-point try, and then have to deal with an overtime period. That’s a lot of variables to overcome, even for a good team. But the most important item to note here is momentum.
The Texans were sky high after the go-ahead TD, but the failed 2-point try allowed some doubt to creep in; that’s our theory. We will always maintain that momentum is important in every football game – hell, every sports competition. Passion drives performance; that’s our position. We just don’t like anything that shifts any ounce of momentum, and that’s what Crennel did.
Plus, the Texans already had converted THREE previous 4th downs in this game. Going for the 2-point try was akin to another 4th down play. So if you’re into metrics like this, what are the chances of going 4-for- 4 on fourth down attempts in the same game? Doesn’t seem likely to us.
From a macro standpoint: the Texans have been having an awful year. Head coach fired, traded a great player in wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, etc. But if they win this game, and in our view, an 8-point lead helps that cause, they’d be on a two-game winning streak. And a win against an unbeaten team in the division is a massive enthusiasm boost – it’s a long season, and every locker room needs enthusiasm to play it out with passion. This is the context against which Crennel made his decision.
And to finish out, some other odds and ends from Week 6.
Doug Pederson. When we watch him manage a game, the phrase that comes to mind is “Helter Skelter.” He says they are reliant on analytics, but he picks and chooses when he wants to use them. This doesn’t make sense to us; either you’re all in and trusting your data sets, or you’re not. There’s no in-between. The crazy thing is that Pederson is doing a great job of making a depleted squad a tough out, but his in-game decision-making sabotages his own squad – frequently.
Zac Taylor. If only you could get to the Super Bowl by simply comparing stats. A 21-0 lead and all the momentum against the Colts, yet he still lost the game. Clearly, a lot of work to do here in learning how to win. One should really never leave with an “L” when up 21-0, even if you’re the Bengals.
Mike Vrabel. The Titans are a legitimate Super Bowl contender, as they’ve put together a big, rough, physically talented squad. Just with talent alone, they’ll be there at the end with a chance. Vrabel also is a good tactician, with good knowledge of the rules and how to game them. However, he can get too cute at times, and that’s what happened Sunday. The Titans had the ‘going nowhere fast’ Texans down 21-7 and 21-10, but let them back into the game. Vrabel’s going to be unhappy about that; he knows that they should have controlled the game from start to finish. To blow a 14-point lead and go down by 7 isn’t excusable for such a talented squad.
Matt Nagy. Winning close games is the theme for 2020, and it’s going to be with defense. Nagy keeps promising the arrival of the offense soon, but that’s sounding like your parents telling you Santa is coming. He’s not, and this Bears offense will struggle all year. Why? Because Nagy himself only has so many plays; their scheme just isn’t sophisticated enough. That’s ok; winning on defense is just fine, and Nagy has done a great job with his locker room.
Bill Belichick. One of the best coaches in NFL history is prone to mistakes too, just not nearly as many as anyone else. But he’ll still make a couple now and then. On Sunday, he missed on challenging a key run play by running back James White that would have extended a Patriots drive. He also went for a two-point try far too early in the game, in our view. Belichick generally has a super firm grasp of the finest details in every game, but this past Sunday, a couple slipped through the cracks.