By HCR Staff | August 20, 2020
The NFL and NFLPA’s decision to dispense with preseason games this year will affect rookie head coaches Joe Judge (Giants), Matt Rhule (Panthers) and Kevin Stefanski (Browns) in one critical way, that might not be apparent to the average fan.
They’re going to lose valuable game management repetitions, and here at HCR, we believe a head coach’s game management skills are as integral to winning and losing as any other part of the football operation.
There simply isn’t any substitute for training to make game management decisions, under NFL rules and NFL timing, than live NFL games. When to call time out, when to go for 2 point conversions, when to attempt long field goals, when to challenge an official’s call – all of these decisions and more directly impact the outcome of games. No matter how talented your players are, if they’re not put into a position to win, they generally will not win.
There are major quality differences between the NFL’s 32 head coaches when it comes to their feel and instinct for how games are playing out, and will play out. We believe, generally speaking, better feel and better instincts come with more repetitions.
Just like players, head coaches need repetitions making quick but sound judgment calls under live game circumstances.
The Panthers’ Rhule was a successful college head coach, so he at least has extensive experience with the emotion and feeling of bearing the responsibility for every in-game decision. He hasn’t done it under NFL rules and timing, however, so we still expect him to have some early season hiccups. We’re bullish on him though, so we expect him to be a quick learner.
Judge and Stefanski, on the other hand, have never been head coaches – at least not at any elevated level of football. So in addition to having to learn how to make quick in-game decisions and judgments, they’ll have to get used to the feeling of responsibility and accountability for those decisions. Just because you’re given the title of head coach, it doesn’t mean you actually know how to be a head coach just yet.
If there had been a preseason, Rhule, Judge and Stefanski would have had 4 full games to feel their way into a comfortable rhythm and process. Simply knowing how to psychologically groom game officials is an art, and there’s a process to learning that.
Now they’re going to have to execute – and learn – under regular season conditions. We expect some bumps in the road – less so for Rhule – and we’ll be on the lookout for them as we grade their performances.