Tuesday, February 22, 2011

4 comments Hey Tim Keown, That's a Great Idea! How About They Don't Do That?

I have started a Yahoo Bottom of the Barrel fantasy baseball league for anyone who wants to join up. The league id is "36835" and the password is "eckstein." It is open to anyone who wants to join, as long as you are an active manager and keep up with your team. I don't want anyone to quit halfway through they year and not keep up with their team.

Tim Keown has an idea about where head coaches should sit during a game. Is this "bad idea week" or something? I don't want to crap on all ideas, but his idea just doesn't seem to make logistical sense. So I am going to take a huge metaphorical crap all over Tim's idea and not feel remorse about doing so.

Back in 2008, when Joe Paterno was coaching from the booth above the field because of health concerns, it was widely considered a hindrance to his game-day coaching.

You could probably see why it was a hindrance to his game-day coaching if you look to the right of this passage. There is a picture of Paterno with his hand on his face looking very, very bored. Paterno clearly isn't engaged in the game. Much like how I have felt when reading Bill Simmons' latest column.

(Am I the only one who has noticed Simmons' columns are straight out boring now? I just can't slog through them anymore. When he has a mailbag, then I can pay some attention, but otherwise I struggle.)

He was removed from the grit and sweat of the sidelines, unable to feel and hear his players as they worked. The booth was at an antiseptic remove, far above the real battle.

It is difficult to be a head coach and not be down on the field with your players. That's the bottom line. If a head coach is in the booth upstairs he can't talk to the officials and he can't throw a challenge flag...though I would like to see a challenge flag thrown from the booth upstairs. I can imagine the fans ducking as a red flag comes down from on-high.

I don't believe being removed from the grit and sweat of the sidelines is a good idea.

The booth, he said, provided a better location for the "technical analysis" of the game.

I'm going to refrain from "Joe Paterno is old" jokes, but does anyone really believe he is doing the actual coaching of the Penn State team? He can afford to be up in the booth because he is much like a offensive/defensive coordinator right now in that he has others on the team doing the coaching so he can worry about the "technical analysis." Basically, if Tim Keown is advocating head coaches sit in the booth then he possibly chose the worst possible head coach to use as an example of why this is a good idea. Paterno really isn't a "head coach" in the way the term is used for a guy like Bob Stoops, Mark Richt, or most other NFL/college head coaches.

To which the question needs to be asked: Is there another human endeavor that has become defined by "technical analysis" more than football coaching?

The definition of technical analysis is as follows:

"In finance, technical analysis is a security analysis discipline for forecasting the direction of prices through the study of past market data, primarily price and volume."

So there is no other human endeavor that has become defined by "technical analysis" other than the very profession (finance) the term was created for. Yes, there is some technical analysis involved in football, but I would argue in the realm of sports that baseball has more technical analysis. If I said this to Tim Keown, he would frown at me, clearly unimpressed.

In the NFL, especially, coaches are asked to make instant technical analysis of what they see. They have help, but in the end it's their reputations -- and their jobs -- on the line. By definition, NFL head coaches should be the best minds the franchise has to offer. So why aren't they positioned to benefit from the best vantage point the game has to offer?

Why aren't they positioned in a blimp hovering above the stadium? It's an even better vantage point than being in the press box, plus it is very intimidating for a visiting team to see a blimp hovering above them. Being a head coach isn't just about having the best vantage point on the field.

The reason coaches aren't positioned in the press box is because they need to be in constant contact with their team and they often are the ones making the important calls on the field. They are generally not the ones calling the plays and doing the technical analysis. The offensive and defensive coordinators are responsible for calling plays and making adjustments based on the technical analysis. Obviously at halftime there are adjustments made and the head coach even makes suggestions during the game. The head coach is an overseer on the sidelines and needs to be there to talk to his players and oversee the game from the vantage point where he can make a difference, which is near the officials and his own players.

Say a fumble is ruled on a play and the running back for that team swears his knee was down. He goes running to the sidelines and pleads for the call to be challenged. So who sends word up to the coach? Possibly the person in charge of operations on the field, which used to be the head coach. So this person calls upstairs to the head coach telling him the running back thinks he didn't fumble the ball and then the head coach makes the call (while looking at the replay? Otherwise there's another step in having to radio someone else to look at the replay) on whether to challenge or not and then radios down to the field to throw the red flag. It just seems a lot harder than the running back telling the coach who radios up whether he should challenge the call or not.

I am assuming the offensive and defensive coordinators are also in a box above the field as well, so the team is essentially run by assistant or position coaches. This should be the head coach's job. Being the "man behind the curtain" running a football team isn't a great idea for team morale. We've all seen coaches meet their players coming off the field and celebrating a great play with them. Not to be cheesy, but that probably means more to the player than having the coach call them on the sideline phone and congratulate them.

Another issue lies in the fact Tim Keown says the head coach needs to do "technical analysis" during the game. This really isn't true. Prior to the game and at halftime the head coach will be deeply involved with the technical aspects of a game, but unless he is calling the plays, I would think he leaves that part of the game up to his offensive/defensive coordinator.

By far the best place to watch -- the place that provides the best of all possible angles for technical analysis -- is the press box, with the combination of the aerial view and the access to network television replays.

But again, a head coach needs to be with his players as well. Talking to the officials, celebrating plays with his team, and micromanaging what happens on the field. I don't know why Tim is stuck on the idea of technical analysis being more important than player interaction and controlling what happens on the field by actually being on the field.

There's a reason radio and TV announcers sit up high, and there's also a reason sideline reporters add very little to your understanding of what happens on the field.

Worst. Comparison. Ever. This isn't even relevant to the discussion, so I won't make it relevant by attempting to discuss it.

There is also a reason announcers are up high and the sideline reporters are on the field. One group has no interaction with the players (the announcers) and the other has to speak to the players (sideline reporters). Call me crazy, but I think speaking face-to-face with players during a game is an important part of being a head coach.

If I were an NFL head coach, I'd want to sit up there. If I were an NFL owner or general manager, I would suggest -- or at least raise the possibility -- of my head coach sitting in a booth, where the offensive coordinator generally sits.

Then most likely you would be terrible at being a General Manager and an owner. Can you imagine the manager of a baseball team or the head coach of an NBA team being above the field so he can technically analyze the game? He's the head coach. The analysis is done, now it is a matter of making sure the players execute the gameplan. What better place to do this than to be on the field with the players?

There are two aspects of coaching that are botched more than any others: (1) clock management,

This has nothing to do with where the head coach sits. Either way he can see how much time is left in the game or on the play clock very easily. Poor time management has no good vantage point. Coaches either tend to get how to manage the game clock or they don't.

and (2) replay decisions. In many cases, a mistake with a replay decision can have a significant effect on a coach's ability to manage the clock.

So the head coach would move to the box, be in charge of the technical aspects of the game and also be in charge of watching a replay over and over to ensure he wants to challenge the call? I think this decision should be delegated to someone else.

The booth would create a level of emotional distance that would undoubtedly help a coach manage the clock.

What the hell does managing the clock have to do with being overly or under-emotional during a game? A head coach either manages the clock well or he doesn't. It goes to his poise and decision-making under pressure, which provided he is an NFL head coach, should be pretty damn good.

Also, this emotional distance which would "help" the coach manage the clock will also create an emotional distance from his players. I just don't think this is a good idea. Not to mention the head coach would be removed from his players in order to be able to challenge 1-2 calls per game better. It doesn't seem worth it to move the head coach simply for this.

It seems impossible that someone like Colts coach Jim Caldwell would be as bad at clock management if he were able to see the game from a safe remove.

You would think it would be impossible, but Jim Caldwell's consistent poor head coaching and time management makes the impossible become possible. Does Tim Keown really expect me to believe if Jim Caldwell is in a booth over the field he will all of a sudden be able to manage the clock better because he is higher up in the air? This is lunacy.

It's hard to understand when you're watching on television, but a coach standing on the field doesn't always have the same relationship with the clock as a guy sitting on his couch.

So Jim Caldwell will be at home coaching from his couch then? Maybe I don't understand (and this is Tim Keown's way of saying "I am a sportswriter who has access to different vantage points on the field), but I do know the scoreboard is the same size no matter where the coach is sitting and he can manage the clock and see the scoreboard well enough while standing on the field.

It's not as prominent in real life, on the sideline, as it is to the viewer who watches it ticking down on his television screen. In the booth, that would change.

So what's the head coach going to do when he sees the play clock running down? Call down to the field and tell someone to call timeout? Isn't this a waste of precious seconds? It would take at a minimum 2-3 seconds for the coach to tell an assistant to call timeout and for the assistant to tell the official this.

Also, when it comes to crucial fourth down calls and the decision to punt, go for it, or kick a field goal having the coach in the box would burn crucial seconds radioing his decision down rather than having him wave the correct unit on or off the field.

The benefit for replay is self-evident. Broadcasters and viewers know better than coaches when a challenge should be made, and when it will be successful.

Which is why each generally has a person in charge of determining what plays should be reviewed and which should not. The head coach should not have to be the one who views replays because he has a lot of other stuff going on, like clock management and actually coaching the team during a game.

As it stands now, there are assistants in the booth above relaying the information to the head coach; on questionable calls, such as Mike McCarthy's decision on whether to challenge Brett Swain's near-catch, it's not hard to imagine the guy up above saying, "You could challenge it -- your call."

It's not hard to imagine Tim Keown making up a conversation as evidence to support his point of view. It is less hard to imagine the person in the booth not giving the coach a definitive answer "yes" or "no" whether to challenge the call. I really, really, really doubt the assistant coach would say "You could challenge it--your call," without giving any other type of opinion to the head coach, knowing the head coach couldn't see the replay.

No matter how the suggestions are sent down through the headset, the head coach is the guy shouldering the blame/credit.

The coach shoulders the blame/credit for nearly every single decision on the football field, it doesn't mean he should be involved first-hand in every single decision. He has to delegate at some point. I don't think the value of seeing 1-2 replays a game is worth not being on the field with his players. I would think, and do think based on the fact no head coach other than Paterno have sat in a booth above the field, is college and NFL head coaches (as well as NFL owners) would agree with me.

There are benefits to being on the sideline. It's hard to motivate from a luxury box, obviously, and conversing with officials is no longer an option.

Removing the head coach from the sidelines takes him from an active part during the game to being a more passive voice during the game. I don't think this is a good idea at all.

There are also times when a head coach doesn't want to wait for halftime to discipline/calm/inspire in a man-to-man, face-to-face, eye-to-eye way. Beyond that, the sideline might be the absolute worst place to watch a game if your job description includes "technical analysis."

Beyond a couple of the most important parts of his job in-game, there are no reasons a head coach should be on the sidelines, when he could be upstairs doing "technical analysis" which isn't really a huge part of his in-game job description? So the part of his job that isn't really a major part is more important than the most important parts of his job so the coach can (arguably) have a better vantage point for time management? Even if I could accept the head coach has a better vantage point to see the game clock in a booth, I still fail to see how this would make the coach better at time management during a game.

If it was a good place to watch a game, they wouldn't need the headset.

The coach would still need a headset in the booth or some other way to communicate with his players. So if the booth upstairs was such a great place to watch a game then he wouldn't need a headset there either.

Then Tim Keown starts talking about the Ohio State basketball team for some reason.

It's the opinion here that Ohio State is the most complete college basketball team since the 2001 Jay Williams-Shane Battier-Mike Dunleavy-Carlos Boozer-Chris Duhon Duke team.

Not sure about that. Ohio State is the most complete team since the 2008-2009 North Carolina Tar Heels team. Ohio State is good, but I think the 2008-2009 North Carolina Tar Heels team would probably beat them. That team was so good there were rumors Roy Williams intentionally didn't play Ed Davis major minutes (he only played 18.8 minutes per game) because he knew he could win a National Championship and keep Davis at UNC for two years instead of having him be a one-and-done.

Obviously that is speculation, but that team missed Tyler Zeller and Marcus Ginyard for portions of that year and still went 34-4. That would be a high quality freshman center and their best defensive player they were missing for large portions of the year and they still went 34-4. They obliterated their competition in the NCAA Tournament, never winning by any less than 12 points and won the National Championship by destroying the Michigan State Spartans in the first five minutes of the game.

UNC had three players shoot over 40% from 3-point range, no starter shot under 47% from the field and their second-best rebounder (Ed Davis) only could manage 18.8 minutes per game. Imagine what he would have done if they actually needed him for more minutes than that. That is what made them so great in my mind, they could win a National Championship without players other teams would have found to be completely necessary. It's just my opinion.

In the current college climate, with even the best teams fortunate to have two big-time players and a sufficient supporting cast, the Buckeyes are a rare collection. They don't have any glaring weaknesses.

Other than they were 161st (210th now) in the country in rebounding when I wrote this post, that's true. Also, Ohio State has no depth among their big men. After Lauderdale and Sullinger, their third tallest player is a perimeter-oriented guy in Jon Diebler. So while Jared Sullinger has been able to hold down the post very effectively so far, what happens when Ohio State runs into a team that can rebound well? There is a lot of talk about how good the Buckeyes are, and I have no doubt they are very good, but they can not matchup inside with teams like Kansas or any other team that can rebound well.

I wrote this post when Tim Keown originally wrote this column and just had not posted it yet. In that time, Ohio State has lost two games to Purdue and Wisconsin. A team that can't rebound well usually does not succeed in the NCAA Tournament. Depth isn't a huge issue sometimes for teams, but it is the type of depth they have and Ohio State doesn't have tall depth. They are a great team, but comparing them to a team from 10 years ago is overstating how good the Buckeyes are. This is typical over-reacting on the part of a sportswriter to a team being undefeated.

I think Ohio State has a chance to make the Final Four and I think they could go undefeated until then, but a team that wins the National Championship has to be able to rebound in the NCAA Tournament and if Sullinger gets in foul trouble, which hasn't happened a whole lot, then teams can expose them underneath the basket.

And, obviously, Jared Sullinger is exactly the type of player who leads teams to titles.

Absolutely and they are led by a bunch of seniors who have experience in the NCAA Tournament, so they are a great team. Still, I don't think we should have to go back to 2001 to compare another team to them. The Buckeyes have a freshman point guard and they just don't have a lot of depth, which is something that needs to be taken into account when determining their future prospects as well.

But there's something else about this team that separates it from just about everybody else: They play the kind of physical game -- especially Dallas Lauderdale and Sullinger -- that referees allow.

Right, they do play physical, but they don't rebound well as a team. I don't know if the fact the referees accept their way of playing basketball makes them any more likely to win the National Championship. There are other teams that play a physical kind of offense and defense too. I am not denying the Buckeyes are good, but Tim Keown wants to make them historically good and I don't know if that is true.

Don't discount this as a huge factor in the tournament. The Buckeyes have established this tough, physical style as their brand of play throughout the regular season, and their consistency will give them the benefit of the doubt in March.

The problem is officials in the NCAA Tournament aren't just Big 10 officials and will (hopefully) be calling a consistent game. This means while the Buckeyes are physical, the other team will be allowed to be physical as well. I don't know what the "benefit of the doubt" means really, but I can assume it means the officials will allow the Buckeyes to be physical with the other team, but I would hope the calls go both ways. Ohio State is great, but it's insane to look back at the 2001 National Champions for a more "complete" team when depth and rebounding are two big concerns for them.


rich said...

You know where coaches would get really good vantage points? Watching the game at home!

Then they could take advice from the analysts and use it later on in the game. It's amazing that this tactic hasn't been implemented over the past 50 years.

Bengoodfella said...

Rich, brilliant idea. If the head coach was at home he would be able to hear the announcers tell him what he should do AND he could get advice from other coaches on his cell phone. It's a brilliant idea!

Another good place to coach with a great vantage point is on the field...but that's too obvious.

your favourite sun said...

It should be clarified that Paterno did not permanently stay in the booth during the games. He did it for a few games at the end of the 2008 season when he was injured and couldn't walk...uh, moreso. He spent the 2009 and 2010 seasons on the sidelines, same as any other coach. And he still doesn't use a headset, which is kinda awesome.

So basically the only guy to use this suggestion, at least the only high-profile one, did not see an advantage to making the move permanent. That should speak volumes about whether other coaches will consider making the move. In fact, despite the quote Keown uses, I'm pretty sure Paterno admitted that he hated being removed from the game's action and said he would never do it again.

Bengoodfella said...

Sun, I think the fact Paterno went away from the booth shows that it may not be the most effective way to communicate with your team. You make that point and I think this is what makes it such a terrible idea.

A coach being removed from the game action is not a good thing.