Yesterday morning, I went on "The World of Sports according to Chris and Ben" because they're not Hacksaw. They asked me a bunch of questions about Mike McCoy and the San Diego Chargers coaching staff after the loss to the Washington Redskins.
In particular, we spent a good amount of time on that goal line stance/failure. What actually happened there? How could the Chargers coaches screw that situation up so bad? At some point during the interview, I blurted out "They just overthought it." Which is very true.
If your team is the only team in the league with a running back that has run for over 100 yards in back-to-back games, your offensive line probably isn't terrible. Johnnie Troutman and Jeromey Clary aren't in there for be pass protectors, they're in there because they push the line of scrimmage backwards. D.J. Fluker was drafted to do the same and John Phillips was signed to....well, he was signed to a bunch of stuff that he can't actually do, but the one thing he can do is run block.
To look at that situation, and what happened, you can only come to two conclusions.
- The Chargers offensive coaching staff is comprised of morons.
- The Chargers offensive coaching staff overthought the situation.
Considering the season as a whole, I think we can eliminate the first conclusion. Which only leaves us with the second. Facing a "1st & Goal" from the 1 yard line with two timeouts and the game on the line, Ken Whisenhunt (and Mike McCoy) turned into Vizzini:
Look, these things happen. The average NFL coach/player is so immersed in the chess match that is the game of football that they sometimes forget basic things like the sky being blue, green meaning go and power football is always the first option on the 1 yard line with two timeouts and the game on the line.
Bill Simmons even wrote about this once:
I'm becoming more and more convinced that every professional sports team needs to hire a Vice President of Common Sense, someone who cracks the inner circle of the decision-making process along with the GM, assistant GM, head scout, head coach, owner and whomever else. One catch: the VP of CS doesn't attend meetings, scout prospects, watch any film or listen to any inside information or opinions; he lives the life of a common fan. They just bring him in when they're ready to make a big decision, lay everything out and wait for his unbiased reaction.
You know what? He's absolutely right! I take great value in the perspective of an outsider, someone that can make me see the big picture, and sports teams should have someone that does the same thing.
Consider this my application for the role of Common Sense Manager (Vice President? Really, Bill?):
What I would have done
Let's go back to moments during this season where I feel I could've helped out.
- The Titans game. There was 30 seconds left in the game, the Chargers were up by 4 points, the Titans had the ball at San Diego's 34 yard line with no timeouts. The Chargers had two timeouts left. I would've asked the coaches to call a timeout to talk amongst themselves and with the players. "The only way we lose is by giving up a 34 yard TD. That's the only way! Put 8 guys in and around the end zone and put a spy on Jake Locker. Tell everyone to bat the ball down. It's basically a Hail Mary." This isn't me calling a play, this is me relaying common sense. There was only 1 way to lose that game and the Chargers worked hard to find it.
- The Redskins game. I'm not going to pretend that I could call the plays. The Common Sense Manager isn't in the headphones hearing the plays and giving his input. However, there's no reason for Philip Rivers to audible to a play. Not on first down, second down or third down. He didn't like the pass on first down? Well, he should've been told to call a timeout. "You have two timeouts, so if you don't like the look let's start over." That's what should've been said. Or throw the ball out of the back of the end zone if the play doesn't work. Anything but a delayed handoff to a small running back. That play has never worked at the goal line, and now you've wasted a down, some clock and a timeout.
What I would do
Who cares about the past, right? What matters is the future. If I were to be named Common Sense Manager of the San Diego Chargers tomorrow, what would I do?
Well, for one, I would introduce Ken Whisenhunt to Ladarius Green because they obviously haven't met. Green, who is 6'6" and about 250 lbs, has a similar skillset to the 6'6", 265 lb. Rob Gronkowski, so perhaps I'd also tell Whiz to go look at some tape from the 2011-2012 New England Patriots offense.
Second, I would get to the bottom of this Ryan Mathews nonsense. Why isn't he ever thrown to? Why does he disappear for games at a time? Why isn't he trusted? Then, I'd try to come up with a solution that's better than using him exclusively in the second half of games when the team has the lead to burn clock.
Actually, that's it. That is what I would do on Day 1 and then I'd wait to respond to situations as they arose. The defense isn't being fixed by common sense. Media relations we'll deal with later, although I imagine hiring a Common Sense Manager won't hurt. The Common Sense Manager wouldn't fix everything, just a few important things.
Most, if not all, NFL teams have an "Us against the world" mentality. From the coaches to the players to (sometimes) departments within the organization. That's well and good for motivation, but after a while of not interacting with the outside world everyone starts to go a little nuts. What I'm offering is a bit of perspective. A reasonable voice from the outside world with the best of intentions. And I'll only cost Dean Spanos about $50,000 per year.