Time to check those egos, coaches

Egos can be difficult to deal with. Most of us have healthy ones, while others have enormous ones that are blatantly obvious.

When you think of Kanye West, Terrell Owens, Kobe Bryant or Jerry Jones, some might see greatness, but more will see them as what they truly are — people who may be very good at their jobs, but refuse to acknowledge that they have flaws like the rest of us.

West lives in his own world where he thinks he’s perfect, Owens is desperate for attention, Kobe was a notorious jerk on the court, and Jones built the Dallas Cowboys’ stadium as a monument to himself.

There’s a reason it’s commonly referred to as Jerry’s World.

The people listed above are all either artists, players or owners. The kind of people who you’d expect to have massive egos due to their considerable talents and-or wealth.

Coaches are supposed to be different. They are supposed to rise above all that and think about what’s best for the team, not about themselves. The good thing about coaches is that for every Mike Gundy or Bob Knight, there are thousands of others who are humble and rational people.

They aren’t perfect, though. Sometimes they make questionable, or in some cases, ridiculous decisions over the course of a game. When asked or confronted about it, they might get a little defensive, but they typically explain their reasoning and do it in a calm, understanding manner.

For others, being questioned is like a massive blow to their ego and they’ll insist they’d make the same call again even if it failed miserably.

Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich is a good example of this. Last Sunday, the Colts were in overtime with Houston and the game was tied with less than 30 seconds left. Indy had the ball on its own 43-yard line and with it being fourth down, common sense would tell most coaches to punt the ball away to pin the Texans deep and most likely prevent a game-winning drive.

Well, Reich decided to gamble and went for the first down. Quarterback Andrew Luck’s pass fell incomplete and Houston got the ball with great field position with the Texans making the game-winning field goal as time expired. The reaction was swift online with sane football fans telling him that this was a remarkably foolish thing to do.

Reich then came into the postgame conference and said “I’ll address it now, I’m not playing to tie” and then adding “I’ll do that 10 times out of 10.” Really, Frank? I get it. Ties aren’t fun and they’re kind of a letdown, but geez. I guess in Frank’s mind a preventable loss is somehow better than a draw.

To his credit, Reich walked back some of his comments the following day, especially the “10 out of 10” one. He admitted that it was a rather aggressive call and that the “10 out of 10” comment was pretty reckless. He also explained one of the reasons he did it was that Luck was playing extremely well at the time — he definitely was — and that he thought getting the first down would be easy and they could use good clock management to help get the ball into field goal range.

Once he explained himself, you started to understand his mindset. It still was an unwise decision, but I sort of understand his logic.

Other coaches, well let’s just say they don’t take criticism well at all.

You thought Reich’s decision was dumb? Well, Penn State head coach James Franklin tops it. With the game on the line against Ohio State, the Nittany Lions trailed the Buckeyes by one point after blowing a double-digit lead. On 4th-and-5 and the ball on the OSU 43, Franklin called for a zone-read handoff to the running back that got stuffed in the backfield by the Buckeyes.

Unlike Reich’s strategy, Franklin decided to take the ball away from his star quarterback, Trace McSorley, and call a play that was most likely going to fail. Chances are, as soon as the ball was snapped, Franklin knew it was a disaster.

After the game, Franklin made his way to the locker room where he’d have a brief “cooling off” period before facing the media, and along the way, a fan told him that was a bad call. Rather than ignore the guy, Franklin decided to confront the fan and sarcastically say “I appreciate your input” before being restrained by his staff.

C’mon James. That’s what set you off? The guy didn’t flip you off or swear at you, he just simply said you made a poor decision. Well, Franklin decided to make it worse for himself in the press conference. He called out everyone on his team, as well as himself, but then talked about doing the little things and that will bring success in life, while explaining the difference between great programs and elite programs.

James, this isn’t a motivational speaking event, so save your life advice for another time, especially since you almost flipped out on a fan just a few minutes before that. Also, the difference between a good coach and an elite coach is one that doesn’t make that kind of play call and then go on a weird lecture afterwards.

Speaking of afterwards, sometimes a bad coaching decision can have a huge effect on the mental state of your team. That may sound absurd, but that’s what happened to the Seattle Seahawks.

We all remember the infamous call that head coach Pete Carroll and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell made in Super Bowl XLIX against New England. With the ball on the Patriots’ 1-yard line and trailing by four points, Bevell and Carroll had a choice to make. Do they give the ball to running back Marshawn Lynch, the best offensive player in the game not named Tom Brady, or do they put the ball in the hands of quarterback Russell Wilson?

Logic would say give it to Lynch as he just got a first down for Seattle by getting the ball up to the 1, but Bevell and Carroll overthought it. They were more worried about the clock, even though they had a timeout and three plays to get the ball in. As we all know, Wilson threw a pass on a slant route and was picked off, guaranteeing New England the victory.

That decision tore apart the locker room and even three years later, they’re still upset over it as was revealed in a thorough Sports Illustrated feature a few weeks ago.

Carroll and Bevell still have their defenders in the media, most of whom are overthinkers themselves, and I’ll never understand that. The worst thing of all, though, is both coaches stood by the decision. Even when something was clearly the wrong call, these two couldn’t put their egos aside and admit that they should’ve called something else.

Admitting fault isn’t easy for any of us. When things don’t go your way because of a decision you made, you try to rationalize it to yourself and to others. You insist that it was the right call even if it failed. Eventually, we come to the conclusion that we should have done things differently and from what I’ve learned, people respect you more when you admit you were wrong.

So coaches, it isn’t a bad thing to admit you messed up. It’s a good example for your players since taking responsibility for mistakes is an important skill to learn. You want them to respect you and stand by you, and they will if you acknowledge your errors.

Just check your ego at the door when the game is over. You’ll be glad you left it outside.

Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is rstieg@miningjournal.net.


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