Don’t blame the coach

The football team lost a great college football game to an MIAA opponent.  It was the first loss to an MIAA team in five years.  It takes a lot of luck to have a streak like that.  If we don’t run back a blocked extra point a couple of years ago against Washburn, this loss isn’t that significant.  What about the miracle field goal at Central last year?

It also took a lot of luck to beat the Bearcats.  Pitt State had to convert a third and 24 in the games first possession of the second half.  Their quarterback couldn’t hit green turf in the first half.  The same field goal kicker that provided the miracle at Warrensburg last year hit the crossbar this year.  It was Pitt State’s luck it bounced back instead of through.

Since a football isn’t perfectly round; you just can’t predict the bounce.  Fans need to get one thing crystal clear; it wasn’t the coaches’ fault.  I work with our football coaching staff every day.  I have never seen a harder working group of coaches.  On Sunday, the sun came up and the coaches were hard at work so their trip to Central Missouri this Saturday isn’t decided by a lucky bounce.

Blaming coaches for lucky bounces is pretty common.  You might remember when Herm Edwards played for the Philadelphia Eagles.  Herm has since coached the New York Jets and the Kansas City Chiefs.  You see him today giving Herman’s Sermons on ESPN.  One fateful day during his playing career, he caused the firing of the New York Giants head coach, John McVay.

The Giants led and could run out the clock by the quarterback taking a knee a couple of times.  The Eagles were out of time-outs and the game was over except for a couple of uneventful snaps.  That’s what it looked like, anyway.

What should have been the first kneel-down, the quarterback went to hand-off to the running back, Larry Csonka.  I don’t know whose decision that was, but the consequences were enormous for the Giants head coach.  It wasn’t a simple hand-off but a reverse pivot.  Somewhere during the exchange from the quarterback to the running back, the ball was dropped.

Why Herm was shooting across the line of scrimmage is a good question.  Most of the times, the players chuck each other lightly during kneel-downs and wait for the clock to run out.  Not Herm; he was in the right place at the right time when the ball was dropped.  Did Herm just fall on the ball?  No way; the football took a lucky bounce right into his arms and he sprinted 26 yards into the end zone untouched for the winning touchdown.

I don’t know who ordered the running play.  I have no idea how that hand-off was fumbled.  No defender touched the quarterback or the running back.  How that football bounced straight up is a miracle in itself.  Why Herm was in the backfield is really a mystery.  The firing of the head coach was not a surprise.  Who else to blame for an unlucky bounce?

I’m a really big Nebraska football fan.  Don’t throw anything at me for that statement.  As a coach in Nebraska, I didn’t miss a football game in Lincoln for several years.  Bob Devaney, the legendary coach of the Cornhuskers, retired and Dr. Tom Osborn took over.  Osborn won almost every game the Huskers played; that is except one big game.  Coach Osborn just couldn’t beat Oklahoma.

I was sitting in the south stadium one Saturday when I was sure the streak was ending.  Nebraska dominated the wishbone-driven Sooners.  The trouble is they only led by four points.  Oklahoma had the ball for one final drive.  Their wishbone had stalled most of the game and they just couldn’t complete a pass.  I had already started to celebrate the end of Barry Switzer’s dominance over Osborn.

With a fourth and long, Oklahoma had one final shot.  That’s when they ran the swinging gate.  The Sooners threw a short, safe pass to a wide receiver.  He wasn’t close to a first down.  The game and streak were over as the Husker defenders closed in for the final tackle.

At the last second, the wide receiver tossed the pig skin backwards to a charging halfback.  The defense was caught completely by surprise.  By the time the shocked Husker secondary recovered, the Oklahoma running back was all the way to the Nebraska two-yard line.  They scored on the next play and the fans began slinging verbal arrows at Osborn.

The hated Sooners had won and it had to be Dr. Tom’s fault.  He had developed an ingenious game plan and the team had executed it to perfection; that is except for one very long pass play.  It didn’t matter to the loyal Husker fans.  Kill the coach!

That night, rumors began that Osborn would resign and become the new Colorado football coach.  That put a whole new spin on it for the fickle Husker faithful.  They didn’t like Osborn very much, but Colorado certainly wasn’t going to get him.  Devaney, the athletic director, gave Osborn a contract extension.  He went on to win three national championships and is one of the legendary coaches in college football.  Hate turned to love, but not a second too soon.

Can you name the only team in football history to play in four consecutive Super Bowls?  Can you name one of the National Football League franchises never to win a Super Bowl, despite playing in it four consecutive times?  The answer, of course, is the Buffalo Bills.

My first thought, is any team that plays into January in Buffalo, New York, should be given a Super Bowl appearance once in a while.  Anytime after October 1, outdoor games should be banned in Buffalo.  Where is their retractable roof?

The Bills head coach, Marv Levy, should be put on a pedestal for making four consecutive Super Bowl appearances.  He is in the National Football League Hall of Fame, but I don’t think he’s put up there with Vince Lombardi, Tom Landry, and other coaching greats.

Do you know how hard it is to play in one Super Bowl?  Just ask the fans of the Kansas City Chiefs.  I was in high school when the Chiefs played the Green Bay Packers in the first Super Bowl in a half empty stadium in California.  It looked easy a few years later when the Chiefs beat the favored Vikings in the Super Bowl.

Hank Stram, the Chief’s leader, was the first coach that allowed the media to mike him during the game.  Some of his quotes from that game are legendary.  He will always be more of a household name than Marv Levy.  Was it Levy’s fault that the Buffalo Bills lost four straight Super Bowls or was it his superior leadership that allowed his team to play in four Super Bowls?  Don’t ask the Buffalo fans.

A few owners of professional teams always blame the coach.  Jerry Jones, the famous owner of the Dallas Cowboys has actually fired two Super Bowl winners.  Tom Landry built the Cowboys from a lowly, expansion team to a powerhouse in the NFL.  His Tom Osborn-like approach led the Cowboys to many championships, including a Super Bowl.

When Jones bought the Cowboys, he fired the aging coach.  He hired Jimmy Johnson, who had led the college power-house, Miami Hurricanes, to a national championship.  With Troy Aikman, Jimmy brought Super Bowl glory back to Dallas.  When he received most of the credit, the owner, Jerry Jones, fired him.  I’m sure there was something he did wrong.

The king of, “You’re fired!” had to be George Steinbrenner.  Steinbrenner bought the Yankees when they experienced one of the few droughts in their long history.  He hired Billy Martin to bring glory back to the Bronx Bombers.

Billy did just that by winning a World Series.  He coached the Yankees off and on for several years.  The reason it was off and on was Steinbrenner fired him four times.  Billy did bring on a lot of problems himself.  He even got into a dugout fight with Mr. October, Reggie Jackson.  As fast as George would fire Billy, he would hire him back.  It was a great merry-go-round while it lasted.

The one dismissal I’ll never figure out happened recently.  The Boston Red Sox had not won a World Series championship since 1918.  Shortly after that championship, the Red Sox did the unthinkable and traded the legendary baseball player, Babe Ruth, to their hated rival, the New York Yankees.

The next 76 years were miserable for the Red Sox fans.  Boston had some great players like Ted Williams and Carl Yastzemski, but no World championships.  During most of those 76 years, the Yankees basked in glory and World Series championships.  There could be only one explanation; the curse of the Bambino.  Trading the Babe had brought about years of bad luck. That changed when they hired Terry Francona as their manager.

Managers had come and gone.  Unlucky bounces like the slow ground ball that trickled between the legs of Bill Buckner had cost many Red Sox managers their job.  The baseball gods just won’t smile on the Red Sox.  Who knew Bucky (**##%%**) Dent could hit a home run to beat the Red Sox in the one game playoff in 1978 to complete yet another Red Sox collapse.  The Bambino must be smiling somewhere above Fenway Park.

Enter Francona to give it his best shot.  The Curse of the Bambino was buried in 2004 in a very shocking fashion.  The American League Championship was about to be claimed once again by the Yankees over the hapless Red Sox when David Ortiz hit a walk-off homerun to prevent a four games to zero Yankees sweep.  Never in baseball history has a team come from a 3 – 0 deficit.  However, a grand slam homerun by the Red Sox’s Johnny Damon took all the suspense out of game seven.  A four-game sweep of the Cardinals finally buried the curse.

Francona was the toast of the town.  Then he drove a final stake into the Bambino’s rotting heart by winning another World championship in 2007.  Is there any better manager in all of baseball?

I guess there is because Francona was fired after the Red Sox gave away a nine game wildcard lead with a month to go in the season.  It went down to the final game before the Tampa Bay Rays (Sam’s favorite team) overcame that huge September lead by the Red Sox. What kind of curse can we blame this one on?  Since the Bambino has been put to pasture, let’s blame the coach.  Good-bye Francona, and yet again a great coach is blamed.

Bearcat football is ready to start a new streak Saturday at Central.  Remember to give credit where credit is due.  I think the coaches should be patted on the back.  If we stumble again this year, I have no doubt that Coach Dorrel and his staff will win many championships.  When they stumble, DON’T BLAME THE COACH!

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Gene Steinmeyer

About Gene Steinmeyer

Gene Steinmeyer coached the Northwest Missouri State women’s basketball team for 13 seasons before retiring after 26 years as a collegiate head coach after the 2011-12 season. He retired as the second winningest women’s basketball coach at Northwest as his 2010-11 team won both the MIAA Regular Season and Tournament Championship advancing to the NCAA National Semifinals one game shy of the national championship game.