Archive for the Le Boo Coaching Awards Category

Start The Super Bowl Celebration — New Orleans Is Your Super Bowl Champs

Posted in Le Boo Coaching Awards, NFL Football, Sports with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 8, 2010 by thelasthonestman

In the end, could Super Bowl XLIV have gone any other way?

That’s what I was saying last Monday when I predicted a New Orleans victory, and it was incredibly satisfying as a football fan to see what transpired last night.  The game itself was an incredible one, continuing the streak of thrilling, close-played games that we’ve seen more often than not for a while now.  Lead changes, momentum shifts, trick plays, gutsy play-calling, clutch performances – we saw all of it and more in Super Bowl XLIV.  As today dawns with the reality that the New Orleans Saints are actually the champions of the football world (and the kings of a week-long carnival celebration in the Big Easy that will culminate in Fat Tuesday a week from now), some thoughts from last night’s contest:

— I talked last week about the different organizational mindsets between the two teams: the conservative, “afraid to fail” approach by the Colts that was no better exemplified than by their willing decline of the challenge of football immortality if they’d gone unbeaten (which was there for their taking), and the fearless, inspirational approach by the Saints, who embraced and welcomed the enormous weight of carrying an entire region of desperate fans onto their shoulders.

We saw those approaches again last night in some of the biggest moments of the game.  First was the decision by Saints coach Sean Payton to go for the TD down by the goal line and trailing by 7 late in the 1st half.  I heard a number of people calling the decision the wrong one — taking the points would have been the safe, cautious decision (and the one the Colts would have certainly made in the same situation — look back to their similar scenario against the Jets two weeks ago).  But Payton’s call was undoubtedly the right one.  To beat Indy, the Saints needed to punch the ball in the end zone, and the drive represented the best chance of doing so they’d had all night.  Settling for 3 would have given the Colts the ball back in normal field position and would have likely ended up with Indy driving for their own field goal, nullifying any momentum the Saints  might have gained by going for the field goal then.

By going for it, Payton was displaying the ultimate confidence, not only in his offense, but in his defense as well.  Even though they didn’t score, Indy was left pinned deep in their own territory, giving New Orleans an opportunity to make a stop defensively and still have enough time left on the clock to try a field goal.

Helping them was the decision by Colts coach Jim Caldwell and the Indy coaching staff to go ultra-conservative at that point — afraid-to-fail, indeed.  Instead of trying to move the ball through the air to get a first down and possibly add some points of their own, the Colts ran the ball up the middle three straight times, giving the Saints the ball right back and with enough time for kicker Garrett Hartley to boot the field goal at the end of the half.

It was a decision that was a classic example of the Colts’ managerial mentality, but why should they have been worried about opening up the playbook, even deep in their own territory?  You have tremendous receivers, arguably the greatest quarterback of all time, and you’ve moved the ball relatively effectively against the New Orleans defense when you’ve had the ball — why not do so now?

Peyton manning can only watch as Tracy Porter scores the game-clinching TD after his interception

— Speaking of the second quarter, the Saints offense finally started getting untracked then after two tough opening drives where they went three-and-out, and it was in time of possession that quarter that New Orleans made their first steps to winning the game.  Even though they had to settle for a single field goal in their first two drives of the quarter, they chewed up an incredible 12:27 off of the clock.  Indy’s only drive before the run-the-clock-out one at the half’s conclusion was a three-and-out series that took up barely over a minute.

Beating the Colts requires ball control, no mistakes (the Saints never turned the ball over and committed only 3 penalties for 19 yards the entire game), and keeping your offense on the field while limiting the time Manning has to beat you.  New Orleans started doing just that after the first quarter was over, and despite being outgained, they won the time of possession battle.  The Colts would have only 8 drives in the game, far below their average on the season.

— The onside kick call at the start of the second half wasn’t just the game-changer and momentum-shifter, it goes down as the gutsiest call ever by a coach in the Super Bowl.   Again, like his call to go for it on 4th and 1, Payton was challenging his team to come up big, part of that fearless approach of the Saints I’ve talked at length about.   It was a crucial call, as a Colts recovery and a short field might have easily led to an Indy TD and the beginning of the end for the Saints’ chances.  But unlike the onside kick at the end of the game that’s a sign of desperation, an onside kick earlier in the game often catches the other team napping and unprepared for it, dramatically increasing its chances of success.  The Saints’ recovery of the onside gave life to the team and certainly demoralized the struggling Colts even further — and New Orleans’ subsequent drive to capitalize with the go-ahead TD was even more key — at that point, New Orleans knew the game was theirs for the taking, and it was likely the first moment all night that the Colts had to begin questioning if they were going to lose.

— Going into the game, there was a lot of talk from the experts (about 80% of so who picked Indy to win) about why the Colts were going to end up as champions — one of those reasons was the supposed status of the AFC as the “superior” conference.

That turned out to be an overstated opinion, and it’s one that the regular season itself didn’t back up.  The NFC’s overall record against the AFC was drug down by some truly inept teams (Tampa, Detroit, and St. Louis, who went 1-11 vs. the AFC in 2009), but the top teams in the NFC fared relatively well in the regular season against the opposing conference:  New Orleans, Minnesota, Dallas, Green Bay, and Arizona went 13-7 combined against the AFC (the Saints finishing 4-0)  Meanwhile, the AFC was populated by some pretty mediocre squads who still made the playoffs: the Pats who couldn’t win on the road, the Jets and Bengals with terrible passing attacks, a 9-7 Ravens team, and a perpetually underachieving Chargers squad represented the best-of-the-best of the conference to challenge Indy — not an overly impressive bunch.  The AFC advantage talked about leading up to the Super Bowl was largely an illusion.

At least they can be proud of that 16-0 mark ... errr .... scratch that

— I’m a firm believer that karma and the football gods got their way in Indy going down to defeat Sunday night.  If you’re been reading here, you should remember my scathing indictment of what I thought Indy’s decision to spit in the face of football immortality (by willingly surrendering a 16-0 season that was theirs for the taking) meant, and what I thought it amounted to in the larger scheme of things.  I find it incredibly ironic that, despite their attempts to keep everyone healthy, Indy still ended up with two of their key players in Dwight Freeney and Reggie Wayne at less-than-100% last night (Freeney was injured at the end of the win against the Jets, while Wayne was hurt in a normal practice).  Both looked like different players last night than what we saw in the regular season — Wayne never showed his usual explosiveness, while Freeney was a shell of himself in the 2nd half.

What’s sad to me about the Colts is that the approach of President Bill Polian and Coach Caldwell — which was implemented, in theory, to keep the team healthy for the Super Bowl — not only didn’t work anyway, but their stated opinion that the regular season meant “nothing” and that winning the Super Bowl was the “only” goal of the franchise has essentially rendered the entire Indy campaign as a failure, by their own standards and admissions.  The Colts players and fans deserved better than that — Indy had a tremendous season in which they won a league-high seven games when trailing in the 4th quarter, and despite rookie receivers and a shaky running game, they had a chance to channel the spirit of those unbeaten Dolphins — a team themselves that was solid and consistent, if not spectacular.  Instead, they threw away their shot at history — and now, they don’t even have the Super Bowl win they needed to validate the decision.

— Finally, a Le Boo Coaching Award to give out this week and it goes to a Colts coach — sort of.  Not Jim Caldwell, but the ex-coach of Indianapolis, Tony Dungy.

All season long while working for NBC, when the subject of the Colts has come up, Dungy has been more shill than analyst, relentlessly complimenting Indianapolis at every turn and seemingly incapable of turning a critical eye to any of their decisions.  That’s understandable, I guess — after all, Caldwell is a disciple of Dungy’s approach to running the team, so it makes perfect sense that everything the rookie coach did would meet with Dungy’s approval — and I certainly understand the former coach’s loyalty to the organziation and its players.

But that didn’t explain Dungy’s assertion this week that, not only would the Colts win on Sunday, but that the game “wouldn’t even be close”.  Throughout his coaching career, Dungy has always been a classy, soft-spoken guy — the type who’d let the other side do the talking.  This week, however, he seemed emboldened in not only anointing Indy as the champs, but cementing Manning’s status alongside Super Bowl immortals like Montana and Bradshaw.

Not only was the proclamation premature, but it was ill-advised.  There’s nothing wrong with Dungy believing that, and there would have been nothing wrong with picking the Colts to win if asked by other media — what else would he say?  But in his dismissive statements about the level of opposition that New Orleans would put up, Dungy not only acted uncharacteristically — but he gave New Orleans some added bulletin-board material.  It may not have amounted to a whole lot, but it certainly didn’t do the Colts any favors.  Maybe the next time Indy makes to the Super Bowl, Dungy will remember that nothing good comes from giving the other team even more reason to beat you than they already have.

— With that, we’ve wrapped up another tremendous NFL season.  Baseball is right around the corner, so that’s what I’m gearing up for next.  Hopefully we’ll see as great a campaign there as we just finished with.

Le Boo Coaching … Errr … Stupid Playoff Picks Revisited

Posted in Le Boo Coaching Awards, NFL Football, Sports with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 11, 2010 by thelasthonestman

Yep -- that's about the way I felt after almost all of my weekend picks went down in flames


And to think, it started so well Saturday afternoon, with the Jets running over the Bengals the way I thought they would.   Alas, it would not last.

So I posted a pretty ugly 1-3 mark on my Wild Card playoff predictions this weekend, and rather than give out a Le Boo coaching award, I figured I deserved the Le Boo for some pretty bad selections.  Where did it all go wrong?

— At least I was right about the Jets and Bengals.  I heard several times going into the match-up that the two teams were “mirror images” of one another.  Well, if you ignore the fact that the Jets have a better overall rushing attack and a better overall defense — yeah, I guess they were.  The Jets did everything they needed to do to win, and Mark Sanchez played impressively, putting up solid numbers (which would have been even better if iron-hands Braylon Edwards hadn’t dropped an easy TD pass) and not turning the ball over.  I said the Bengals just weren’t all that good, and they proved it pretty convincingly.

— My fatal mistake in picking Philadelphia to at least cover against Dallas was simple.  I talked beforehand about how inconsistent both the Cowboys and the Eagles had been in 2009, but what I ignored was what should have been common sense: when two inconsistent teams play each other, and one of them has at least been consistent in beating the tar out of the other, then it’s probably a pretty easy bet that you’re going to see a repeat performance.   Dallas had destroyed the Eagles the week before — why did I possibly think this rematch would be any different?  Ugh … especially since …

— … I predicted Green Bay to bring the whuppin’ stick back out against Arizona.  So what happened here?  The one thing that changed from my Friday picks and the game Sunday afternoon was the breaking news that Cards quarterback Kurt Warner was contemplating hanging up the cleats after this year’s playoffs end.  I’ve accused Arizona of playing with no heart at times this year — what better form of motivation for them than trying to bring home another title for Warner, as well-liked as any player in the NFL?  Whether you want to credit that — or the fact that the Green Bay secondary seemed completely incapable of covering anyone — for Arizona’s win in what was one of the most entertaining playoff games in recent memory to watch, the Cardinals still deserve credit for a tremendous effort in the win.

— And finally, there was the Ravens beatdown of the Pats in the early game Sunday.  I’ll admit it — I was fooled by the Pats “mystique” and conveniently ignored the evidence that had been in plain view all season that New England just wasn’t the same team that we remembered as having dominated the NFL for much of the decade.  The end of the Patriots dominance was Plaxico Burress catching that TD in the end zone two years ago — even if we didn’t realize it then.  Baltimore ran over the Pats all day, needing only four completions by Joe Flacco to advance to the next round.

So for going 1-3 this weekend, I’ll give myself the Le Boo — and hope I can right the ship in the semifinals this weekend.  In the meantime, the other big sports news of the day — Mark McGwire’s **shocking** revelation that he used steroids — has left me with a lot to say … but that’s have to keep until tomorrow.  I’ve got to finish with my humble pie first before I tackle that.

The Year In Review

Posted in Entertainment, Le Boo Coaching Awards, News/Current Events, NFL Football, Personal, Rants, Sports, Television, The Wayback Machine, The Wrapups on December 30, 2009 by thelasthonestman

It’s been a long year here — and in case you missed it the first time around, here’s some of the highlights (and lowlights) we focused on in 2009:

Why are so many of our nation’s banking institutions having problems keeping their heads above water?  A look at this story of my personal experience with one of those banks — with prime examples of  idiotic decision-making and completely appalling customer service — might shed some light on the reason.

If you were looking for ugliness in 2009, there was no better place to find it than the car wrecks found on reality television shows.  My personal target — the disgraceful Jon & Kate Plus 8 — and my thoughts on it has been one of the most popular posts on the blog this year.

Sportsmanship on sports has been on the wane for  long time now — and we’re not just talking about at the professional level.  One of the most atrocious displays in 2009 of that lack of class was found in, of all places, girls high school basketball.  After reading this, you might wonder where former coach Grimes is now — if I had to guess, he’s probably been with the Grinch all month trying to figure out how to steal everyone’s Christmas away.

A chapter of my life went away in 2009, as a company I’d worked for went quietly into bankruptcy and oblivion.  It was a sad moment, and one I hope never to have to experience again.

One of the better sports documentaries I’ve seen came on HBO earlier this year, a look back at the war between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier.  My take on it — and on the Ali-Frazier blood feud — was one of the pieces I most enjoyed doing in 2009.

The coal in my Christmas stocking actually came early in the year — I just didn’t know it then.  It was the trade of Jay Cutler to my beloved Chicago Bears this year that made me feel like I was being punished for not being on Santa’s good list.  I already railed on Cutler’s crybaby act before he was traded to Chicago — and it’s only gotten uglier as the season’s gone on.  On the bright side for Bears fans like myself, it can’t get any worse — can it?  Maybe that question doesn’t need to be answered.  If you want to compare Jay Cutler to Jeff George — like I heard ESPN’s Tom Jackson do this week — you won’t get an argument from me.

And finally, there’s the disgrace to both the NFL and the Indianapolis Colts that took place on Sunday.  That article is probably still fresh in your mind, but if you didn’t read it, it’s worth it to check it out.

I’ll see you in 2010 — and enjoy your New Year’s celebration.

Le Boo NFL Coaching Move, Week 16

Posted in Le Boo Coaching Awards, NFL Football, Rants, Sports with tags , , , , on December 28, 2009 by thelasthonestman

Pictured here: the Indianapolis braintrust searching for some testicular fortitude

Normally, this column doesn’t come out until after the Monday night game — but this week’s dishonor is such a slam-dunk exercise in stupidity, there’s no need to wait.  And considering how utterly bad some of the coaching decisions often are in the NFL, that’s saying something.

Jim Caldwell and Bill Polian — come on down!  You’re the next two contestants on “What the hell were you thinking?”.

By now, following the Colts throwing the game against the Jets lying down in the fetal position pulling their offensive  starters while holding a 15-10 lead over the Jets midway through the 3rd quarter, you’ve already heard the reasoning behind why the decision was made.  “The perfect season was never one of our goals,” said head coach Caldwell after the game.


You’ve heard the excuses from Colts management, and you’ve heard the excuses from columnists, pundits, and “experts” from all around the country as to why this was the right decision (and don’t get me started on the embarrassing company line that was being spouted by Tony Dungy on NBC Sunday night — is he on NBC’s payroll or still on the Colts?).  You’ve heard it all already: They need to focus on winning the Super Bowl.  They have to stay healthy for the playoffsThey had nothing to play for.

Really?  Nothing to play for?

How many Super Bowl Teams — even winning ones — do you actually remember?  Without looking it up, who won Super Bowl VIII in 1974?  Or Super Bowl XV in 1981?  Too long ago, you say?  What about Super Bowl XXVI in 1992?  Or even Super Bowl XXXIII in 1999?  That’s only ten years ago — no problem, right?

You probably don’t immediately identify any of those champions, and that’s not a big surprise.  There’s some great teams in that list, including two franchises  — Miami in 1974 and Denver in 1999 — that were winning their second consecutive titles in those years (the other two teams were Oakland in 1981 and Washington in 1992).

But you certainly do remember the 1985 Monsters of the Midway Bears, don’t you? And you won’t forget the 1998 Broncos and John Elway’s first championship either.  And you definitely aren’t going to forget the 1973 unbeaten Miami Dolphins team — even though that club is arguably not even one of the top-10 Super Bowl Champions of all time.

The reason you remember those clubs — and the reason you’ll never forget the 2008 match-up between the Giants and the then-unbeaten Patriots — is because those were teams that were faced with the prospects of sports immortality and true greatness and seized the moment.

It might have mattered to these fans, but Caldwell and Polian were never accused of having a sense of history

Don’t confuse any of those great teams with this year’s Colts.  Indianapolis — or at least, the team’s leadership — was faced with the opportunity to achieve something legendary, magical, and defining — an accomplishment that would cement their legacy in the NFL annuals for as long as football is played — and they didn’t just come up short in the task, they purposely turned away from it.

It’s says a lot about the team’s leadership that they’re more afraid of what bad might happen then about the good that could be accomplished with finishing off this otherwise magical season in a perfect way.  It’s not an attitude that will serve them well in the playoffs, when they’ll be facing other teams willing to do anything and everything necessary to win — while they themselves, at least for this one Sunday, seemed willing to do anything to keep themselves from winning.

But what about the ultimate goal, you say?  What about winning the Super Bowl?  In theory, that’s why they made this decision — in order to rest, avoid injury, and prepare for the playoffs.  And it’s worked well for them in the past, so why wouldn’t they do it again?

Except it hasn’t worked for them.  Ever.  With all of their talent (arguably more than any team in the AFC over the last decade) and with arguably the greatest quarterback of all time under center, the Colts have a whopping one Super Bowl title to their credit.  And that championship came in a season where the Colts rested no one, having to play hard through the season’s final game to get the #3 seed and needing to win in the playoffs’ opening wild card round.  Despite the “extra” work and the added “risk” of injury, the Colts drove through the playoffs that year.  They were in sync all through the postseason — and it showed.

And those seasons they went with the strategy they’re employing this year?  Those Colts performances have been notably unimpressive, featuring  a 3-8 overall playoff record and no less than an incredible six seasons where the Colts were one-and-done.  In three of those one-and-outs, the normally high-powered Colts offense scored 18 points or less.  In most — if not all — of those losses, the Colts looked rusty, out-of-sync, and struggling to find a rhythm while their opponents — often teams that were facing must-win games all the way to the final week — took advantage.

There are no such things as coincidences.  If you believe that, then you also have to believe that the Colts are following a questionable strategy – again — that has never worked for them in the past, and it’s as likely to hurt them again this year as it is to lead them to that ultimate goal of the Super Bowl that Caldwell and Polian have been talking about.  When asking yourself why the Colts instead wouldn’t follow the one path that actually has led to a championship, but continue to do what hasn’t worked, it serves to remember that the definition of idiocy — or insanity — is doing the same thing over and over again and somehow expecting different results.

Don't even let your Colts practice, guys -- someone might break a nail

Worried about injuries?  Despite Rex Ryan’s pressure defense, the Jets got no closer to putting Manning on his backside yesterday than you or I did.  Heck, Reggie Wayne could blow out an ACL in practice between now and playoffs — he wouldn’t be the first player to do so.  Dallas Clark could get hit by a car driving to the store this week.  Do you keep him and all of the other Colts isolated until the playoffs begin?  If you’re worried about Manning and others getting hurt, then why did they even play at all yesterday?  Why keep the starters in games that are out of hand earlier in the season — which the Colts do — if the only thing that matters is health in January?

If you thought there were distractions — or pressure on the Colts — before, then what about now?  Caldwell and Polian have taken a team that was all on the same page and focused and handed them a huge distraction in the enormous amount of second-guessing and questioning that will take place over the next two weeks about their decision.  And forget the company line being spouted by players after the game — one can’t ignore the possible locker-room issues that may have been created, a questioning of the team’s management decisions that was clearly evident on the faces of an unhappy Manning, Wayne, and others as they watched Curtis Painter fumble away the team’s chances at immortality.   And in their decision to throw away that chance, Caldwell and Polian have made winning the Super Bowl an all-or-bust proposition, and in doing so, they’ve not only diminished the team’s remarkable achievements so far, but they’ve increased the pressure on the entire team tenfold.

And none of these points even touch on the integrity of the game — what the Colts did with a lead yesterday was tantamount to fixing the game’s outcome, and in a league that concerns itself so much with its image and with gambling influences, yesterday’s debacle was a black mark for the whole league.  But I suspect it’s not going to matter in a couple of weeks anyway, and if history repeats itself, then Indianapolis’ management will get their just desserts in just a few short weeks.  The San Diego Chargers — not the Colts — are the team hitting on all cylinders right now, and they show no signs of following Indy’s lead and letting up off of the gas pedal.  Don’t be surprised when Indianapolis is looking at another one-and-done playoff performance.  There are potential playoff opponents looming other than the Chargers that may match up well with the Colts — a tough defense and an emotionally-charged team in the Bengals, and a bent-on-revenge Patriots team that should have beaten them once already in the dome, for example.   An ultimate irony would be the Jets facing off with the Colts and knocking them out of the playoffs, since it was Indy’s generosity that put New York in a position to make the playoffs in the first place.

If that happens, don’t blame Manning or his teammates — they wanted to go for the ultimate achievement and they wanted to keep playing to win, even if they didn’t know it was what they need to do to give themselves the best chance of winning it all in Miami.  Instead, blame the people who’ll be shouldering the real blame when someone other than Indianapolis is representing the AFC in the Super Bowl.

Le Boo, Jim Caldwell and Bill Polian.  Le Boo.

Le Boo NFL Coaching Move, Week 15

Posted in Le Boo Coaching Awards, NFL Football, Sports with tags , , on December 22, 2009 by thelasthonestman

With Christmas only a few short days away, and with me still having a lot to do around the house in preparation for the holiday, I’m eschewing my NFL notes for the week (and besides — nothing could zap  my festive holiday spirit faster than talking about the Bears debacle and the ongoing Cutler suck-fest that’s taking place in Chicago).

In that same spirit, I’ll spare a long-winded commentary about this week’s Le Boo coaching move — rest assured, in this case, a picture (or video) is worth a thousand words of scorn and shame.  If you haven’t seen the last play of the first half of last night’s embarrassing Washington loss to the Giants, then you owe it to yourself to check it out now.  If you’re not in a happy mood, you’ll be laughing uproariously once you’re done watching this horrific play (well — unless you’re a Redskins fan, obviously).

Who gets the blame for this sequence?  Whether you want to point the finger at Jim Zorn, Sherman Smith, or Sherman Lewis as the culprit — was this play  “O-72” on the bingo card? — there’s no doubting that it’s a terrible call worthy of our Le Boo dishonors.  If there was anything that new GM Bruce Allen learned last night, it’s likely that he’s got a long job ahead of him — and none of the Three Stooges above will likely be around for the rest of the rise following the merciful end to the season in two more weeks.

Here’s the play — note the befuddled responses from the Monday night trio of announcers, including Mike Tirico’s comment, “This is embarrassing”.

I heard this play referred to as a “Swinging Gate” play.  It should be renamed the “Swinging Door” play — as in, don’t set the swinging door hit you on the way out, Redskins coaches.

Le Boo, guys.  Le Boo.

Le Boo NFL Coaching Move, Week 14

Posted in Le Boo Coaching Awards, NFL Football, Sports with tags , , , on December 16, 2009 by thelasthonestman

When you’re the head coach of a team that’s 13-0, it’s pretty hard for  someone to find any fault in what you’re doing on the sidelines.  But in the case of New Orleans Saints head man Sean Payton, that’s exactly what we’re doing in calling him out for the Le Boo Coaching Move for Week 14.

In a game that had been a lot closer than a lot of people had anticipated, the Saints were holding a slim three-point advantage with four minutes or so left in the 4th quarter and Atlanta in possession of the ball when it looked like New Orleans had salted away the game with an interception by Jonathan Vilma on a poorly thrown ball by Falcons backup quarterback Chris Redman.  Atlanta had been facing a 2nd-and-22 themselves following a bizarre first down call that saw Eric Weems get a direct snap in the Wildcat formation and immediately lose 12 yards, putting the Falcons in an obvious passing situation that the Saints defense, opportunistic all season, quickly took advantage of.

Taking over deep in Atlanta territory following the interception, the Saints were looking at either adding points to the scoreboard to put the game out of reach or killing the clock entirely.  In any case, the interception seemed to put an end to the Falcons chances of an upset.  Even after the Saints offense stalled at the Atlanta 15 yard-line with a little over two minutes remaining, Atlanta still looked finished; a field goal by new kicker Garrett Hartley would make it a six-point game — not in insurmountable deficit, for certain, but a lot safer than the three-point lead the team was holding on to.

But instead, in a bizarre call, the Saints attempted a fake field goal instead.  As the pass fell incomplete, the Falcons were given new life, now needing only field goal to tie the game and send it to overtime, where anything might be possible.  Indeed, the Saints would be bailed out by Vilma again, this time as he stopped Jason Snelling just short of a first down on 4th down.

It’s not that going for it on 4th down to put the game away is what I had the most problem with; a first down there, and the game is over, and you are commanding the league’s high-octane power and arguably the NFL’s MVP in Drew Brees behind center.  With a talented receiver corps and running backs who can catch the ball coming out of the backfield, Brees certainly has the targets to make a 4th-and-7 seem a proposition well worth attempting.

Pictured here: A kicker, a holder -- and absolutely NO quarterbacks you want throwing the ball late in the game

But it wasn’t the Saints offense on the field to convert, but the field goal unit.  And it wasn’t Brees trying to complete a pass of Marques Colston to send the Saints to 13-0, but backup quarterback Mark Brunell — he of the 0 pass attempts since 2006 — trying to complete a pass to offensive lineman Carl Nicks.  Would anyone — other the Payton, we can guess — out there want to make those two the main focus of a crucial offensive play late in the game?  Anyone?

As I pointed out already last week, there’s a time for trick plays — and there’s the time when they’re just ill-advised.  And as I also pointed out in my NFL recap on Monday, Payton already has shown some unusual decision-making in the usage of his running backs, so this strange call isn’t a complete aberration.  So what’s to blame?  It’s not coaching idiocy like some others we’ve looked at — cough cough Gary Kubiak cough cough —  as the Saints head man has certainly done a tremendous job with his team, making Payton a leading candidate for NFL Coach of the Year honors.

So what is it then? Is Payton trying to make the task of going 16-0 even harder for his team to test their mettle?  Is he trying to set up their first loss to take off some of the pressure going into the playoffs?  More worrisome would be that he’s begun to believe too many of his own press clippings, and that he feels the need to “prove” how smart he is — and by extension, how responsible he is — for the Saints success in 2009.  In any case, in a season where Payton’s made the right call nearly all of the time, on Sunday his fake field goal call was definitely the wrong one, and the call not only nearly could have cost the Saints their shot at history, but it was an easy call for the Le Boo NFL Coaching Move for Week 14.

Le Boo, Coach Payton.  Le Boo.

Le Boo NFL Coaching Move, Week 13

Posted in Le Boo Coaching Awards, NFL Football, Sports with tags , , on December 8, 2009 by thelasthonestman

There’s a time to call a gimmick play — and there’s a time when you absolutely don’t.  Trailing by 11 points in the 4th quarter and inside the 10-yard line  — while needing a touchdown desperately in a must-win game in order to keep your team’s fading playoff hopes alive?  Yeah — I’m going to go with “This is one of whose times you don’t try to get cute.”  Unfortunately, for Texans head coach Gary Kubiak, the obvious is a lot like Houston’s chances of salvaging their season — well beyond his grasp.

It’s hard enough for teams to pass the ball effectively around the goal-line — there’s less room for receivers to get open and run routes, with defenders bunched up tight.  And that’s the case for even the best of  NFL quarterbacks (yet there’s still too many head coaches in the NFL who foolishly ignore the run when they’re at the goal line).  But never mind a quarterback’s chances at success —  how hard is it for a running back to pass in that situation?  And not just any running back, mind you — how about one who hadn’t attempted a single pass in an NFL regular-season game in his entire career until Sunday?  Is that an increased enough level of difficulty for you?

Perhaps thinking that his team’s game against the Jaguars was getting scored not in points, but in judges’ scoring like in gymnastics or diving, Kubiak did the inexplicable and called running back Chris Brown’s number — he of the same number of NFL pass attempts as I have — at the 5-yard line for a halfback option pass.  Not surprisingly, Brown did what you might expect a non-quarterback to do in such a situation; faced with pressure, he heaved a lame-duck into the air that no Texan was within a mile of — but plenty of Jaguars were, including safety Gerald Alexander, who picked off the errant throw to kill the scoring opportunity — and with it, likely any chances Houston had to still make the playoffs.

Afterward, with the Texans 23-18 losers, Kubiak seemed to acknowledge his idiocy, saying, “It’s a tough spot to put Chris in, so it just ends up being a bad call by me. A poor call.”

"It's elementary, my dear Watson -- this coach is obviously dumber than this pillar of stone."

Well, no shit, Sherlock.  It wasn’t just a bad or poor call, it was an epic fail — according to Elias, it’s the first fourth-quarter red-zone interception thrown by a running back since Corey Dillon of the Bengals managed the feat way back in the final game of the 2001 season — eight long years ago.  And in defense of that play, considering that the Bengals finished 6-10 that year and dead-last in the AFC Central, it’s a safe guess that the call came in an otherwise meaningless situation — and not with the team’s life on the line.

I’d say that Kubiak could use the upcoming off-season to think about stupid calls like these — but with Houston collapsing with four straight losses in winnable games following a 5-3 start, it’s looking like he’ll be using the months ahead to search for another job.  In the meantime, his dubious decision is the Le Boo NFL Coaching Move for Week 13.

Le Boo, Coach Kubiak.  Le Boo.

Le Boo NFL Coaching Move Of The Week, Week 12

Posted in Le Boo Coaching Awards, NFL Football, Sports with tags , , on December 1, 2009 by thelasthonestman

Before we get started for this inaugural edition of the Le Boo Award, an honorable mention is well worth noting.

— Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz has done a decent job with the Lions this season, winning two games this season after the monumental fail that was the 2008 0-16 season.  There’s no doubt he’s gotten a team that’s undermanned weekly from a talent standpoint to play hard, and the Lions have been far more competitive in 2009 than many would have suspected they’d be.

But there were more than a couple of people scratching their heads on Thanksgiving when Stafford took the field to face the Packers, especially from those who’d watched the rookie stagger off of the field only four days earlier, the victim of a dislocated left shoulder (not his throwing arm) on the next-to-last play of the team’s thrilling victory over the Browns the previous Sunday.

While doctors had said that Stafford would not be risking any further damage to the shoulder by playing with the injury, the general consensus was that Stafford would sit — at least for the game against Green Bay, on a short week.  At 2-8, the Lions aren’t going anywhere except home when the playoffs begin, and the rookie is a cornerstone of what you’re trying to build in Detroit — so why risk him in any way?

Yet that’s exactly what Schwartz did.  It was evident early on in the game that Stafford wasn’t anywhere near 100%, and that the Lions were going to have an awful time protecting their rookie QB from taking a pounding.  For most of the day, Stafford was being chased around the field like a shopper holding the last $49 Blu-Ray player by an angry mob on Black Friday.  Stafford may have only been sacked twice, but he still took an unnecessary pounding.  Even when the game was well out of hand, the rookie was still in running for his life.  Courageous on Stafford’s part.  Yes.  Stupid on Scwartz’s part?  Doubly so.

— But on to our winner loser for the week — and if the Stafford story above didn’t let on as to who’s getting the honors, then you’ll easily make the connection when we’re done.

It’s no secret that playing in the NFL isn’t for the faint of heart.  Injuries — and pain — are more a part of football than either of the other major American team sports, baseball and basketball.  Every player plays in pain at some point, or with an injury, or both at some point in their careers.  If anyone has any doubts as to how much physical pain takes its effect to those who take the field every Sunday, watch the struggles of many players who spent double-digit seasons in the NFL to even get around.

Any football player worth their salt is going to want to play, even when they shouldn’t.  That’s why it’s up to the coaches and trainers of any NFL team to protect their players when there’s doubt, particularly their most important assets, lest they end up missing large parts of the season.  Often, it’s better to sit a key player for a week or two — particularly in a game that the team might be able to win anyway without them — rather than to take a chance that might result in an injury not healing properly or worsening and costing a team that key player when it really matters.

That concept was in full view this past weekend, where several key stars suffering from injuries sat:  Kurt Warner, Cedric Benson, and Ben Roethlisberger were three examples.  All of them wanted to play, all of them might have been able to play and emerge from their contests unscathed, but none of them did.  None of their respective head coaches wanted to risk losing key players for expended amounts of time, and all may return in Week 13.  In addition, against an easy opponent, Cincinnati won anyway, with a solid effort from Bernard Scott and Larry Johnson in Benson’s absence.

So who didn’t get the memo about protecting their stars?  That would be Atlanta head coach Mike Smith, who rushed Falcons running back Michael Turner back into the lineup after only one week off following the dreaded high ankle sprain.  That type of injury is incredibly damaging to a football player’s effectiveness, and no more so than to a running back that relies on speed and explosiveness to be effective.  Since most high ankle sprains take several weeks to heal properly, and since Atlanta already had Jason Snelling (who was effective in Turner’s place against the Giants last week) and a returning-from-injury Jerious Norwood to shoulder the load, and since the Falcons were playing a pretty inept team (the 1-9 Bucs) at home, there wasn’t any reason to rush Turner back onto the field and risk a further injury, especially since Atlanta needs him at full strength if they have any hope of working their way into the playoffs against a tougher schedule (Philly and New Orleans on the slate for the next two weeks).   There’s no way Smith wouldn’t realize that, right?

You didn’t need a crystal ball to see where this was headed.  Turner was ineffective when he played (12 carries for only 33 yards) — and to no one’s great surprise, Turner exited the game after re-injuring his ankle.  Atlanta barely won, but considering Turner’s limited contributions — and the absence of starting QB Matt Ryan for most of the game — the argument that he wasn’t needed at all stands confirmed.  And now, instead of being healthier for the next two huge games, Turner may again be sidelined.

This was so unsurprising, I predicted it to my friend Steven the moment Turner was confirmed as active Sunday morning.  And if it was that obvious a possibility to me — and I’m not being paid to run an NFL team — it should have been doubly so to Smith.  And that makes his utterly bad decision to play Turner worthy of our initial Le Boo Coaching Move of the Week.

Le Boo, Coach Smith.  Le Boo.

And Now For Something Completely Different …

Posted in Le Boo Coaching Awards, NFL Football, Rants, Sports with tags on November 29, 2009 by thelasthonestman

Bill The Cat, our Le Boo Macot, expresses his disapproval at bad NFL coaching

In another one of those “Better Late Than Never” moments, I introduce to my readers a new feature to be found here during the NFL season:  the Le Boo NFL Coaching Move Of The Week.

I had originally intended this to be an event starting back in Week 1 of the season — but with the blog on hiatus for much of the last two months, that turned out to be an impossibility.  Never fear, however — there’s plenty of football left to be played, and plenty of bad coaching decisions still to be made before the 2009 season is finally over.

So why “Le Boo”?  Why not? A French flair given to our All-American raspberry — displayed so tactfully to the right by Bill The Cat — has just that touch of disdain for the stupidity sometimes shown by the men being paid huge amounts of money a year to simply manage a football game.  As you’re going to well see over the remaining weeks of the season, sometimes that simple task is beyond our targets to do.  The Le Boo move of the week isn’t going to be a case of second-guessing, but almost always will be something a NFL coach does — whether it be personnel decisions, game-calling strategy, or just plain overall ineptitude — that is so egregious, any random guy sitting on his sofa at home — that’s you and me, if you’re scoring at home — knows how ridiculously bad a decision it was.  It’ll be those highlighted moments when our tanked buddy Bill would have been better off wearing the headsets than the coach.

As a happy subscriber to the NFL Sunday Ticket, I get to watch more football action than should be allowed, so I’m sure it’s not going to be a problem to find a worthy candidate for ridicule celebration each week.  So as today’s games unfold, keep your eyes out for bad coaching at it’s finest worst — and feel free to make your own suggestions in the comments section of the column when it comes out.  The first installment will be up sometimes on Tuesday.