Copyright John T. Reed

Coach phrase

John T. Reed comment

Mistakes killed us This is meant to be interpreted, and is interpreted, by listeners to mean player mistakes. Some losses are caused by coach mistakes.
The best team won Sounds magnanimous, but the “team” is the players, not the coaching staff. Some losses are caused by errors or omissions by the coaching staff.
You can’t win if you turn the ball over ___ times Since only players turn the ball over, this places all blame on the players. In fact, coaches also cause turnovers by having players who are prone to fumbles handle the ball, by having players who have not had enough practice repetitions of receiving handoffs receive handoffs in games, by calling a pass play when a player who has a propensity to throw to the wrong team is at quarterback, by coaching the team in general such that it falls behind in games and has to engage in turnover-risky behavior like throwing predictable passes to catch up.
Someone needed to make a play but no one did Since only players can make plays, this places all the blame for the loss on the players. The phrase “make a play” really has no meaning. In the typical game, no one on either team “made a play” in the sense of an extraordinary, great play. Rather, one team out-executed the other play after play throughout the game and/or one team had a better game plan. If a game turned on one play or the lack of one play, the coach should be faulted for coaching in such a way that it was so close.
The other team wanted it more Coaches know better than this. This is pandering to the idiots in the stands who analyze games with such sweeping global statements. In fact, you have to analyze film of a game to see why each individual play failed. In almost every case, it was because one or two members of the failing team did not do the specific job assigned to them for that play against that opponent configuration. That, in turn, could be caused by bad coach decisions with regard to practice time, depth chart, scouting analysis, and so forth.
We got outplayed Magnanimous “we” notwithstanding, only players are allowed to play.

I hope that readers will send me additional such phrases. No doubt, I will also remember additional ones as I read future coach post-game comments or see them on TV.

Occasionally, very secure coaches say after a game that, “We were outcoached.” If they truly believe it and cite specific poor coach decisions they made, I applaud their moral courage and honesty if not their career judgment.

But when a coach just makes a blanket “We were outcoached” statement after a game where there was no real indication of that, it is a dishonest statement along the lines of, “I’m not responsible, but I will say I am to show what a great guy I am.”

Generally, offensive, defensive, or special teams plays fail because one or more players fails to do the job he was told many, many times how to do. Coaches make some mistakes too, but nowhere near as many as players. A blanket “We were outcoached” combined with a refusal to cite specific coaching mistakes made in the game is almost certainly a transparently dishonest attempt to appear magnanimous.

Not every loss is the coach’s fault. Sometimes it’s the admissions office’s fault. High academic schools like Sanford and Swarthmore have been accused of that. One year, a nutty football hater got power in the Occidental admissions office and doomed them to a series of disastrous seasons.

Sometimes it’s the fault of the officials, but it is generally illegal for a coach to say so.

In the NFL, losses are sometimes the fault of the front office. It’s not illegal for a coach to say so, but he would almost certainly lose his job if he spoke such impolitic truth to power.

It has been said that quarterbacks get too much credit for wins and too much blame for losses. Generally true, but it is also true to a lesser extent of coaches. However, since they are willing to accept the credit in almost every case that it is offered, they need to be equally willing to take the blame, at least when they deserve it.

Most losses are due to the cumulative effect of play-by-play failures by individual players. Most often, the failures are failing to try to do what you were supposed to do rather than trying to do what you were supposed to do but failing to get it done. For example, if an offensive running play fails, film study will generally reveal that a blocker blocked the wrong guy thereby leaving the guy he was supposed to block untouched. In the NFL, the failures are more of the player tried to do the right thing but got beat variety. Below the NFL level, it’s more likely a player forgetting his assignment or making a conscious decision to do something else instead.

Since they cannot really lay the blame where it belongs—on individual players, officials, admissions, front office, etc.—coaches probably ought to tell the media that they since they are not permitted by rule or by employment or good coaching practices to place the blame exactly where it belongs, they are not going to comment at all on why they lost. Coaches also often say they will not know until they study the film which is more or less correct.