Sunday, November 28, 2010

Memo to McCarthy: Apologize for this Loss

In many ways, the Packers' loss this afternoon to the Atlanta Falcons had the makings of a moral victory. The Packers were on the road against an excellent team, gave up 100 yards rushing, failed to force a turnover, failed on a fourth down conversion, fumbled the ball at the goalline, got nothing from their star defensive players, and reverted to their penalty-prone ways, but still had a chance to win the game. This demonstrates that they can, indeed, compete with anyone in the league on any given day. What held them back today? Coaching, specifically McCarthy's boneheaded clock management decisions.

At the end of the first half, Atlanta had a first and goal with roughly 80 seconds left on the clock. The Packers had two timeouts remaining. But as the last minute of the half ticked away, McCarthy chose to use neither of his timeouts, and the Falcons went on to score a touchdown with 8 only seconds left. Why, in God's name, would McCarthy not call timeout in that situation? The Packers had moved the ball in the first half. You know Atlanta is either going to kick a field goal, turn the ball over, or score a touchdown. If you use your timeouts, you give Rodgers and company a minute on the clock and see if they can get somewhere close to field goal range. And Atlanta had all three timeouts left. You know they're not going to run out of clock, even if you stop them on third down. So there was ABSOLUTELY no reason not to use your timeouts. Terrible, terrible mismanagement of the clock. And three points (what Crosby could have gotten at the end of the first half) turned out to be the margin of victory.

Then, at the end of the game. Unless Rodgers is constantly audibling into passes, the Packers' failure to call at least one run play during the goal-to-goal series was inexcusable. Have confidence that you're going to score. Think ahead, milk the clock, and make sure that Atlanta does NOT have enough time to march down and kick a field goal. By not running at least once on those four downs, McCarthy essentially lost the game. He gave Atlanta, with a great quarterback, and an excellent offense, playing at home, in a dome, more than a minute to march down and at least attempt a makeable field goal. Of course, Wilhem (who should be booted off the team for his double-penalty performance today) and the special teams made it easier. But the Packers have done this before in recent years--- they don't pay attention to the clock and end up shooting themselves in the foot, undermining what are often heroic offensive performances.

The NFL is a highly competitive league. Any offense in it has the ability to move the ball forty yards in a minute and kick a field goal. Every week games are decided by who has the ball last with some time to move down the field. And so, so often, McCarthy has ignored this fact. He's been a head coach for over five years now. He needs to learn. If he doesn't, the Packers' terrible record in close games (in his tenure) will only continue.

McCarthy should man up, learn from his mistakes, and apologize to the team for this loss. It's on him.

Monday, November 01, 2010

What makes a good College Head Coach?

The last time the Badgers beat a #1 team, the U-65 crew came home and engraved our boathouse with the date and score. The boat is gone, but the message remains. Badger Football can elate.

That was a long time ago, but it is dear to my heart. Sometimes in life you hear stories so often, or are reminded of an event so often, that it becomes a memory for you even if you were too young to have lucent recollections of the event. I told the old man before the OSU game that I was looking forward to a new engraving to match the old one. (and since the DNR disallows new boathouses, I doubt any future owners of my homestead will be tearing it down any time in the next century, so let the sun shine upon it)

Thanks to the 2010 Badgers, I won't have to recall the 80s to cherish a great Badger victory over #1.

After the greatest televised Badger week ever (ESPNU weeklong special, GameDay, The Van Pelt Declaration), the Badgers then went to Kinnick stadium and gutted out a victory against an able Hawkeye team which fights with long nails and almost never loses at home. Greatest back-to-back victories in quite some time.

So how did we get here? Only weeks ago, I had to hear from alumni complaining about Bret Bielema. Now, I hear Rose Bowl chants. So why the variation? People don't like hearing opposing opinions, so they didn't want to hear about what a coach does. But let's review.

A successful coach at Wisconsin must:

1) Impress boosters (the life blood of major college athletics)
2) Get along with the AD
3) Appease the chancellor (grades, behavior)
4) Manage a staff
5) Manage the media
6) Lead young men
7) Excite recruits
8) 93 other things
101) Always make the right play call

When I hear people wanting to oust Bielema for a bad play call, I consider them to be children. How little they understand of the enterprise of running a college football program.

(This is much different than the NFL where the Head Coach is mostly responsible for play-calling and game management, with all other duties delegated. So feel free to continue to hate McCarthy for being a moron.)

Since the day that I met Beets, I have been impressed. Boosters like being around him. He's engaging. When he speaks at a podium, you want the speech to run long. He listens to Barry. He's excitable. He gets it. When you chat him up about football, you feel as though he is recruiting you, and you want to sign. He addresses weaknesses. He sees the big picture.

Granted, I may be the biggest Wisconsin football homer on the planet, but I am not playing around when I talk about our coaching and our administration. Our HC is getting the right kids. We are recruiting the hell out of south Florida. We have kept a fence around Wisconsin and have annexed Minnesota. Watch how our players respond to him on the field.

The back-to-back nationally televised big wins are great for Wisconsin, great for fans, and great for recruiting. However, they are not a surprise in Section U. We have a solid foundation, and we will continue to build.

On Wisconsin!