Saturday, January 24, 2015

100% Responsibility

Bum Phillips Quote:
Ther' is two kinds of football coaches.
Them that has been fired and them that's gonna be fired.

You are 100% responsible for your life even though you are not in control of your life. If you are going to improve any component of your life, you must take responsibility for your circumstances.

This is a good time of year to explore this concept by examining the life expectancy of a NFL head coach. There are only 32 head coaching jobs in the league. The average salary runs around $5.5 Million—much of that money is guaranteed. The men who achieve this status are the best of the best. They have worked their way up the coaching pyramid from college or even high school to position coach at the professional level. From there they are given responsibility as offensive or defensive coordinators. Finally, after years of 16 hour a day dedication and significant measurable success a few of them become head coaches.

Every year somewhere around five or six of these men will be fired. Their competence is beyond question. Their dedication is beyond question. Yet if their quarterback does not produce or they miss the playoffs two years in a row, they are heading for the trashcan. Head coaches are held 100% responsible for the performance of 53 football players, 15 assistant coaches, and miscellaneous supporting staff.

Often the head coach does not have the final say in draft selections or free agent signings. That is the job of the general manager. If the general manager does a poor job of selecting premium draft picks over several years, he will be fired. But until that happens, the head coach is 100% responsible for their performance on the field. This has been compared to a chef that is given a menu to prepare but is not allowed to select the ingredients for his dishes. It is not fair, but that is the way it is.

It gets worse, a fine young quarterback on his way to the pro-bowl can suffer a career ending injury in a fraction of a second, finishing not only his career but the career of his coach. A star wide receiver arrested in a drug or prostitution sting operation can be suspended until due process runs its course. That could take the better part of year or longer if he is convicted.

Then there is the football itself, an oblate spheroid that bounces in unpredictable directions at the worst imaginable times. There are officials that make horrendous bad calls that give away the game to an opponent.

Still thousands of men work their entire lives for a chance to take one of these jobs. They pour their heart and soul into their work. During the season, many of them sleep in their offices to save commuting time. They study hundreds of hours of films, looking for a weakness in their opponents. They work with every team member, practicing plays over and over until they can be executed with precision no matter what the opponent throws in their way. Usually, they at least attempt to develop a special relationship with the quarterback, the only player on the field who can loose a game all by himself. In well run franchises the general manager cultivates a similar relationship with his head coach.

The game never goes as planned. The ball bounces this way and that way for both teams. Strategy and tactics must be altered in real time as unexpected events unfold on the field. In a single game anything can happen. The best team in the league can loose to an inferior group of players. However, over the course of a sixteen game season the cream has a way of rising to the top. The twelve coaches who reach the playoffs generally have job security for another year except in extraordinary circumstances, such as a heart attack, nervous breakdown, or the machinations of a delusional nitwit owner. Win one or two playoff games a year for several years the job is yours for pretty much as long as you want it. Win a Super Bowl ring? Go the Hall of Fame and retire to a cushy job at ESPN.

Those who are fired generally find new jobs. Most go back to the position (offensive or defensive coordinator) that catapulted them into the head coaching ranks. It is not that unusual for a man fired as a head coach for one team to become the head coach at another team. Bill Belichick earned two Super Bowl rings as defensive coordinator of the New York Giants. He was fired from his first head coaching job with the Cleveland Browns. Then after a brief stint as head coach of the New York Jets, he jumped ship to join the New England patriots. He has earned three more super bowl rings with that team. He is looking to add one more to that total in about eight days.

These men understand the rules; written and unwritten, of the game that is their life. They are smart, hardworking, experts who understand not only the game of football but how to manipulate and control their players and assistant coaches. However on the other side of the field there is another smart hardworking expert commanding 53 of the finest professional athletes and 15 assistant coaches intent on ending your career.

If you really want to accomplish anything of lasting value with your life, is your path any different?

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