Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Coach Of The Decade

I've been trying real hard to come up with a synopsis of the last decade. Whether it's trying to explain how tragic it is that Radiohead seems to be the defining band of the 00's or how the internet has born an age of amateurs, nothing seems to be really important enough to collect my thoughts. But just as the decade was wrapping, and time seemed to be dwindling, Jim Caldwell came into my life.

The Colts were 14-0. Their last two games were against the Jets and the Bills; two teams prime for a beating. On the line was the title for the greatest football team there ever was, and solidifying Peyton Manning as the greatest quarterback of all time. Immortality was staring them in the eye. And their coach chose personal criticism over shooting the moon. This pisses me off.

Any trend over the last decade can be disputed and construed as personal and irrelevant. Perhaps I just don't understand Radiohead or couldn't feel the importance of Slumdog Millionare. Okay, I concede. But sports has one trend that cannot be disputed: the men that make the decisions are, in fact, affected by the media.

Let's get inside the mind of Jim Caldwell, or more accurately, our minds in Caldwell's position. We have one of two options; either play for 16-0 and football God status, or rest your starters. 16-0 sounds pretty good, right? So what's the upside of sitting Peyton Manning? That would be to save face in case you implode in the playoffs. If you lose, like Bill Belichick lost, after running the table in the regular season, your decision to rest or not rest your starters would be crux of criticism for the entire season and offseason. The debate between rest and momentum would define the year. This is, of course, a completely fake, media-based argument.

And that's alright, because that's what the media does. But a head coach of an NFL team - a 32 person fraternity - shouldn't be affected by this. In fact, he makes a lofty sum of money NOT to be affected by such things. But he obviously was. His own perception overruled his team's success. Why else would you not go for perfection?

When did the want for acceptance override the want for a win? In this decade, that's where. The 2000's is where perception became more important that anything else. Why else would a football man - a competitive man - not want to win?

Sports has become not a projection of excellence, but a mirage of calculated, over-thought analysis of what will work. Jim Caldwell is a prisoner of this new perception. He is not a football coach who made a bad decision. He is the coach of the decade.


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