by Tuesday Morning Tailback
I don’t care how many smug commentators say otherwise, nothing is worse than a coach who doesn’t play to win. And this is especially true in the playoffs. I can still remember the 2003 NFC Divisional Playoffs when both Mike Martz of the Rams and Mike Sherman of the Packers cost their respective teams a trip to the NFC Championship because they played “not to lose”, and lose is exactly what each did. Ironically, Martz’s opposing coach that day was John Fox, then of the Carolina Panthers. But apparently the lesson of his team’s good fortune due to Martz’s mistake was lost on Fox.
Now head coach of the Denver Broncos, Fox had top quarterback Peyton Manning kneel down in the fourth quarter with 31 seconds left and two timeouts in a tie game. The game went into overtime and the Baltimore Ravens eventually won. Questioned about this contraversial decision, Fox said his team was “in shock” following the Ravens improbable 71-yard touchdown pass moments earlier that tied the game, and he felt they needed to “regroup”. Fox added; “I’d do it again ten times in that situation” and team President John Elway backed him up. But in the playoffs, you don’t “regroup”, you win or you lose.
Want proof of this? Just look a mere 20 hours into the future. The Atlanta Falcons had relinquished a 20 point fourth quarter lead and fell behind 28-27 to the Seattle Seahawks with (irony of ironies) 31 seconds remaining. Unlike the Broncos, the Falcons had two things going aginst them – they were trailing and they had no timeouts remaining. There was no option for the Falcons to “re-group”, they had to score or lose and they won. Bottom line is, the Atlanta Falcons are playing next week and the Denver Broncos are not.
The infamous kneel down was not the first ultra-conservative move by Fox in Saturday’s game. He had Manning to the same after the Ravens scored to tie the game right before the half. Worse, he totally abandoned the game plan when Denver had the best chance. Ronnie Hillman got a first down with 2:23 remaining, forcing the Ravens to use their time outs. Another first down would have ended the game. But Fox didn’t even try to get that first down, not even letting Manning put it in the air even on third down when Baltimore had nine men in the box. So, in Fox’s opinion getting that first down to seal the game was not worth the risk of not wasting 45 seconds – terrible call.
Now the Denver Broncos have plenty of time to “re-group”.
Tuesday Morning Tailback is a weekly article during football season which take a critical look at the NFL. We do this from the base belief that NFL football is the greatest game in the history of mankind, but some recent policies and the overall direction of the league has chipped away at this greatness. Our primary goal is to spark debate on these subjects, so please leave your own opinion on this article in the comment box below.