There is more that goes into being a head coach of an NFL team than I can possibly imagine. But then, no one’s paying me several million (feel free to though!) to learn all the things it takes and be good at them. Not only do you have to manage the side of the ball that you have been as a coordinator, usually, but you’re also somewhat the CEO of the other side of the ball, as well. Maybe you don’t gameplan every detail for that side, but you at least have to OK what the guy you hired comes up with. And you have to hire all the other guys, too. You have to be able to connect with most of your players on some level, while also figuring out how their employment history fits into your vision of the team, if it does at all, and keep that from them. There’s dealing with your boss, the media commitments, the promotional commitments, as well as problem-solving on what I’m guessing is a daily basis.
Still, every person who becomes an NFL head coach has been thinking of becoming a coach for a long time before they do for the first time, we all hope (except for Mike McCarthy, who keeps getting jobs anyway). As knifing as the NFL is on every plane, we know that every coordinator is always thinking about what he’d do differently than his head coach boss or what he’d crib for his own use down the line. They must always be thinking about it. It’s probably bordering on an obsession, if not completely spilling over into one.
And then you get hired, usually right after the season. You get a full four months to plan your first minicamp, nearly six to map out training camp, and then nearly eight before your first regular-season game, which is obviously the important one. All that time to consider all the variables, problems, and equations that could possibly come up in a game.
If you’re Nathaniel Hackett, who was hired as Broncos coach on Jan. 27, he took that eight months and failed to learn how a clock works.
The Broncos were an absolute mess on Monday night in Seattle, with communication problems, delay-of-game penalties, every other type of penalty with discipline that bordered on kindergarten-like, and then some clock management at the end of the game that made anyone question whether the construct of time is really useful to humanity.
Yes, Lumen Field in Seattle is quite loud. This isn’t some government secret. Funny thing, Hackett’s quarterback played in Seattle for some time. Perhaps he might have mentioned. Unless of course, Russell Wilson is so far up his own ass he thought the Seahawks faithful would be reserved when he was on the field out of respect for what he’d done there (he just might be!).
Clock management is what coaches perhaps are put under the most scrutiny for. Maybe it’s because so many can actually see how they’d do it on Madden. The regular fan doesn’t get to try and mesh egos of millionaires in a locker room or design a game plan, but you do get to run a two-minute drill. Or maybe it’s because games — what all that work is pointed toward — come down so often to the last drives of games. Fuck these up, and all that work you have put in, or were supposed to, is for shit. You’d think coaches would know that, and work on it themselves. And yet so many treat a two-minute drill like they were asked to barehand a cooking dish that’s been in the oven for two hours.
After running a totally stuffed screen on 1st down with 1:13 left and trailing 17-16, Hackett and the Broncos got a gift in that the Seahawks had two injured players and had to take their own timeout. This kept the Broncos with all of their timeouts. Denver got a free break to figure out the last minute! An incomplete pass came on 2nd, leaving 3rd-and-14 with 1:11 on the clock. It’s pretty simple. You’ve got two plays to get 14 yards, the whole playbook is open thanks to your timeouts, and you got a guy like Wilson because you trust him to come up with a 4th-and-6 or so if you need it.
So the Broncos get a checkdown gain of nine yards to set up 4th-and-4. Pretty simple here, too. Take your first timeout, figure out exactly what you want to run, and take your second timeout if you convert. This is 101, if not the remedial class. This is filling out your name on the SAT of a two-minute drill.
Instead, the Broncos rush to the line, no timeout, and then…just stand there. It’s like they were blocking a scene in a high school play. Except everyone was the hedge. They let the clock run to 20 seconds… from just around a minute when the last play ended. And then they call a timeout.
To settle for a 64-yard field goal.
This is like standing on 12 at the blackjack table. You’ll never believe that they missed it. They watched the clock run down, wondering why the numbers kept changing, so they could have Billy Hoyle attempt a hook shot from half court. Nathaniel Hackett waited eight months… for that. All the scenarios that played in his head for months and months and this is what he came up with. If you’re not a Broncos fan, it’s actually brilliant art, a complex statement on the passage of time and whether timeouts are just a delusion for us to feel like we aren’t always creeping closer to death
All that time to step on a rake. Waited eight months to step on said rake. Maybe organizations should take pause before tripping over themselves to hire the latest dope who couldn’t win more than a playoff game with Aaron Rodgers at home. Just a thought. What do they do with all that time anyway?
If you’re looking for the definition of screaming into the void, let me present Mike Trout homering in his seventh straight game, and you probably not knowing he had done so until right now:
The best player of his generation doing yet another thing that only the truly historic ones can do, and it matters not. It’s yet another footnote thrown into the abyss of Anaheim, only to disappear next to Bing Bong on a heap of other forgotten footnotes. Trout has been so good that his career as a whole will be able to stick out over the emptiness of the Angels, but the little things that built it won’t. What do they do with all that time anyway?