Maybe it won’t be my very last word. Let’s call it my very last word today. I shouldn’t be making such promises…
I have waited patiently for the New York Giants to assemble their (new) coaching staff. I have eschewed — and sometimes I had to put myself into handcuffs to enforce eschewage — interacting with comments, news and the usual blah blah blah about the coaching search.
But now that the top level hirings have been made, I have a few things to say about coaches.
A coach should not be overweight. Gigantic beer bellies are, first, an advertisement for a lack of self-preservative common sense — in translation, if you’re fat, you’re unhealthy. Second, and more important, your avoirdupois is disrespectful of the men you will be coaching. The great majority of your players, let me remind you, are in superlative shape. They have to be.
Two years ago, I noticed that Patrick Graham, then the defensive coordinator for the Giants, was overweight. Last year, he was so slimmed down he looked like a different person.
A coach is foremost a teacher. How do you teach people to play a game you yourself are too fat to play?
This is just me, I know, but I do like my coaches to have good college degrees. It’s my prejudice. When the Giants’ two coordinators were Princeton and Yale, I was privately proud. (Similarly, when I learn that a player is from Stanford, I’m happy. I like smart players, too.)
This probably has nothing to do with how someone coaches football. Which is not, as George Young once reminded me, “rocket science.” But I use it to rebuke people who know nothing much about football and think everyone connected with the game is not intelligent.
I got into a nasty argument (I was the nasty part) with a man I met at someone’s seder. In a condescending and racist way he dissed Colin Kaepernick for kneeling. “I don’t think such demonstrations belong in sports,” he said loftily, which made me want to smack him. “If players want to make their opinions known, they should be doing it off the field.”
He snidely suggested football players had no role in social and political engagement because they weren’t educated enough to inform the rest of us about their political opinions. And, “They’re making so much money, why don’t they donate some of their money to –.”
I tore into him. Even today I’m surprised I did. “You don’t know a fucking thing about these people!” I told him. And a lot more.
A few days ago, I went so far as to check where the Giants’ new head coach went to college and what his major was. He’s good with me. Not Ivy, but next rung, and he majored in economics. Interesting.
Now, if he’d just lose some weight.
I don’t like bully coaches. Don’t like ’em at all.
Don’t bully your players. I’ve got terrific peripheral emotion vision and if you bully anyone, I will see you instantly and my anger will pour down upon your head and soak into your brain. Remember, you yourself do not play the game. I might think you’re a good coach but I’m going to love and be awed by the players, not you.
You are dispensable; your players are not. Treat your players with respect and appreciation. If you mismanage this, you’ll find me down on the field, beating you around the ears until you squeal.
(I would never bully a player. I’d never be that stupid; they’re in far better shape than I am and I would lose. You, on the other hand (see above, re weight), are probably not in as good shape as I am.)
The bully position can be seductive, I know this, especially for the general manager. I’ve seen it in real time. Indeed, if you’re getting your bully moves on, I’d recommend using them against a group which must be bullied to keep them in control, the New York beat press.
The beat press is your very own Janus, a two-faced god. One face is sadistic, the other masochistic. It’s up to you which face stares back at you during press ops.
A bit of sarcastic bullying can do the trick of keeping the beat press mildly cowed while still keeping them in the picture. The picture: you are the coach or GM. You run the team. The beat press does not run the team and you do not want to let them think they do. Sports writers are not, despite how some of them behave, auditioning to be the next GM or next HC.
I could tell you the names of the few sports journalists who are excellent reporters and excellent people. But I won’t. It’s part of a coach’s job to figure that out yourself.
OK, that’s it. I congratulate you all on the courage you have already demonstrated by agreeing to be the highest of high profiles, i.e., managing a football team in the New York metropolitan media marketplace.