Was it only a few weeks ago on Christmas Day, as I watched the Giants play football, when I said out loud, “Bobby Johnson has to go. And so does Wink.”
This means nothing to you if you don’t follow football. It probably means nothing to you if you do follow football but not the way I do. If you heap praise or condemnation on football players (or are primarily hooked on their stats because you somehow make them part of Your Fantasy Team which involves betting, I believe) you’ll find what I said irrelevant and/or irritating.
Here’s what matters. When football games are lost because of one play here or there, or one player, you look at the player. But when an entire unit on a football team plays consistently badly, it’s not the players. It’s the position coach.
This is a rule. Actually, it’s a Rule. Here’s how I learned it:
One day a number of years ago I was up at Giants training camp in Albany, in George Young’s office, waiting for him to finish some paper work before we’d go out to lunch. Looking through the window, I saw the Giants’ offensive line coach walking by. Two things I noticed: he was wearing disreputable sneakers and he looked grumpy.
I mentioned him to George and said, “He’s a good coach, isn’t he?”
George sighed and said, “He’s OK but he keeps grumbling about how I have to get him better players and I tell him, ‘You’ve got good players. Now teach ’em.'”
(Up there, ⇑ that symbol is an O-line blocking for a pass, as seen from a sky-cam.)
I got what’s irritatingly known as “push-back” from relations on that “Wink’s gotta go” comment. I think I held my ground. Which is what opposing offensive linemen and QBs have done under Wink’s “exotic blitzes.”
Blitzes look fierce and fun. They excite the oft-cited “fan base.” To me, unless they work consistently, they look facile. Designing a blitz play for your defensive team is comparatively easy. Preparing a defensive team for its upcoming opponent’s running game is top-level coaching.
Most of my in-game agitation is due to running plays. If an offensive line can’t block effectively, an offense can’t run with the ball. And if a defensive line can’t block running plays effectively, a team isn’t going to win the game, never mind all those fun blitzes.
I’ll confess that I first started loving football in 1983 and learned about run-blocking by watching a guy named Lawrence Taylor. So, yes, he created my crazy expectation that 70 percent of running plays should be stopped behind the line of scrimmage. You know, for a loss of 2 yards or 5 yards. Or ten yards.
So maybe I’m somewhat unrealistic, but I’ve been watching my team allowing runs of 5 yards or ten yards or… Why? This is my assumption: the defensive coaches were not bothering to study game film of the upcoming opponent with the defensive players. Or if they were — and the defensive players were picking up clues about what play was about to be run against them — the coaches were not paying attention to their observations and having the players change the call on the field.
And, gee whiz, it seems I once wrote all about the great advantages of film study, citing a couple of favorite players.
And gee whiz, named in that essay was my current pending wish: that the Giants bring Antonio Pierce back to New York as defensive coordinator.
That’s all I have to say. I’m now going away to pray to the only gods I have ever recognized, the football gods.