Tuesday, January 25, 2011


I heard a comment on television that New York Jets coaches were claiming there was a headset failure when the Jets were down at Pittsburgh’s two-yard line that created difficulty in getting the right plays onto the field late in their loss in the AFC championship game.
Maybe I heard wrong, because I couldn’t find anything on that in a search of New York media websites, though western movie star Rex Ryan, oops, I mean Jets coach Rex Ryan, was saying maybe different plays should have been called -- like runs on second and third down instead of passes.
If you weren’t watching the game, you should know that the Jets had a first-and-goal at the two-yard line trailing 24-10 and couldn’t punch it in for a momentum-building touchdown. They did get a safety and a touchdown later, but when they couldn’t stop the Steelers on their final possession, time ran out and the Jets lost 24-19.
This brought to my mind a thought that I have held for a long time now.
I would like to see quarterbacks go back to calling their own plays.
I know. I know. It’s never going to happen, not in the NFL, not in any level of pro football, certainly not in college, not in high school, and likely not in peewee leagues. (An aside here: when I was a quarterback in the eighth grade, I called my own plays for my YMCA team. Not that that was novel. So did every other quarterback in the league.)
Here is what I would do if I were King of Football.
I would get all of the coaches out of the press box (thank goodness it’s still called a “press” box and not a “media” box) and down on the field. I would allow filming (taping, recording, whatever) of the game, of course, for analysis later, but no still shots of formations to be sent down to the sidelines for players to dissect what is going on. They’re on the field. They should know.
Then I would put in a rule banning the calling of specific plays from the sidelines. (I use that word “specific” for a reason, which I will explain below.)
Yes, that would be difficult to enforce, but here is how I would approach it. I would allow substitutions only every three plays (unless there was an injury or change of possession). This would prevent a receiver from bringing in a play to the huddle, but would provide an opportunity to get the punter on the field on fourth down.
It also would allow a coach to provide some direction for the quarterback by getting in the advice like “This might be a good time for a reverse” and “Let’s run out the clock” or “Quit fumbling the damn ball.” The responsibility for the specific play would rest with the quarterback.
Hey. We here all this stuff about how a quarterback is supposed to be a leader. Calling his own plays would reinforce that notion.
About the only thing a quarterback is allowed to do today is check off to another play if he sees the defense is stacked against what has been called from the sidelines. Or some coaches will send in two plays and let the quarterback choose one. Peyton Manning no doubt has more flexibility, but he’s an exception.
I want all quarterbacks to call their own plays.
Like I said, it’s not going to happen, especially on the college and pro levels because too much (money) is at stake for coaches, and they don’t want some bonehead call to get them fired.
But I think it would be fun for fans.
This brings to mind a couple of stories I heard from years ago, so long ago that details like names and games have escaped me.
One is that once when sending in plays from the sidelines was banned, the referee stepped off a 10-yard penalty when he detected a coach doing just that.
“Hey,” the coach yelled to the ref, “you’re so dumb you don’t know that’s supposed to be a 15-yard penalty.”
“For the kind of coaching you’re doing,” the ref replied, “it’s only 10 yards.”
Story No. 2:
A coach known for his conservative game plan sent in these instructions when his team took over the ball at its 20-yard line on its first series: “Run it three times and punt,” the coach told the quarterback.
After three running plays took the ball to the opponent’s 10-yard-line, the quarterback did exactly what he had been told. He dropped back and punted the ball out of the end of the stadium.
Ah, the good ole days.

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