Lost in the ongoing diatribe against Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan’s decision to bench QB Donovan McNabb at the end of a loss to the Lions, is Shanahan’s right as a Head Football Coach to substitute any player at any time.
NFL Head Coaches, NBA Coaches, MLB Managers typically make decisions that are safe and easy for the public to digest. Shanahan was widely criticized for benching McNabb because the alternative was Rex Grossman, an aging ineffective QB clinging to an NFL roster spot. But what if Rex Grossman, instead of turning it over, threw for a TD and helped the Redskins pull off an unlikely upset?
Sure, its easy to say with 20/20 hindsight that Shanahan’s decision proved futile. With the score 31-25 in Detroit’s favor with 1:45 left in the game, Redskins were headed towards a loss. McNabb has not been a great QB by any measure this entire season. Somehow, Shanahan is taking the entire brunt of the decision, while McNabb’s ineffective QB play is a major reason for the Redskins season long miseries.
There are certain traditions in sports that continue year after year, despite any rules regulating its behavior. In the NBA, a player is immediately yanked out by his Coach after picking up his second foul in the 1st quarter. Every NBA fan knows that a player gets yanked if he commits two fouls in the 1st quarter, three fouls in the 2nd, and four fouls in the 3rd. Of course, there’s no rule that dictates a player must be removed in the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd quarters based on the number of fouls at that particular moment in the game. It is just a scenario that plays out in 99% of the basketball games that I’ve seen. In the Hack-Shaq era, it was not uncommon to see a random scrub player pick up four fouls in one quarter. These scrubs were inserted into the game with the sole intention of fouling Shaq because he was utter shit from the line.
Why is it that every single NBA Head Coach adhere to this foul substitution patter year after year, despite any solid evidence that it is really the best way to run a basketball team? Even if there were strong evidence supporting a particular substitution pattern theory, I still would find it really strange that every single game would follow the same pattern on a daily basis without variation.
Another NBA tradition that all Head Coaches like to do is to bring back the exact same opening starting lineup for the start of the 2nd Half. How is it possible that in the thousands of NBA games played in the last thirty years, nearly every single game featured the same Starting Lineup for the 1st Half as in the 2nd Half. Dream Team Head Coach Chuck Daly had a different Starting Lineup for every single Olympics Basketball game in 1992, but it was done out of boredom, I suppose. Because as an NBA Head Coach, Daly pretty much had a set Starting Lineup for the entire season, and played the same Lineups for 1st and 2nd Halves.
I think a big reason that Coaches adhere to such strict though not mandatory guidelines is fear of mockery. Mike Shanahan is being described by many as being dumb or just being Anti-McNabb. I’ve even heard that it was Shanahan’s fault for not teaching McNabb how to play the two minute drill.
We’ve all seen huge upsets happen in sports. Heck, SF Giants Cody Ross was a hero in the postseason and nobody could have ever predicted that. The Seattle Seahawks have dominated at home this season, even though they have mediocre talent. The Bills have been in most of their games this season, but are sitting at 0-7.
If sports was all about making calculated decisions based on the computer, we would have computers coach the players. But the truth of the matter is that no computer could ever accurately predict the outcome of sporting events.
St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony Larussa was widely ridiculed when he placed the pitcher in the 8th spot of the batting order. In the case of baseball, there are many statheads who would argue that the batting order is a bit overrated. Does it really matter that Teixeira bats 3rd and A-Rod protects him by batting 4th? Yeah, sure you want to maximize at bats, but those are seasonal goals. It seems reasonable to design a specific type of lineup against that day’s opposing starting pitcher. Drudging out the same exact lineup game in game out is just too boneheaded for me.
I mean, I think having the same baseball lineup day in, day out, is like having sex the same way over and over again for six months. I mean, sure you’re getting laid, but do you really want to have the same routine with the same significant other every single day? Sure, you’re getting laid, but after a while, it’s just like taking a hot shower. It feels good, but lacks the proper stimulation.