Oftentimes, it seems as if football coaches think they’re commanding a military platoon instead of calling plays into their headsets. This especially appears to be the case this week, with stories trickling out about several high-profile coaches who puff out their chests a bit too high.
Wednesday, former NFL wide receiver and special-teams player P.K. Sam tweeted his then-coach, Nick Saban, released him from the Miami Dolphins 10 years ago for visiting his dying father. “Thank you nick saban,” it reads. “10 yrs ago today you cut me from the @MiamiDolphins bc I flew home to hug my dad before he died. CLASSY!”
The story isn’t surprising. In 2006, Saban was limping through his second year in Miami and wound up finishing with the first losing record of his career. Since Saban barely even cracks a smile after a big win, he must’ve been particularly surly during the slog of a 6-10 campaign. He wound up taking a job at the University of Alabama just days after the season ended, bringing four national championships to Tuscaloosa.
In the world of football, players are routinely expected to put their team ahead of everything else in their life. Brett Favre, for example, was celebrated for playing in a Monday Night Football game just one day after his father had passed away. To most folks, that sounds deranged. But in NFL circles, it was largely viewed as a testament to his manhood.
Family almost always takes a backseat to the X’s and O’s. MassLive’s Kevin Duffy wrote a fascinating feature story recently about Bill Belichick’s grueling job interview process, which includes laborious tasks such as diagramming plays from game film or charting where a quarterback looks on each play before he takes the snap. One of the more telling anecdotes in the piece was about defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, who was hired as a coaching assistant in 2004. But he almost didn’t get the job, because he said wanted to talk to his wife before accepting the offer:
“As reported by Tim Rohan of The MMQB, there was initial hesitation on Patricia’s part. Had to consult his wife. The Patriots didn’t like hesitation. They pulled the offer, according to Rohan, and only put it back on the table after a friend of Patricia’s, former Patriots director of operations Nick Carparelli, convinced Belichick that Patricia badly wanted the job.”
If you’re the kind of guy who has to confer with his wife before making a life-changing decision, then the Patriots aren’t interested in you. That’s a sign of weakness.
It may seem like that’s taking things a bit too far, but this is war, remember? At least, that’s what Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh appears to think. He shot down rumors this week about becoming head coach of the Los Angeles Rams, chalking them up to the work of his “enemies.” That’s right, enemies. Colonel Harbaugh may be suffering from some post-traumetic stress.
Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer isn’t as bombastic as Harbaugh, but it’s clear he also takes a warlike-mentality to the sidelines. That’s the only plausible explanation for his decision to coach just days after undergoing emergency eye surgery. Zimmer missed the Vikings’ game two weeks ago against the Dallas Cowboys –– putting Mike “Nuke the Gays” Priefer in charge –– and wouldn’t dare miss another. That’s what happens when you spend more than 30 years of your life grinding as an assistant coach: you’re always looking over your shoulder.
Nothing about this behavior is healthy, but football breeds paranoia and phony machismo. The men in charge seem intent on continuing to glamorize this sick culture instead of extinguishing it.