By FRANK DAPOLITO
Every new season of sports has its stories. There are good teams, and there are bad teams. The good teams are praised in every aspect, while bad teams are ridiculed. When a team fails, it is hard to find the quintessential reason for why the team did not perform so well. but usually it is the head coach who ends up taking the brunt of the blame for their team.
Every year once the NFL season ends, the yearly tradition of firing the head coaches on the aptly named “Black Friday” happens. After this years Super Bowl, seven head coaches were fired from their jobs. Some of which had long tenures, but all of them failed to get their team to the playoffs, and suffered the consequences from the people who make decisions for the team. But the question remains: should coaches have to take the blame if the team under-performs?
Teams go through transitions every year, and sometimes if they do not perform to expectations, the head coach is cut loose before their changes can begin to take effect.
When asked if he thinks coaches are used as scapegoats for under-performing teams and players, Ramapo track and field head coach Mike Jackson said “I do think so. Quite often, many coaches are given 5 year contracts, but only given a 2 year window to win. It’s nearly impossible to create a new environment in 2 years. If you look at most successful organizations (NY Giants, Pittsburgh Steelers), each coach has been able to make his mistakes, changes, and improvements, which led to Lombardi trophies. We now have this “win now” mentality in media and society. That rarely happens. It then creates a revolving door and athletes are the ones most hurt by this.”
Sometimes, coaches don’t even get the two years that Jackson eluded to. In last years MLB season, newly-hired head coach Bobby Valentine was blamed for the poor performance of the Boston Red Sox. Early on in the season, Valentines fate was pretty much decided that he was not going to return to the Red Sox after they finished 69-93.
Even in his firing though, Valentine felt the pressure was all his, and he took the blame for the Red Sox failure. In an interview with Boston.com, Valentine was quoted saying “A lot of things didn’t go well, but an experienced manager is supposed to put his finger in the dike and keep the water on the other side.”
Coaches do what they can in order to help their team win, but they cannot make them show up for a game. If a player underperforms, the onus is on the player, not the coach. The coach can only do so much to have his players ready for game time.
“A good relationship with your coach is really important. If you play for someone for a long time, you learn their methods. As a player, how can you be expected to learn if the guy teaching you keeps changing?” said Ramapo student and pole-vaulter Brad Hoey.
The ultimate goal of all teams is to finish in first, and claim whatever prize their sport has to offer for doing so. However, professional teams have to compete with 30+ teams every year, all who think they are just as prepared as the next team to win it all. Expectations usually inflate a coach, and sometimes end up costing them their job.
There is a limit to how much a team is willing to take from one coach. If they have been given time to implement their teachings with the team, and there is still nothing to show for it, then even coaches feel like there are changes coming their way.
“I have seen some people replaced because a team under-performed In that case this person was given 4 years with the program and there were absolutely no improvements. One can usually make some level of improvement for the better in 4 years. There were actually less wins, no recruiting done, and no desire to improve. That warrants a pink slip, to me,” said Jackson.