NFL coaches should slow down


Broncos head coach John Fox, 58, and Texans head coach Gary Kubiak, 52, both had health scares recently which caused them to be rushed to the hospital.

Fox had a preexisting condition involving a defective aortic valve that he knew would require surgery which he hoped to put off until after the 2013 NFL season. Unfortunately, Fox became light-headed while playing golf in Charlotte on November 2 and had to be rushed to the hospital. Soon after, the heart surgery that he hoped to delay was performed, and now he’ll miss at least several weeks on the Broncos’ sidelines.

Two days later, while leaving the field during halftime of the Texans/Colts game, Kubiak became dizzy and light-headed and had to be taken to a Houston hospital. According to reports, Kubiak underwent a battery of tests and is believed to be fine. However, he hasn’t fully returned to Houston’s sidelines. On Sunday, Kubiak coached the Texans game against Oakland from the press box, and it appears he’ll continue to coach that way for the time-being.

Good for him, and glad he’s doing OK. Same for Fox.

However, that brings me to my main point of this post: Do NFL coaches take their work too seriously? That’s a rhetorical question, of course, because we all know they do. All you have to do is watch an NFL Films feature involving coaches and how they act on the sidelines to know that their jobs are about as important as life, itself, and maybe more important.

Die-hard fans might be extremely passionate about their favorite teams, but for the most part, win or lose, most sane supporters put their enthusiasm and emotions into a little box, along with their official game-day jerseys, until the following Sunday when they again can wear their emotions on the sleeves of those jerseys for three exhilarating hours.

NFL coaches may not wear jerseys, but unlike most fans, they carry their emotions for their teams around with them 24 hours a day, seven days a week. For us, it’s a passion. For coaches, it’s a passion and a job, and most of them are consumed by it.

The reason I know this is because of the countless stories I’ve heard over the years of coaches working 20 hours a day, as they break down film and evaluate players in-order to find that little edge for victory. They sleep on little beds in their offices, and their families rarely see them for six months out of the year.

While it might be commendable to work that hard, is it really necessary? I don’t know who started this phenomenon, but it’s been around for a while, and since the NFL is a copycat league, most head coaches have been subscribing to it for decades.

To his credit, Steelers Hall of Fame head coach Chuck Noll never subscribed to such a theory. By all accounts, he took a “9 to 5” approach to his job. Was it successful? Well, I introduced him in this piece by his Hall of Fame title. Add to that his four Super Bowl rings and his 209 career victories, and that should tell you all you need to know.

My late grandfather would often tell second-hand tales that he heard from a mailman who supposedly delivered to the Noll household at one point, and according to this letter carrier, Noll’s wife said that her husband never talked about football once he arrived home. If that’s true (and it’s hard to tell when it comes to stories originating from fans), it would fit perfectly with the legendary coach’s approach to his job.

I don’t know exactly what coaches like Fox and Kubiak do during the course of a week and how they approach their professions. But if they’re anything like the majority of coaches, they probably burn the midnight oil straight through until the following afternoon.

In the case of Fox, again, his condition was preexisting, and Kubiak’s might have been, as well. However, working as hard as most coaches do and carrying around that kind of stress sure couldn’t help anyone’s health.

A far as I’m concerned, unless a coach wins every game and the Super Bowl every year, why even bother spending so much time trying to find that elusive edge? It’s sort of like a superstitious fan who has the same routine before each game. Unless it works every time, I got news for you, my friend, your routine isn’t bringing you much luck.

If a coach is putting in that kind of time and still finishing 2-14 every year, I’d recommend scheduling more fishing trips with his children.

I don’t know if Noll was much of a fisherman during his career, but he sure valued his down-time, and it didn’t seem to hurt him much in the win/loss column.

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