Single page view By Tim Keown
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One of the most ridiculous trends in recent sports history is the workaholic football coach. It might have started with Jon Gruden, or maybe he was just the first guy to make a deal of it, but it's gotten to the point where a college or pro coach is considered a slacker if he isn't sleeping in the office three or four nights a week.

Since everybody's working harder and longer and taking advantage of technological advancements to acquire a better understanding of tendencies, it would stand to reason that coaching has gotten better.

Mie Nolan
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"Hey guys, what should I do here? Any ideas?"

Right? Well, not really. There's no way to quantify coaches, no stats other than wins and losses, but the anecdotal evidence shows a lot of these guys would be better off knocking off after practice occasionally and taking the family out for pizza.

For one thing, there appears to be a movement afoot to take fewer chances. Do you think all those field goals being kicked are removed from any context? According to the increasing number of neocon football coaches, three is always better than nothing, and six is sometimes too scary to contemplate.

Take this example: On Sunday, the 49ers were faced with a fourth-and-1 from the Eagles' 40 with 45 seconds left in the first half and Philly leading 24-3. This isn't even a decision. Ninety percent of the population in Nepal would have made the right call: You have to go for the first down, then take a shot at the end zone or work toward a field goal. You have to try to score, or else you're simply trying not to get blown out. But Niners coach Mike Nolan -- one of the most stern-faced, hard-workingest guys in the biz -- decided to punt.

You work 19 hours a day to make that decision? You spend months attempting to instill confidence in your team and then you make a decision that essentially says, "Our offense can't get a yard and our defense can't defend 60 yards in 30 seconds"?

It's not only Nolan and this one decision. It's Bill Callahan and his keep-the-score-down game plan against USC in a game that was supposed to help Nebraska's recruiting efforts in California. It's the tight-assed refusal of most coaches to take fourth-down chances or be creative at the goal line. It's the rampant inability to use the clock in late-game situations.

You look at some of these decisions and the overanalysis routinely taking place on football fields everywhere, and you come to a startling realization: Maybe it is possible for someone to delude themselves into picking Mario Williams over Reggie Bush.

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Thankfully, there's at least one guy out there who understands that playing a football game doesn't automatically mean everything is solved: Spike Lee, on hand in the booth in New Orleans on Monday night to lend a few moments of perspective to the proceedings.

It's just three games and all, but: Drew Brees seems to be a significant upgrade from Aaron Brooks, kind of like going from subcompact to luxury.

Just for the heck of it: Bruce Bochte.

His decision-making is still fair game, but: From here on out, it's pretty much off-limits to question Chris Simms' toughness.

Continued...


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