Special Contribution by Buccaneers Gab Featured Author Chris C.
In life it is most of the time difficult to find one word that perfectly captures any experience. This is not one of those times.
What word is it that perfectly captures what just happened? Hint: it is the title of this dirge, begins with “a,” and ends in “trocious.”
Everything one could have feared would happen, happened. The strategy was non-existent. The execution of the nonexistent strategy was nonexistent. The sense of watching a professional football team play professional football was nonexistent. It was like witnessing a bunch of gentle willows get blown away by a brutal hurricane. There was no vision, no insight, not even a hint that any of our coaches had given so much as a second’s thought to what Sean Payton might try and do to outwit them.
And it wasn’t just the coaching. Our team did not play young, must less youngry, but plain immature, while at the same time moving and tackling and running routes like a cadre of 65 year-olds (give or take). The attitude was venomous, angry, and fissiparous. One could smell the bitterness through the TV screen. One could feel this team falling apart in one’s guts.
I have already made my feelings well known, and at length, on this blog: the rot begins at the top. These players are not being coached properly. I had tried to limit my bomb-throwing to Olson, but it’s clear now that it’s a mistake to scapegoat him alone. I have never wavered in my support for Raheem. Alas, today I am wavering.
What I suspect is going on is deep denial. It was already clear from the Chicago game that our staff did not have a good understanding of what the problem is with this team. They say: “Penalties.” They say: “Run the ball.” They say: “Get Freeman set in the pocket.” Wrong. These are symptoms, and week-to-week we may palliate them or paper them over with miracle victories. But the disease, the root cause of the rot, is the system itself. It is too rigid, but also, somehow, too haphazard. When we need courage, as in the third down today when Olson inexplicably chose to rip his commander off the field in favor of a gimmick, we turn yellow. When we need our best, we huck it to our worst. When we need boldness, we go timid; when we need to be cautious, we go inexplicably bold. Everything is off, no one is comfortable, the utter lostness is literally palpable. Our coaches do not understand that palliatives will not work. I have hesitated in the past to outright assert what I am about to assert, but I hesitate no more: I don’t think they understand that football is a mind game as much as it is a physical one. And this is just the kind of blindness that can walk a team into a field of landmines.
I admit, nonetheless, that I felt sorry for Raheem when I watched him pacing the sidelines today, gnashing his teeth, steam practically blasting from his ears. What our team did on the field was just unacceptable – in a Pop Warner team. I am not going to abandon Raheem yet – he has earned forbearance at least for the rest of this season. I want him to understand that radical changes are mandatory. I want him to see that a coach and his staff must give their players a vision of how the mind game is played against each and every opponent – that a coach must never let his players feel as though they are up a very smelly creek without a paddle. But there is no Plan B; there is barely a Plan A. In place of players aspiring to see the game as a whole, we get slogans and, in the event of failure, contrition for symptoms without any apparent awareness of the deeper sickness.
Make no mistake: It is not that we lost, it is how. We will seek for signs of progress, any progress, in vain. We are the Sisypheans, being crushed by the boulder we keep futilely trying to push up the mountain. The solution is not to keep pushing the same boulder up the same mountain. It is to stop the madness entirely and reconceive our task.
There is a word to capture all of this. We know what it is. Does our team? If so, what are they going to do about it? And if not now, when?