George in Pennsylvania writes:
Steve, will you be doing another look at the coaches for this year’s Super Bowl, as you have in years past?
Yes! It’s not really my beat, but I find NFL coaches kind of interesting. Coaching at that level requires such a wild combination of skills: football strategy, time management, personnel management, and the best characters in the field have produced their own mini-pile of literature that’s worth review.
As noted last year, it’s great to have an LA guy, Andy Reid, in the Super Bowl.
Born in Los Angeles, California, Reid attended John Marshall High School and worked as a vendor at Dodger Stadium as a teenager. He also played youth sports in East Hollywood at Lemon Grove Recreation Center
John Marshall High School has a remarkable collection of alums, from Leo DiCaprio to Judge Lance Ito to Doctor David Ho. This ESPN profile / oral history begins with a nine year old Reid messing around on Holly Knoll Drive in the Franklin Hills of LA, familiar to anyone who frequents the nearby Trader Joe’s.
While attending BYU Reid did something most Americans have at least pondered at some point: converted to Mormonism. His career and life, not untouched by pain, is worth study.
This year, my attention turned to Tampa Bay’s Bruce Arians.
I took a look at Arians’ book, The Quarterback Whisperer.
Two themes really pop in the book: Arians’ “no risk it no biscuit” philosophy, and his belief in empowering his quarterbacks. A former quarterback and quarterbacks coach, he’s thinking from that position.
Arians mentions that he has about 300 plays in his book that he’s developed over about thirty years. (How much of a variation is necessary for a play to be truly distinct from another? Good question for the football Jesuits out there).
The need for the quarterback to maintain his psychological steadiness, even a steady appearance:
You don’t need to look far to find visuals of Tom Brady expressing frustration, but I believe they’re fairly rare.
If I read between the lines of Arians’ book, I suspect Brady will have a great deal of leeway to call the plays and control the game as he sees fit.
Denis Leary’s quote on the cover notwithstanding, I have to say Arians’ book is closer to Nick Saban’s book (a fairly straightforward set of inspirational mottos and somewhat generic success reflections, of not much use beyond football) than to Pete Carroll’s book (an entertaining and idiosyncratic attempt at forging a philosophy of life).
Arians has two women on his staff, assistant defensive line coach Lori Locust and assistant strength and conditioning coach Maral Javadifar, here’s a short NFL Films segment where they talk to Billie Jean King.
Both coaches are noted for their aggressive style, which will we hope make for an exciting and volatile game.
The Chiefs are favored by 3.5, if I were wagering I guess I’d have to bet on Brady, but sports wagering is not currently legal in California.
Lol it’s so typical of me to try and engage with sports by reading the books of the coaches!
Every time I’m in Las Vegas I pass through the sports book and pick up a few racing sheets. I’ve never been able to make much out of them, but the life of the full-time degenerate who’s eating a hot dog and watching the 3rd at Gulfstream or Louisiana Downs is somehow attractive. Why is that? What is it about this that’s appealing? The songs and legends are part of it, for sure. I’ve always found sitting in the stands at Santa Anita an appealing afternoon. Less so since news of the frequent horse deaths.
Santa Anita is running right now, without spectators.
“I love to go back to Paris,” Hemingway said, his eyes still fixed on the road. “Am going in the back door and have no interviews and no publicity and never get a haircut, like in the old days. Want to go to cafés where I know no one but one waiter and his replacement, see all the new pictures and the old ones, go to the bike races and the fights, and see the new riders and fighters. Find good, cheap restaurants where you can keep your own napkin. Walk over all the town and see where we made our mistakes and where we had our few bright ideas. And learn the form and try and pick winners in the blue, smoky afternoons, and then go out the next day to play them at Auteuil and Enghien.”
“Papa is a good handicapper,” Mrs. Hemingway said.
“When I know the form,” he said.
How do you “learn the form”?
I chanced recently across this academic paper, Sports Betting As a New Asset Class, by Lovjit Thukral and Pedro Vergel. It addresses the possible money-making potential of a strategy of “laying the favorite.”
The authors take a simple betting strategy based on Horse races in the UK and invest consistently on laying (betting on the event not to occur) the 4 favourite horses (with the lowest odds) in each race. They find the following:
(1) this type of horse racing strategy provide uncorrelated returns to the market;
(2) the strategy outperforms the Credit Suisse Hedge fund Index and S&P 500 Total returns on average for the last 6 years.
Can this be so? A quick investigation reveals that “laying the favorite” in this way doesn’t seem to be a commonplace option in US horse betting. I don’t think this strategy would be financially viable here.
This talk of laying favorites reminded me of my friend Beth Raymer’s book, Lay The Favorite: A Memoir of Gambling.
The book was made into a 2012 film starring Bruce Willis and Catherine Zeta-Jones.
In the book, Raymer describes learning from the professional gambler and line-setter Dink:
Studying to find value — into it! I resolved to learn how to read a Racing Form, and try to glean some information from it that might give an edge.
Using the very helpful resources provided by the late Neil Benoit’s Getting Out Of The Gate website, which has a Racing 101-401 course, I was able to grasp the basics. This resource at Art of Manliness was also quite helpful, and there’s a Wikihow about racing forms, but it’s Benoit who really gave us a gift.
I’d like to try and summarize my learnings for you, to save you the time in case you’re interested, and because the easiest way to really learn something is to try and teach it.
Let’s take as our example the first horse, Route Six Six, in the 7th race tomorrow (Saturday, June 20) at Santa Anita.
Up top we’ve got some basic info about the horse, like who owns her (f=filly), and her mom (Dam) and dad (Sire).
Personally, and this is based on zero study, but I suspect there’s all together too much focus on breeding in horses. It feels distracting and possibly irrelevant, like when the old-time scouts in Moneyball are focused on how hot a player’s girlfriend is. It just feels old-fashioned and unstatistical. But then again, since I haven’t run any statistical studies, this belief of mine is based on zero evidence as well.
You know what I want to find out from a racing form? One thing. How fast is this horse?
1) elimination of horses that seem unsuited to the distance of the race2) elimination of horses that do not seem in sufficiently sharp condition3) elimination of horses that seem outclassed4) elimination of horses at a serious disadvantage on today’s footing or in light of track biases
Beyer figures are a whole thing
Beyer took a stack of old Daily Racing Forms and did the laborious math by hand, sifting through years of data, applying the analytical skills he had developed as a games-playing child. “‘Six furlongs in 1:13 equals seven furlongs in 1:26 and a fifth’ was my E=MC2,” Beyer says, laughing. By 1972 he had managed to construct a reliable speed chart that incorporated the important element of track variance, a measure of track speed and bias, which was previously calculated by an antiquated–and, in most cases, inaccurate–system. Beyer devised a highly specific, sophisticated method for determining track variances, a method that accounted for the times turned in by different types of horses.
By combining his newly minted speed ratings with his fresh perspective on track speed, the young columnist invented the Beyer Speed Figures.
Interestingly, Beyer come up with his numbers specifically because so much of racing thinking at that time was centered around class:
“The orthodoxy back then said that ‘class’ was the measure of a race,” Beyer says, while making hieroglyphic notations in the margins of his race program. “For instance, if a $10,000 claimer was running against a slower $200,000 claimer, the assumption was that the slower but ‘classier’ horse would win. I was looking for a way to verify–or contradict–that assumption.”
Don’t bet the horse, bet the jockey
Readers, I just idly checked out the 9th race at Belmont today, the Jaipur. Will be televised on NBC. I noticed Hidden Scroll, a very fast horse, had something aberrant in his last race:
What’s that about? Here we see the pleasures and oddness of the Racing Form as compressed storytelling:
Luckily in this glorious age of YouTube what Hidden Scroll did in his last race, this might be the craziest thing in a horse race I’ve ever seen:
Motherfucking horse nearly broke his own neck, lost his jockey, and still almost won! He’ll have the same jockey (JR Velazquez) today! That should be a very interesting race.
I get asked this so much when I’m out.
To be honest, I can’t do it this year. Just haven’t had the free time and enthusiasm to study the biographies, food habits, and philosophies of the two coaches to give a true, honest effort.
I’d say from a quick skim I admire much about both Andy Reid and Kyle Shanahan.
(I like those shoes.)
Reid is from LA:
Born in Los Angeles, California, Reid attended John Marshall High School and worked as a vendor at Dodger Stadium as a teenager.
If I have to make a flash prediction it’s that Reid will put in the superior coaching effort and execute the better strategy, and the Chiefs will win the game as well as beat the current 1.5 Vegas spread.
(I will not be betting on it, I don’t think I have any edge, sports betting isn’t my thing. The only skin I put behind this prediction is my public reputation for sports predicting acumen (which I don’t value much)).
Enjoy the Super Bowl, everyone. Send us a picture of your favorite snack!
Vernon smiles and then, as motivation is one of her key themes, she continues. “Looking back, I didn’t motivate myself in a good way for that race. I motivated myself by imagining the Chinese flag going up the Olympic flagpole. They were our main rivals and that was how I pushed myself. Then I’m standing on the podium in Beijing. The Chinese flag is in the middle and I’m living my nightmare. Since I’ve retired I see things differently – but a part of me will always think: ‘That was your chance, and you blew it.’”
Fascinated by this Guardian piece on Annie Vernon and her book, Mind Games: Determination, Doubt and Lucky Socks: An Insider’s Guide to the Psychology of Elite Athletes. Pumping yourself up by visualizing your worst nightmare does sound kind of depleting.
We had one meeting several months later where we analysed our splits and established that the Chinese had a phenomenal last 500m. Did we ever confront exactly what went on the year before? No. This week was the first time Fran and I spoke in detail about it. I asked Fran: ‘How do you feel about Beijing? How do you explain to yourself what happened?’ My take was that we were so desperate to win we arrived there terrified we might mess up. That tension affected us.”
Vernon is at peace now and able to see a fresh outcome. “In lots of ways Beijing led me to Mind Games because I wanted to do something in elite sport that left me feeling positive. I didn’t want that to be the defining feature of my career or my life. Maybe one day, rather than the woman who stood on the podium in Beijing wishing she was anywhere but there, I’ll be known more as the author of Mind Games.”
Reader Tabitha in Marin County, CA writes:
Always love your writeups on the Super Bowl coaches. What do you think of Boy Wonder Sean McVay?
Thanks for writing Tabitha! Most of what little I have to say about Sean McVay I got out on this week’s Great Debates feat. Mina Kimes. To be honest, much like the Rams themselves, McVay seems to be: good but not interesting. A sense of his vibe in this NFL.com article by Michael Silver:
As he greeted McVay in a room that would soon be vacated by Demoff, Snead and the other Rams officials present, Goff didn’t know what to expect.
“They left us alone for half an hour, maybe a little longer,” Goff recalls. “Afterward, I remember texting my dad, ‘If they decide to hire him, I’m all in.’ ”
Goff also texted an NFL Network analyst who, nearly a year later, would write a very long feature story about the league’s leading Coach of the Year candidate: “Loved him. Mini Gruden haha. Everything revolves around the QB… If McVay is the guy I’d be fired up”
Full disclosure: A few minutes later, I also got a text from McVay (who, incidentally, is not a huge fan of punctuation): “I loved him bro he is awesome”
This WashPo article compares him to other young leaders (profitlessly imo).
McVay’s grandfather John coached the New York Football Giants in the ’70s.
McVay’s girlfriend is Ukrainian model Veronika Khomyn, but a quick scan of her Instagram reveals no real insights into coaching philosophy.
Gonna give the edge here to Belichick, a special, unique weirdo. We predict a decisive Patriots win.
Let’s hope both teams control their A. P. E.s
For philosophical consideration of the Super Bowl, we return once again to the remarks of Deadwood creator David Milch on the Super Bowl and Kierkegaard:
- Work by Ai Weiwei at Marciano Foundation:
- down the docks, San Pedro:
- Good illustration of Satan in the Wikipedia page for him:
from Strange Tales From A Chinese Studio (1740) by Pu Songling
- Looking into the history of the USA and Chile, found this.
make the economy scream
- This is a take I didn’t know I had until I saw it expressed:
of course. these rascals hired her and they knew who she was. it didn’t work for them like it did for Fox so they threw her under the bus, but they’re no more principled than she is.
- moving books around:
- happy fate to be in attendance at the longest World Series game ever played. Beginning:
In 1962, John Madden, then an assistant coach at San Diego State, emptied his savings account to go to a Vince Lombardi coaching clinic in Reno, where he listened to Vince speak on a single play for eight hours.
My source for this: this Intelligent Fanatics article.
Two cool names. From the 1966 album This Is Sparrow.
Much stimulating discussion ensued after Saturday’s post about why Kentucky Derby winners aren’t getting much faster.
Reader Avin D. sends us this 2014 Deadspin piece by Roger Pielke Jr. which has much better stats and looks at whether we’ve neared peak speeds in animal races:
One possibility, advanced by Denny and others, is that thoroughbred race times may have leveled off because the narrow genetic diversity of racehorses limits the genetic diversity in the pool of potential thoroughbred champions. Modern thoroughbreds are descendants of a small number of horses (less than 30 in the 18th century), and 95 percent are thought to trace their ancestry to a single horse, The Darley Arabian. Today, there are fewer than 25,000 thoroughbreds born each year in the United States. Compare that with the more than 7 billion people worldwide.3 The size of the human population may simply lead to a greater number of potential athletes with extreme speed.
Very cool. Imagine if every current human runner was descended from, like, Guto Nyth Bran.
The Darley Arabian sired Flying Childers:
It is said he completed this race, over the Round Course at Newmarket, in 6 minutes, 40 seconds and that he reached a speed of 82 1/2 feet per second or 1 mile per minute. This was claimed to make Flying Childers the only horse on record as having matched the top speed of the unbeaten Eclipse. By way of comparison, this would be nearly 40 seconds faster than the unbeaten Frankel ran the Newmarket Rowley Mile in his famous 2,000 Guineas victory of 2011, over 30 seconds faster than the current mile track record and very close to the five furlong track record set by Lochsong in 1994.
As for Eclipse:
Eclipse is still remembered in the phrase “Eclipse first and the rest nowhere”, snowcloned as “[name of competitor] first and the rest nowhere,” referring to any dominating victory. This phrase is occasionally seen in American print media (most often in newspaper sport sections) but is more common in Britain.
A new one to me. If Flying Childers could keep his alleged top speed of 82.5 feet per second he’d finish the Kentucky Derby in a minute twenty.
Why aren’t horse races longer anymore, the way they were in the Stewball era?
Anyway, congrats to Justify:
is it interesting that the winner’s time on average hasn’t improved that much over 121 runnings at the current length?
The winner of the 1896 Kentucky Derby, the first run at the current length, was Ben Brush. He ran in 2:07.75. Only 4.16 seconds off the most recent winner, Always Dreaming.
Always Dreaming ran in 2:03.59. Crummy conditions, it’s true, but in 2015, on a nice day, American Pharaoh’s still only at 2:03.02.
Four seconds ahead of 1896. Would’ve lost to 1931’s Twenty Grand.
Twenty Grand finished in 2:01.8, which would stay the record until 1941, when Whirlaway shaved off .2, coming in at 2:01.40.
Whirlaway’s 1941 time that would’ve beaten 62 of the 76 winners since then.
Whirlaway and the great Barbaro in 2006, champions from sixty years apart, put in times less than .05 seconds off from each other.
The winning time for the Kentucky Derby has hovered around 2:02 for sixty years.
In 1973 Secretariat broke the two-minute barrier. A special horse. It’s still the record. Monarchos cracked two minutes in 2001.
In the Kentucky Derby, the top ten all time fastest finishers represent six different decades.
Compare to humans:
A world champion human mile runner from 1941 could not hang with any serious Olympic miler of the current era. Champion human mile times have improved by about thirty seconds.
Maybe that’s the wrong comparison. The Kentucky Derby is a sprint and tiny differences are significant.
OK. Say like the 100 meter dash?
Usain Bolt would beat any 100 meter dasher from the 1940s. He’s a special case, the best ever, but even the sixth place finisher at the 2016 finals would’ve been breaking the world record from ten years before. Nobody from the ’80s would’ve come close, let alone anyone from the ’40s.
The world record holder in the 100 meter dash from the 1940s wouldn’t even make the finals at the 2016 Olympics.
You have to go down into the 200s of fastest Olympic times before anyone from before 1990 shows up:
Olympic gold medal times have improved by about 10% on what they were in the early 1900s. That’s in a race that lasts around ten seconds.
The human race that timewise is the closest to the derby, around two minutes, is the 800 meter dash.
Again let’s use the Olympics. Edwin Flack of Australia won in 1896 with a time of 2:11. By the 1930s he would’ve been smoked. By then, Tommy Hampson could run 1:49.7.
By the 1980s Hampson would’ve barely made the finals. By 2016 David Rudisha of Kenya is finishing at 1:42.15, a 29 second improvement over Flack.
Rudisha is very special of course. But even Yiech Biel of the Refugee Olympic Team, last finisher in his early heat, put up a time of 1:54.67, a healthy 17 seconds ahead of Flack.
Maybe that’s the wrong comparison. The Kentucky Derby isn’t a world record, it’s a specific race under changing conditions that can be favorable or unfavorable.
Fair point but aren’t Olympic finals conditions variable?
But the Kentucky Derby’s a one-off, you only run it once (when you are three years old)
That might be interesting but also so what? Shouldn’t that mean even more variance?
More: the Derby-length (1 1/4 mile) world record run by a horse hasn’t broken 1:57. Closest was in 1980.
The world record time for a horse running this distance hasn’t improved in thirty-eight years. Meanwhile human 100 meter dash times progress pretty neatly.
So here’s my question:
Has human running improved more than horse running?
One theory: horse racing reached peak times quickly and stayed there because there’s more money in it.
Are my assumptions wrong? Very open to that, maybe average racehorse times have improved, I don’t know and I’m not sure I’m gonna bother finding out!
Please, weigh in if you have a take.
Here’s my second question:
is this interesting?
Happened to catch the end of the Daytona 500 – super dramatic! That is Austin Dillon’s dad. Dawned on me that a reason men love sports is the emotions are so intense inhibitions break down and they can express love and tenderness for each other. (War too?)
(Talking cis-straight men here, friends and fathers and sons and comrades and teammates, gay male affection a different topic)
There were no ski lifts from Schruns and no funiculars; but there were logging trails and cattle trails that led up different mountain valleys to the high mountain country. You climbed on foot carrying your skis and higher up, where the snow was too deep, you climbed on seal skins that you attached to the bottoms of the skis. At the tops of mountain valleys there were the big Alpine Club huts for summer climbers where you could sleep and leave payment for any wood you used. In some you had to pack up your own wood, or if you were going on a long tour in the high mountains and the glaciers, you hired someone to pack wood and supplies up with you, and established a base. The most famous of these high base huts were the Lindauer-Hütte, the Madlener-Hause and the Wiesbadener-Hütte.
So says Hemingway in A Moveable Feast, “Winters in Schruns”
Skiing was not the way it is now, the spiral fracture had not become common then, and no one could afford a broken leg. There were no ski patrols. Anything you ran down from, you had to climb up to first, and you could run down only as often as you could climb up. That made you have legs that were fit to run down with.
And what did you eat, Hemingway?
We were always hungry and every meal time was a great event. We drank light or dark beer and new wines and wines that were a year old sometimes. The white wines were the best. For other drinks there was wonderful kirsch made in the valley and Enzian Schnapps distilled from mountain gentian. Sometimes for dinner there would be jugged hare with a rich red wine sauce, and sometimes venison with chestnut sauce. We would drink red wine with these even though it was more expensive than white wine, and the very best cost twenty cents a liter. Ordinary red wine was much cheaper and we packed it up in kegs to the Madlener-Haus.
What was the worst thing you remember?
The worst thing I remember of that avalanche winter was one man who was dug out. He had squatted down and made a box with his arms in front of his head, as we had been taught to do, so that there would be air to breathe as the snow rose up over you. It was a huge avalanche and it took a long time to dig everyone out, and this man was the last to be found. He had not been dead long and his neck was worn through so that the tendons and the bones were visible. He had been turning his head from side to side against the pressure of the snow. In this avalanche there must have been some old, packed snow mixed in with the new light snow that had slipped. We could not decide whether he had done it on purpose or if he had been out of his head. But there was no problem because he was refused burial in consecrated ground by the local priest anyway; since there was no proof he was a Catholic.
What else do you remember?
I remember the smell of the pines and the sleeping on the mattresses of beech leaves in the woodcutters’ huts and the skiing through the forest following the tracks of hares and of foxes. In the high mountains above the tree line I remember following the track of a fox until I came in sight of him and watching him stand with his forefoot raised and then go on carefully to sop and then pounce, and the whiteness and the clutter of a ptarmigan bursting out of the snow and flying away and over the ridge.
And, did you, btw, sleep with your wife’s best friend?
The last year in the mountains new people came deep into our lives and nothing was ever the same again. The winter of the avalanches was like a happy and innocent winter in childhood compared to that winter and the murderous summer that was to follow. Hadley and I had become too confident in each other and careless in our confidence and pride. In the mechanics of how this was penetrated I have never tried to apportion the blame, except my own part, and that was clearer all my life. The bulldozing of three people’s hearts to destroy one happiness and build another and the love and the good work and all that came out of it is not part of this book. I wrote it and left it out. It is a complicated, valuable, instructive story. How it all ended, finally, has nothing to do with this either. Any blame in that was mine to take and possess and understand. The only one, Hadley, who had no possible blame, ever, came well out of it finally and married a much finer man that I ever was or could hope to be and is happy and deserves it and that was one good and lasting thing that came out of that year.
Google, show me Schruns:
Our Reader found less charm in Nick Saban’s book:
but did learn what Nick Saban eats for breakfast.
The Super Bowl matchup between Ron Rivera and Gary Kubiak proved one of the least charismatic coaching duels in memory but Our Correspondent found some points of interest in Rivera’s Control Your APE philosophy
King of Coaches is Bill Belichick. We reviewed the best book on him back in 2015.
Last year’s Dan Quinn / Belichick matchup provided a political contrast, noted by Our Correspondent.
This year Belichick faces goofball Doug Pederson, who once had his jaw broken while playing as Brett Favre’s backup:
Pederson never started a game with the Packers and threw for only three touchdowns in his seven seasons. Two of them came against the Vikings on Oct. 5, 1998, when he replaced Favre in a blowout loss. On the second of his two touchdown passes, Pederson suffered a broken jaw thanks to a hit from corner Corey Fuller.
He would need his jaw wired shut after the game, but he still took the field for the next play because he was Longwell’s holder on extra points.
“He kind of mumbled, ‘Something’s wrong with my jaw,’ but he got the hold down, and we made the kick,” Longwell said.
so reports Rob Demovsky at ESPN.
Can’t find too much of interest in the Doug Pederson literature, but I do think it’s cool that ten years ago he was coaching high school:
The former Louisiana Monroe graduate retired in March of 2005 and accepted a job as head football coach at Calvary Baptist Academy in Shreveport, La., which has 900 students in the K-12 school.
“I thoroughly love it,” Pederson said. “I get a chance to share my faith with these guys and teach them things on and off the field.”
Good luck to both coaches!
Reporting on notable Helys. Here’s one:
That’s in the Ahmedabad Mirror.
We could use some good news. Keep going, Hely!
seen on Inside The NFL on Showtime.
MORE ON public lands under Trump to come, but first we have to address a reader email:
Will you continue your tradition of discussing the Super Bowl coaches, in anticipation of Big Game LI?
So writes reader Abigail J. in Wellesley, Mass.
Thanks for writing Abigail! Last year, we profiled the somewhat dim personalities of Ron Rivera and Gary Kubiak.
Rivera’s Panther’s may have controlled their APE but it wasn’t enough.
This year we have a return for Bill Belichick, whom we investigated to the edge of known facts before the epic XLIX game. In that battle he squared off against Pete Carroll, the most compelling coaching figure in the NFL and subject of an in-depth Helytimes profile.
This year comes Dan Quinn.
He won a Super Bowl under Pete Carroll in 2014, and seems more Carroll than Belichick for sure. Here’s an article about him from the AJC by Jeff Schultz. Bumper stickers are a theme:
Quinnisms: Iron sharpens iron. Do right longer. Do what we do. It’s about the ball. It’s about the process (Former coach Mike Smith left that one behind.)
Quinn also has had a dozen T-shirts or hats with punchy thoughts made up during the season, the latest being, “Ready to Ride, Dog.” The week of the first playoff win over Seattle, players wore shirts reading: “Arrive violently.” Those words were referenced by Neal after the game.
Don’t have much more to add. In light of Belichick’s Trump support perhaps this a revealing moment, from Inside the NFL:
We’ll see what happens in Houston.
At the moment, who can fail to find NBA coaches more compelling?:
Bill Belichick’s IT guy. Lucky Coach says he is happy with Dan Famosi.
an inauspicious day for the Crimson.
Reader Kayla in Colorado writes,
Thanks for writing Kayla! As should be noted, I don’t know much about football but I’m interested in coaches and coaching philosophies. So let’s take a look at Super Bowl Fifty: The Coaches.
In this year’s Super Bowl L, we have Ron Rivera of the Carolina Panthers:
against the Broncos’ Gary Kubiak:
Neither of them has written a book, nor have their personal philosophies been as parsed and examined as those of Belichick and Carroll. Still, from what we have available let’s take a look.
Ron Rivera was born on Fort Ord, right here in California, and he went to Seaside High in Monterey.
His dad was a Puerto Rican born Army officer and his mom is Mexican. He’s not the first Hispanic head coach in the Super Bowl, though – that honor goes to Tom Flores of the Raiders:
Every week during team meetings, the 56-year-old Rivera chooses one pivotal play from the previous week’s game and plays the Spanish broadcast version for his players. Most don’t have a clue what the broadcasters are screaming about, but they holler in delight upon hearing the call.
So says this article in Citizen-Times. Everyone seems to agree Rivera is a decent, focused dude.
“On one side I’m getting a strong and deep sense of family, tradition and culture,” he says. “On the other side I’m getting this discipline and pride that you get growing up and living on Army bases.”
He won a Super Bowl himself with the ’85 Bears, a game I myself watched with disappointment during, if I remember right, a snowstorm.
He could’ve been in the famous “Super Bowl Shuffle” video but missed his chance:
Rivera could have been a part of the video, and gone down in music video (and YouTube) history, but he chose to sleep in instead.“Half the team showed up for it,” Rivera said. “Half stayed home and slept because it was a Monday night game. We didn’t get home until 4:30-5 o’clock in the morning.”
Pulling up his weekly presentations to the team, Rivera showed me how every one of them starts with a slide that says “Control Your A.P.E – Attitude, Preparation, Effort.” This emphasis on self-empowerment and responsibility has created a team culture of positive attitude, intense preparation and maximum effort.
On to Denver:
That’s the perspective behind this article, “Gary Kubiak and the Tao Of the Backup Quarterback” by Footbyballs over on SI’s The Cauldron.
As a backup Kubiak was on the sidelines for three Super Bowl losses. (He also won three as an assistant coach for the Broncos and 49ers). Elway as GM/EVP of the Broncos is still Kubiak’s boss.
I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Gary Kubiak is a Broncos’ franchise cornerstone. He played out his quarterback career. He did his job, stayed ready, and waited. Now, it’s his team to lead. The Broncos are doing just fine with the professional backup in charge, uneven seas and all. Maybe he’ll have a third career, as a writer, in which he gathers all his accumulated wisdom into a book of sorts. He could call it “Precepts of the Tao of the Backup Quarterback.”
I would definitely read that.
The more dynamic coach on the Broncos might be defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, himself a former head coach
and the son of NFL coach Bum Phillips:
whose Quotes section on his wiki page is worth a look:
- (20 years after playing Pittsburgh six times in two seasons) “Don’t take long to spend all the time you want in Pittsburgh.”
- (referring to Miami Dolphins coach Don Shula) “He can take his’n and beat your’n and take your’n and beat his’n.” He also said the same line about Bear Bryant.
- (referring to Houston Oilers quarterback Warren Moon) “That boy could throw a football through a car wash and not get it wet.”
- (when asked about Oilers RB Earl Campbell’s inability to finish a one-mile run in training camp) “When it’s first and a mile, I won’t give it to him.”
- (when asked by Bob Costas why he took his wife on all of the Oilers’ road trips) “Because she’s too ugly to kiss goodbye.”
Here’s a little trivia coworker Zack calls to my attention: who did both Ron Rivera and Gary Kubiak replace when they took over their current job?
All things considered, this doesn’t seem like nearly the coaching duel of last year.
I give the psychological edge here to Rivera, and predict based on my patented Coaching Analysis System the Panthers will defeat the Broncos (and cover the six point spread).
As you can see here, my system has me at 1/3 total, but 1/1 on Super Bowls.