Surrendering two fourth quarter touchdowns had the young team reeling. Their 14 point lead had vanished in the final 10 minutes of the biggest game of their careers.
They did have the ball. But there were only 81 seconds on the clock and at their own 17 yard line. A position on the field where the other team, the defending champions, had a much better chance of scoring than they did.
The second year coach, fired from his last job, turned a 5-11 team into a conference champion. He did it with a backup quarterback, a second year man himself, who replaced a former No. 1 draft choice and the franchise’s cornerstone.
In the announcer’s booth, John Madden said the smart thing would be to run out the clock, regroup the shaken squad, and try to win it in overtime.
They entered the game as two touchdown underdogs. No matter the outcome, it was already a victory for the team and definitely for those who bet on them.
But the young coach knew more about the value of ball possession than his colleagues and had the guts to act on it.
If he lost, it would be the coach’s fault. Certainly not that of his valiant second year quarterback who had performed well beyond his sixth round draft choice pedigree.
No matter the second guessers, the coach called for his team to go for the immediate victory.
Tom Brady led the Patriots to a game winning Adam Vinatieri field goal over the St. Louis Rams and the legend of a quarterback, a coach and team was born.
If victory goes to the bold, it’s little wonder Bill Belichick has dominated the NFL for the past decade.
Forget the blustery tough guy talk that has made the Jets the darlings of Sports Center. I’m talking about the kind of courage that makes you willing to put your job on the line for decisions you make. Decisions that put your team in the best position to win no matter that the responsibility will fall on you and not your players.
Honestly, you would think some of the other coaches would take note.
The Broncos, the city of Denver and probably the whole state of Colorado are still wondering how Broncos head coach John Fox decided to run the ball on 3rd and 7 with a little more than a minute to play when a first down wins the game. Peyton Manning, of course, has the choice to audible but chose not to. Instead, saying he agreed with the call.
Regardless, I blame Fox. He’s the coach. Take the responsibility to make the right call and get the first down to end the game.
Any decision contains risk and reward. With possession of the ball, the risk involved your multi-million dollar first ballot Hall of Fame quarterback executing a simple play. Even a completion that fails to get the first down keeps the clock moving. An incompletion would allow the Ravens another 35 seconds of game time. In all fairness that is an eternity at the end of the game.
A run in that situation would result in failure at about a 90% rate. With the Ravens in possession, the risk is now on your defense. Forget the great year the defense had, they had already surrendered three separate 7 point leads. This was obviously not their day. But since running is the conventional wisdom, the blame for any disaster would fall on the players.
Those are your risks. The reward is a home game for the conference championship. I saw different calculations as to what the percentages were for the Broncos to win, but according to Johnny Detroit at Pregame.com, in-game odds had the line at -5000. In other words it would take a $5,000 bet to win $100.
I would say that’s worth your Hall of Fame quarterback throwing a seven yard pass.
So many coaches are afraid to make the tough decisions. It’s safer to follow the conga line of your predecessors making the traditional shaky but ill-advised choices. For most coaches in the fraternity, winning is great, but losing with someone else to blame is equally beneficial to the bank account.
That’s the coach’s bank account, not the bettors. If you’re worried about cashing a bet, make sure you’re betting on a coach with courage to make the tough call.
John Fox, when you’re in the playoffs next season as a favorite, I’ll be taking the points on the dog.
Chris Andrews has over 30 years of experience as a bookmaker in Nevada. You can follow him on Twitter@AndrewsSports. Chris has a dedicated thread in the Pregame.com forums, answering your questions and more. Contact Chris at [email protected].