MIKE LEACH (Cougfan.com/Commons)

Mike Leach: Those guys are idiots

PULLMAN — The concept of momentum has been questioned by some sports journalists and academics for a while now. Bill Barnwell, a top ESPN football writer, once wrote, “it's time to put to rest the ridiculous notion that momentum exists (and matters) in the NFL.” Washington State's Mike Leach has a slightly different take than the naysayers. “Those guys are idiots,” Leach said.

“The ones that say it doesn’t exist are out of their mind. I don’t buy any of that. Of course it exists,” said Mike Leach.

Even the NFL has in the past partnered with the economists of Freakonomics, who also do not believe in the concept.

“Part of it is, I think sometimes they argue definitions," said Leach. "I think sometimes people are in denial that, when you have a team out there, they’re not spark plugs. These guys aren’t just bolts and spark plugs. You've got people that are in different mental states at different times and collectively when all 11 are on the same page and elevated mentally, you get momentum."

Leach is probably onto something here. It often seems coaches and writers are having two separate debates when it comes to the issue.

Some writers might tell you that kicker who has a 90 percent success rate from 40 yards will have a 90 percent chance of connecting on any individual kick — whether he’s made five in a row, missed five in a row or hasn’t attempted a kick in a few games. That may be broadly true, but discounts the possibility of a kicker getting better or worse over time, or simply having trouble repeating the successful action because he’s had a death in the family or his girlfriend left him for his long snapper. To paraphrase Leach, kickers are not coins.

Coaches aren’t saying that a team who gets possession off of an interception is magically more likely to score than a team who fair catches a punt. What they are saying is that a team that just gave up a big lead, for example, will have some players mentally running through mistakes they might have made, instead of focusing on the next play.

“Anybody that’s ever watched a game should know that,” said Leach.

Leach has a simpler explanation.

“Everybody’s got somebody that’s big, fast, and talented that’s playing behind somebody that’s not as big, not as fast, and not as talented," said Leach. "But (the less talented guy is) able to mentally overcome some of the obstacles he has and he’s a better performer.”

Look for more from CF.C's one-on-one, wide-ranging conversation with Mike Leach on Monday.

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