In the signature song from the Broadway hit, Annie, we are told that ‘the sun will come up tomorrow…and tomorrow is just a day away'. I can't get that song out of my head when, we are told by Romeo Crennel, almost on a weekly basis, that a win (or a loss, he forgets to mention) is only a play away.
It is obvious that Crennel hopes to keep each game close, with the potential of making one play, offensively or defensively, to win the game at the end. I wonder if that is his coaching philosophy, or does he think that his current personnel cannot put games away. If it is the latter, then his approach is understandable. But if that approach continues when he is in charge of better teams over the next few years, then he needs to change.
You didn't see Pittsburgh coach Bill Cowher sit on a halftime lead on Sunday night. At the beginning of the second half, he had Antwan Randel El throw the option pass to Hines Ward, which virtually put the game out of reach. Cowher knows that you can't keep an inferior team in the game, because there is always the chance of a freak play or set of circumstances.
I think it is refreshing that Crennel knows what he's got here in Cleveland, and he knows how far away he is from getting a competitive team. That is why I didn't mind some tough losses earlier in the season to teams that could have been beat. And Phil Savage knows it, too, and anybody who is criticizing both of these men don't really know what they are seeing on Sunday afternoons.
Like many of his players, Crennel is learning on the job, too. He made a mistake near the end of the first half in the loss to the Steelers, and he knows it. There was confusion when there was a change of possession, giving the ball to the Browns at the Steelers 48 yard line as time apparently ran out. Many of the players were on their way to the locker room when the referee put one second back on the clock. The end zone was reachable for a Hail Mary attempt, which also could have resulted in a defensive penalty, but Trent Dilfer was run out of bounds. There is no explainable reason why the Browns didn't use one of their timeouts to get the play set up properly. There was confusion on the field of play, and on the sidelines as well. Crennel admitted it was hit fault, and I will assume that won't happen again. Where were the offensive coaches during the confusion?
In the past two weeks, two veteran coaches, who obviously feel they have job security, went against the ‘book' and successfully came off with wins in regulation time, when most coaches would settle for taking the game into Overtime. Two weeks ago, Dick Vermeil of Kansas City went for a touchdown on the last play, and got it, when an automatic field goal would have tied the game. On Sunday, Jon Gruden of Tampa Bay, got to within a point with a last-minute touchdown, and after a penalty, went for the two-point conversion, when the PAT would have tied the game.
Those two games were among the most exciting games of the year. And I've got the solution to have more finishes like that. Let's get rid of the Overtime period! That way, coaches would have to change their entire approach to the last two minutes of games. If they are down three or seven points, the coaches would have some REAL decisions to make. The two-point conversion was brought into the NFL to add excitement to the game, but Gruden is one of the few coaches who ever used it to win a game. It mainly is used when a team is down by a large amount of points, and the coach's chart tells him to go for it. Most coaches take the safe route, and let the games go into overtime.
Even if you give each team a half-win for a tie game that would be enough of a deterrent to make the coach gamble. First of all, if they were the home team, the fans would understand and forgive if the team went for it all and missed. Secondly, with all of the playoff tie-breakers, team could ill-afford a tie (until possibly the last week or two when going for a tie would be the smart play).
How would you like to see a team tie the game in the last minute, and, because they need the win, try an onside kick. You'd never see that with the overtime in effect now, but you could see it often without a possible extra period. The possibilities for thrilling finishes are endless, and I think the NFL should take a serious look at eliminating the overtime, even though the vast majority of head coaches would be against it.
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