Preventing Competence

Quick reminder: If you’ve got mailbag questions for tomorrow, send ’em in, or post in the comments below (please identify them as such).

Much like Reagan and the Democratic Party, I didn’t leave American football, American football left me. I’ve always enjoyed the game, but — read this next part in the most sneering hipster tone you can — I stopped watching it before that was cool. It wasn’t the politics; it was the fact that they weren’t really trying to win the game.

Let me clarify: I don’t mean there were coaches or players deliberately throwing games. Nor do I mean that there were lots of coaches and players who were indifferent to success — it takes a certain personality to be into sports enough to make a career of it, and that personality type doesn’t really grok the concept of indifference. What I’m talking about is a kind of systemic indifference, an emergent property of a game becoming a business.

Let me illustrate: Pro football is sold as ruthlessly Darwinian. Miss a single field goal in a clutch situation, buddy, and you’re gone. It’s also ruthlessly specialized: Unlike, say, baseball, where a truly superior glove man can hang around despite his deficiencies at the plate, or vice versa, in football there are no “students of the game” or “veteran locker room presences” or any of those other euphemisms they use to describe guys who aren’t really particularly good at any one thing, but stay on the roster for organizational reasons. It doesn’t matter how great a blocker a running back is, or how well a wide receiver understands the route tree: If he loses a step, he’s gone, because all other aspects of his job pale in comparison to his ability to find, and exploit, that tiny hole.

That’s the story, anyway, but it’s not true. In fact, something like the reverse is true, and everyone knows it. Pick a kicker, google up his resume, and 99 times out of 100 you’ll find that he’s kicked for pretty much every team in the league at some point. Which is just bizarre. There are 32 NFL teams, which means there are 32 kickers in the whole league (nobody wastes a roster slot on a backup kicker). Ruthlessly Darwinian, right? Except… it’s the same 32 guys, season after season. You’re telling me that somehow, in this glorious rainbow of diversity that is the former USA, there are no more than 32 guys who can kick a football?

What about all those guys in college? Hell, why not grab Pepe the Soccer Boy from the nearest favela? As so many of us very, very badthinkers enjoyed pointing out during the Sarah Fuller thing — remember her? seems like a lifetime ago — there are not only a zillion college and high school football players out there, there are zillions more high school and college soccer players out there. Granted there’d be some retraining involved, but you’ve got a huge talent pool of people with a demonstrated ability to kick a leather-covered sphere really, really far. It’s not a particularly rare ability in itself. So why is it the same 32 guys, season after season? Hell, look at Scott Norwood, infamously the least clutch kicker ever to suit up for a pro team. Here’s wiki:

Norwood’s field goal range was unusually short for a professional kicker and he had difficulties in converting field goals over 40 yards throughout his career, especially on natural grass…

Although the Bills signed Björn Nittmo as Norwood’s potential replacement in the 1991 offseason, Norwood remained with the Bills through that season…

Norwood was waived in the first roster move of the off-season after the Bills signed Steve Christie, formerly of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

You don’t need to know much of anything about American football to conclude, just from those brief snippets, that Scott Norwood kinda sucked… and yet, he played seven seasons in the NFL, and two more in the short-lived USFL before that. And when he finally was replaced, it was by another long-service nobody (Steve Christie played 15 NFL seasons, with a lifetime field goal conversion rate of 77%… which is 68th overall. He was an all star exactly once).

The explanation, I think, is simple: Big time football — the NFL and the big college teams — is a really small world. Really, really small. Since we like Bill Belichick around here, let’s stick with him. In one of my tours of duty at Flyover State, I got to know a functionary in the football program fairly well. Not one of the guys on the sidelines, but integral to the product. Anyway, this guy, of whom none of y’all would ever have heard, was completely wired in. Flyover State wasn’t small-time, exactly, but they weren’t Power 5 either; the best they usually did was making one of those week-before-Christmas games you see on ESPN2. And yet, this guy knew everybody in the biz, at every level. I don’t think he personally had Bill Belichick’s home number stored in his phone, but he knew a whole bunch of guys who did, and — this is the point — had he ever been in a position to get hired by the Patriots, my buddy knew a dozen guys who could call Bill at home to vouch for him.

And Belichick is the most ruthlessly Darwinian of all the pro coaches. He’s prepared to let anyone walk, if he thinks there’s someone better available. Sometimes he blows it — Tom Brady apparently did ok down in Tampa Bay last season — but as we’ve said, he’s no more shrewd a judge of football talent than the next guy. He’s just more willing to follow through on his judgments, for good or ill. I haven’t run the numbers, obviously, but I’d be willing to be some pretty long money that some significant percentage of first-time coaches, trainers, etc. came up through the Patriots’ system. Everybody else is content to hire the same goofs over and over and over again, though they have mile-long resumes of the most relentless mediocrity.

Sticking with Bill for a sec — and the point’s coming, I promise — he’s also one of the few guys who is willing to look outside the pipeline. You can get a sense of how long it has been since I’ve followed the NFL by the age of this anecdote: Once there was a player named Danny Woodhead. Danny owes his entire 10-year NFL career to Bill. Woodhead, a running back, had three seemingly insurmountable problems breaking into the pros: One, he’s White. I think there’s a White RB now, but back then, the last time a White guy had started at RB was probably the early 1970s. Two, he’s small — listed at 5’8″, 204, which in football-ese probably means 5’5″, 170. Third, he played for a tiny college way out in the boonies in corn country (Chadron State). Thus, despite holding, or being near the top of, a scad of NCAA records, he barely got any interest from pro teams.

Now, if football really were the Hobbesian free-for-all it’s reputed to be, you’d think a guy like Woodhead would generate a lot of interest. Ok, he didn’t go to a big school, and he’s definitely not the biggest guy, and you can argue (probably correctly) that smaller schools mean a lower level of competition, but still — obviously the guy knows a thing or two about running with a football. Even if he can’t hold up an entire pro game in pass protection or whatever, that’s a secondary part of the job. The main part of the job, the one that guys get paid millions of dollars a year to do, is: run successfully with the football. Woodhead appears to be good at it. Surely you could do something with that guy?

And yet, only Bill did. Please note that I’m not in any way suggesting that Bill is some great evaluator of talent, who knows some secret that the rest of the league doesn’t. As I’ve written several times, he’s no better (or worse) than average. It’s just that he’s willing to give a guy with a miles-long track record of success at one level a shot to do it at the next level. It’s really that simple. Much like the “Moneyball” guys in baseball, who were willing to acknowledge and follow through on what everyone knows — that a walk is as good as a hit, because it doesn’t matter how you get on base, only that you get on base — Bill used the mind-blowingly novel approach of letting proven players play.*

That’s why he wins. That’s pretty much it. And yet, nobody else does it.

In effect, football — both pro and bigtime college — are just jobs programs for the old boys’ club. Rookie players from small schools, and undrafted free agents, get cut in training camp all the time, but guys from big schools that got drafted have to work pretty hard to get cut, and it’s insanely hard for coaches, to say nothing of executives, to actually get fired. Instead of everyone pulling out all the stops to win, winning is hardly ever a consideration. It’s far, far more important to be a “team player,” which in effect means: Making sure all the boys keep their jobs, or at least equivalent jobs — if a guy is so obviously out of his depth as a head coach, say, no problem! just make him a defensive coordinator, or an offensive line coach, or the special teams coordinator, or something, anything. Here, have a look.

Note that I deliberately picked a White guy who broke into the pros under Bill Belichick. A 54-52 record in the pros, and 15-9 in college. And having run the NFL’s Houston Texans into the ground — the guy has a well deserved rep as one of the all-time shitty general managers, which is really saying something — he got a college coaching gig at Alabama, perhaps the premier program in college football. There’s seemingly nothing this man can do to get run out of the game. See what I mean?

The point of all this (I promised one was coming) is that despite it all — and none of this is a secret, everyone knows how bad most coaches are — football still has this rep as red in tooth and claw. Even professional sportswriters used to joke about “NFL” standing for “No Fun League,” and not just because the commissioner at one point tried to crack down on ethnic antics like ten-minute end zone dances and whatnot. The game was just boring, and getting worse, because it was the same guys doing the same things, over and over, even when they made no sense. As we noted before, part of it was that the coaches are operating on a different incentive structure. It makes no sense to blitz Tom Brady if you actually want to win the game, but if you want to avoid the worst criticism for losing, it makes perfect sense….

…but another part of it, probably the much larger part, was that even playing the game wasn’t really the point. The games — the spectacle, the stuff those stupid fans thought was the point — were just hoops the organization had to jump through, in order to keep everyone’s best bud employed. If So-and-So actually happened to be any good at coaching, it was a feature, not a bug. The point is simply that he IS a coach (placekicker, whatever), and thus must remain so, and all his buddies at every level of the system will make sure that he does.

Naturally, those types of decisions start to snowball. Pretty soon you see entire franchises — the Cincinnati Bengals, the Cleveland Browns, probably most famously the Cowboys — who seemingly orient their entire corporate culture around covering up for the fact that the senior people suck at their jobs. The senior people hire junior people that also suck, not necessarily because the senior people are bad at talent evaluation — though of course they are — but because they’re not hiring “talent” in the first place. They’re hiring their kids, their buddies, their buddies’ kids, their father’s brother’s nephew’s cousin’s former roommate.

Such “competence” as the organization develops, then, is only accidentally about winning football games. Mostly it’s “competence” at covering up how incompetent everyone is, and, most importantly, why everyone is so incompetent. The more the culture shifts that way, the further and faster it has to shift that way….

….and still the myth persists, unless something comes along to bust it up. It was only when the NFL started getting explicitly political that people started noticing, and then the COVID thing happened, as my students would’ve written back in the days, and all of a sudden, people are starting to notice. Even though the on-field product is exactly the same, those “No Fun League” jokes now have a real resonance, since it’s becoming more and more obvious that the games are rigged. Not pro wrestling-style rigged — though I’d put good money that’s coming — but rigged in the sense that nobody involved much cares who wins, so long as everyone gets paid. It’s literally just a show put on for the cameras.

Obviously cici n’est pas une essai about football.



*I could be wrong about this, and again there’s no way in hell I’m running the numbers, but I’m willing to bet that Bill is alone among NFL coaches in never having been fooled by a “workout warrior.” For non-American readers, that’s a guy who has mind-boggling physical stats, but no real accomplishment to back them up. The NFL draft is an entire subject in itself, and in its own right a pretty good illustration of what I’m talking about, but briefly: Athletes are judged at the draft in three main categories — the bench press (number of reps at 225 lbs.), the 40-yard dash, and the vertical leap. Every year, there’s some dude who blows everyone away at the draft combine, gets drafted in the high rounds, and flames out. This is because there’s never a game situation in which you can run 40 yards in a straight line starting from a track stance, or are required to push 225lbs off your chest in a straight line, or can jump straight up in the air without getting plastered. Those exercises are, at best, very loose approximations of raw athletic ability, which in itself means next to nothing.

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28 thoughts on “Preventing Competence

  1. AvatarAnonymous White Male

    “Not pro wrestling-style rigged — though I’d put good money that’s coming — but rigged in the sense that nobody involved much cares who wins, so long as everyone gets paid.”

    I’m not sure that it, and all pro and college sports, have NOT been rigged. When you consider how many billions, billions with a “B”, of dollars are exchanged in both the legal and illegal gambling segments every week, I think its safe to say that some games have been thrown. When you consider how the real rulers have turned the stock markets, futures markets, every market, into a sure thing…..for them, you realize how easy it would be to bribe a ref, a QB, a wide receiver, no, make that the owners, to make sure the billions go to the right people. And given the mercenary nature of pro sportsballers, it would just be another day at the office. The plebs’ quaint belief in the purity of the game is just a mantra they use to ignore the fact that spectator sports are a colossal waste of time. The real reason people watch is not because they love the game, but because they get the “thrill of victory and the agony of defeat” by identifying with one team or the other. Dopamine and epinephrine rushes to fend off the fact that the fans have no life. I take that back. Their life is watching a bunch of joggers jump and run and pray “their team” wins.

    1. AvatarCodex

      Perhaps. Human beings being human beings odds favor that describing somebodies.

      Have you played a sport? And then gone with friends to watch the pros play?

      There’s a phenomenon with the younguns where they build in Minecraft, play FTL, or FNAF and then enjoy watching the youtubers play the games.

      Tere is more going on with this.

  2. AvatarAltitude Zero

    The classic governmental example of this phenomenon was Robert MacNamara. He screwed up Ford, then he screwed up the Defense Department, then he screwed up the Vietnam war, then he screwed up the World Bank. and then he had the temerity to write a memoir detailing what a screwup everyone else was. The guy was amazing, a force of nature, and he kept failing upward, because he had such a good line of BS, and he was able to make himself look like a winner, even though he lost at everything he ever did. If I find that he was actually secretly giving advice to the Soviet Government in the late eighties, it would explain a lot…

    1. AvatarSeverian

      Lois Lerner, baby! And Jamie Gorelick. Note that the competence level somehow gets even lower as the estrogen level rises….

      Speaking of Robbie Mac, though, his Mini-Me, former Trump Admin pogue H.R. McMaster, is a perfect illustration of the phenomenon. I’m quite serious when I recommend McMaster’s Dereliction of Duty, it’s the best postmortem on the idiocy of the Kennedy / LBJ/ McNamara Indochinese adventure I’ve ever seen. So H.R. McMaster literally wrote the book on how stupid it is to use air strikes and body counts and whatnot as a way to “send a message” to an ideologically committed enemy…

      …and then, when his turn comes in the big chair, he immediately becomes McNamara’s Mini-Me and does all the same stupid shit, blue movie style (harder! faster!). It’s incredible.

      1. AvatarEric

        Since the US is unwilling to embrace Roman-style strategy/tactics (“kill them all; let God sort them out”), it’s unclear what sort of metric one <i?could use in such a situation.

        1. SeverianSeverian Post author

          True, but since he was the guy who was actually in command, McMaster had a chance to do exactly what he said McNamara should’ve done: Manned up, admitted defeat, and pulled out.

          McNamara, an Air Force supply pogue in WW2 whose only “executive” experience was in the car biz, thought he knew how to run the war better than the Army did. The Army, meanwhile, ran their own series of wargames based on Little Mac’s parameters, to test them out. McNamara thought a precisely graduated series of airstrikes would bring Ho Chi Minh to the peace table. The Army, meanwhile, finished the SIGMA II wargames with 500,000 troops in-theater and were gearing up for a full-scale, possibly nuclear-backed, invasion of North Vietnam.

          1. AvatarAltitude Zero

            The maddening thing was that, even with dim bulbs like Mc Namara at the helm, the US basically “won” the war (insofar as anything resembling victory was available), only to have the victory thrown away. And it wasn’t a one-off, either – the exact same thing happened to the French in Algeria. Amazing.

          2. AvatarRogertheshrubber

            The problem with winning the Vietnam war, or for that matter, the Afghan war, is that if you win, you get Vietnam or Afghanistan. You don’t even have to admit defeat. Just peremptorily note that neither country is worth anything, blow up a few things from a distance and call it a day

      2. AvatarPickle Rick

        That’s because the instrument both Mac and Mc tried to play isn’t designed to play that tune. Air strikes have been the American way of war since 1943- but that method worked only against two nation state opponents in a mass, industrial war 76 years ago. And it was used in conjunction with a mass land army to occupy enemy territory- something that is missing from both Mac and Mc’s wars of choice.

        1. AvatarAl from da Nort

          Basically true. Tac Air works best against enemy logistics in the open. It works much less well agains troops in prepared positions. If you let the enemy hold the tactical initiative, he can often effectively counter Tac Air by stockpiling whatever supplies he can get through despite the difficulties you create. It takes far less to simply maintain troops under cover than those undertaking tactical maneuver. In this situation he can strike at the time and place of his choosing once he has built up enough supplies. This is the story of Vietnam in a nutshell.

          Strategic Air entails attack on enemy means of production and worker populations, unfortunately. US propaganda to the contrary, Strat Air was never used during Vietnam for the very obvious reason that the obvious strategic targets were located in interior Russia (mostly). This fact *ought* to have informed the war planning.*

          To make Tac Air work effectively, you must drive up the enemy’s logistical ‘burn rate’ far beyond what it takes him to stay in the field and react effectively to your moves. You can only do that by taking the tactical initiative yourself with sufficient ground forces. IOW, The Tactical Air Campaign must be tightly coordinated with an extensive ground campaign. That was the secret of Blitzkrieg, IMHO.

          I’m not exactly sure what applying that principle would have looked like in the sandbox, but it seems to me that Tac Air was used as really, really costly long range field artillery, only.

          * Using strategic assets (B 52s) against tactical targets (NVA dug-in jungle bases) is NOT a Strategic Air Campaign.

    2. Avatarmmack

      “He screwed up Ford.”

      I’ll counter argue he saved FoMoCo’s bacon after the twin debacles of the Edsel and the horrendously ugly 1958 – 60 Lincoln line. The 1960 Falcon made a boatload of cash for Ford and served as the bones of the even more profitable Mustang (and that dull little Falcon got stretched and nipped and tucked into other Ford models well into the 1970s). McNamara was ready to kill Lincoln until Elwood Engel pitched him on a new design that would utilize a stretched and pulled Thunderbird platform. McNamara green-lit the design and the ugly duckling 1958-60 platform was replaced by the beautiful 1961 Continental.

      SecDef? Yes, I’ll grant you he was horrible.

      1. AvatarSeverian

        I don’t know anything about the economics of the Falcon, and I’ll admit it looks kinda cool, but… damn, that was the most under-powered car in the history of the world. One of my college girlfriends drove one…

        (For younger readers: there was a time when cars were fairly rare on college campuses, and the kids who had them mostly drove horrible old beaters that were given to them by parents or even grandparents — the kind of car that still ran, sort of, but couldn’t be sold for anything but parts. The old trope about college kids driving VW bugs and minivans — that’s true, but not, as you probably suppose, because it was some kind of ironic hipster thing. Our parents really did buy those things when *they* were first out in the world, and they got passed down to us — if we were lucky — when we went off to college).

        Anyway, I occasionally got to drive my girlfriend’s Falcon, and while I can only praise Sec. McNamara for producing such a wonderfully roomy backseat — seriously, buddy, thanks — the actual driving experience was the closest thing you’ll get in the modern world to Amish paradise. It went from zero to sixty in about five minutes. Grannies in wheelchairs could beat it off the line.

        1. Avatarmmack

          You have to remember the Ford Falcon was “produced to a price point” when it first came out and thrift was the target. So you got an I6 with a one barrel carb and a three speed originally. Sipped gasoline compared to the land barges of the early 1960s but didn’t get stellar performance.

          And people bought them. 400K the first model year and almost 1M over the first two model years. That soothed the burn of the ugly and misguided Edsel and the hideously overwrought late 1950’s Lincolns. Lee Iacocca had the bright idea to use the bones of the Falcon and hide enough of it’s plebeian lineage under some nicer bodywork and more powerful engines and gave Ford another hit with the Mustang. Another 400K+ sales was nothing to sneeze at.

          In later model years the Falcon chunked out and powered up a bit.

          Hey, at least the Falcon wasn’t as weird looking as the original Plymouth Valiant or as weirdly laid out as the Chevrolet Corvair.

          1. SeverianSeverian Post author

            Ah, the Corvair. And the Valiant!!! I am by no means a car guy, but I love some of those old machines, just for the “throw it at the wall and see what sticks” nature of car design back in the days. (Same thing with old airplanes, with the added bonus that since most of those were military designs, someone was expected to fly those things in combat!)

            I don’t know what’s in Stephen King’s head, obviously, but given what a Leftard he is he must hate the Fifties on general principles. Which gives me a pretty good guess as to how he came up with the plot for Christine — the ’58 Plymouth Fury is the most Fifties looking car I’ve ever seen; it must’ve given him nightmares.

  3. AvatarAl from da Nort

    So, pro-sports, taken as a whole, has evolved into a medieval chartered guild structure. Very interesting and astute take on the subject. But didn’t the guilds have to pay off the the local aristo-in-charge for their charter so as to be able to fleece the peasantry through price-fixing_? How’s that work today_?

    First answer: Team Owners_! They have to pay Congress for their anti-trust exemption, after all. The cool thing for the owners is they are able to get the local burghers to pay for their guildhall instead of having to pay for it themselves. Wow, what a great country_!

    How about the entrance restrictions that are so essential to limiting the supply of apprentices and journeymen_? Well, the enlightened self-interest by the old guild-meisters meant that even their own sons had to show some aptitude for the work, lest their justification about ensuring a quality product be exposed as a pure scam. So even now, the sons, nephews and grandsons of the early greats have had to show some aptitude and play a season or two before moving onto the coaching staff. HBD would have been a big help with this. But I expect these requirements have been and will continue to be eased: Hence your original complaint.

    For me, it was the kneeling business was what cut the cord of habit. After I skipped the first game or two, I couldn’t help noticing how little actual football was taking place versus how many commercial breaks there were. In my brief and inglorious HS career, games were over in about an hour.

    1. AvatarRogertheshrubber

      11 minutes of game,tops. Also, to be pedantic, the last white 1000 yd running back was Peyton Hillis, Cleveland, 2010. Interestingly, he scored 45 (of 50) on the Wonderlic. This is about 20 pt higher than the RB average. Smart, tough white players underrep. Prior to him,it was Craig James for the Pats (via SMU), circa 1986. Pursuant to the non-football nature of this post, look at the last functioning military units; Tier 2 and 1 spec ops. Smart, tough and whiter than an Amish wedding.

  4. Avatarcontrariandutchman

    It is human nature that any organization if given a chance will become a game for insiders to make an easy living. Its the entire reason all this “capitalism” and “free market” stuff is useful, only by allowing hungry outsiders in can the insiders be forced to occasionally do something useful.

  5. AvatarRed

    Mailbag question

    The events of the year are giving me a weird 1989/1990 vibe. Just saw “Biden Is Weak” spray painted in huge letters on the back of a Semi Trailer and it reminded me of the grafitti on the Berlin wall just before it fell. Is Joe our Regime’s version of Gorbachev and like the Soviets we just can’t see it yet?

  6. AvatarHorthans

    I’ve worked in a Power 5 Athletics department for 27 years and I would agree with all of this. These coaches get it drilled into them from Pop Warner on up that you don’t buck the system and that you display loyalty at all times. The reason an O’Brien gets bailed out each time is a combination of loyalty virtue signaling by the bailer and a play for the future when the bailer himself will get canned and needs someone to do it for him. They also have a loose agreement never to be too innovative so as to show up your peers too much. If any of these guys ever really bucked the “conventional wisdom” on how things should be done and started beating his compatriots silly, he’d better enjoy it while he can because he’ll be blackballed if it ever comes to an end.

    1. AvatarRogertheshrubber

      Art Briles was run out of town on a rail. Baylor was no worse or better than any college football team that takes some number of marginal character guys because they’re athletically talented. He was truly innovative. Mike Leach remains an interesting character and one of my favorite post game interviews. Also a bit of a pariah, although has a good gig with Mississippi State. Rare exceptions. College football is not ossified like our national leadership or national football league. It will though.

      To stick with Belichick, note that three guys that lead his team in receiving were Danny Amendola, Wes Welker and Julian Edelman. Two undersize white guys from Texas Tech, and a small Jewish QB from Kent State. Moneyball indeed

  7. AvatarJC Collins

    God I miss Bum Phillips! Who but Bum would run a flea flicker option to Earl Campbell, and have Earl throw a touchdown pass left-handed!

    1. AvatarAltitude Zero

      Like almost everything else, football (at all levels) has become much more bland and conformist over the last thirty years.

  8. AvatarGanderson

    I’m more of a sportsball guy than most here in the alt right fever swamp, mostly college hockey and baseball, although my enthusiasm for baseball is waning, due to the wretched, unwatchable state of the game; better players than ever, terrible on-field product.
    I once was a big football fan, back in the halcyon days of the Bud Grant era; y’know, all those Super Bowls the Vikings won….

    Anyway it’s hard to live in New England and not notice Belichick- it seems that what sets him apart is, as you say, his willingness to follow through, and, I think more importantly his insistence on intelligence, coupled with a further insistence on players doing things his way- he’ll take chances on smart guys with bad reputations if he thinks he can get them to do things the “Patriots’ way”. He has also figured out, as Roger points out, that the average coach/front office prefers black players, which means, money ball-style, that the Woodheads, Edelmans et al (or is that (((Edelman?))) are good values. Also, he’ll trade some physical attribute for smarts- a step of speed for 10 points of IQ. I think we all know what that means (you could probably tie him up and torture him and he wouldn’t admit this, however) He also seems to believe Branch Rickey’s old adage that it’s better to get rid of someone a year too soon than a year too late. He’s gotten rid of a lot of guys where the reaction has been “ how could he have let so and so walk…”

    The moonbat sportswriters in New England, which means all of them except for Gerry Callahan, HATE him, which is another point in his favor.

    1. AvatarSeverian

      I’ve been thinking about a whole post on this, maybe I’ll have to do it now, but in brief: though I am by no means an expert, I’ve been around the game of football for a while, including fairly far inside(-ish) at a relatively high level — see above. Let’s not overstate it, it’s not like I was sitting in strategy sessions or anything, but if you even get the chance to see a few practices of teams at various levels, you see pretty quickly that the talent level of the *average* player is pretty close, D2 college to D1 college to pro. (D3 and below are a different story, but even there the main difference seems to be that they’re *smaller*).

      Rather, the main difference is mental. Higher level players are smarter and more disciplined (relative to their peers). It’s a real balancing act – I, personally, would never make the show even if I had the physical talent, because I’ve seen the kind of girls even second stringers pull at big colleges, and that would be the end for me. That’s the discipline.

      The IQ part is being able to rotate 3D objects in your head. You can train any knucklehead to run to a spot, or to stay in a guy’s hip pocket. What can’t be trained is the ability to see what the guy opposite you sees, on the fly, and to manipulate it as it’s happening. A deliberately black example: a CB named Nnamdi Asomugha. A legit smart guy. NOT, contrary to every sportswriter in America, particularly physically gifted relative to his peers. He was just smarter, could rotate visual fields on the fly. The Raiders recognized this, let him play his way, and he was an all star. Then he went to Philly, where they expected him to play traditional straight man coverage, and all of a sudden he looks ordinary.

      So, yeah. “A step slow but +10 IQ” beats “a step faster but much dumber” pretty much every time, *if the coach recognizes it.* Which is why Bill’s undersized White guys do so well in New England… and not so hot when they leave.

    2. AvatarSeverian

      Side note: that’s all the proof you need that sportswriters are obnoxious even by SJW standards. Yeah I know, Bill refused to denounce the Bad Orange Man. But he also turned a perennial joke of a franchise into a perennial powerhouse. What, four championships in six years (something like that) ain’t good enough for you?


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