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Time to call an audible on coachspeak

About the Author

Recent posts by Eli Kaberon

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Posted Nov. 12, 2010 @ 10:37 a.m. ET
By Eli Kaberon

Every week, the NFL and its media partners send out press releases that describe how well the league is doing in the battle for TV ratings and Web site traffic. More people than ever worldwide are watching the games, playing fantasy football, checking player statistics and keeping informed on what is going on, not only on Sundays, but all week long.

At the same time, NFL coaches continue to speak as if the general football-watching public is clueless, giving no credit to the intelligence of the people who theoretically are writing their paychecks. With fans paying attention at record-setting rates, coaches need to start being more up front and honest with their information.

Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan insulted everyone's intelligence when he explained his reason for benching QB Donovan McNabb (he of 92 career regular-season wins and six Pro Bowls) in favor of Rex Grossman (19 career victories) for the final two minutes of the team's Week Eight loss to the Lions. Shanahan told reporters he made the move because Grossman knew the team's two-minute offense better than McNabb.

"I just felt Rex Grossman gave us the best chance to win," the coach said of the quarterback, who fumbled on his very first snap, leading to a game-clinching touchdown for the Lions.

Anybody who has watched the 'Skins' season or followed the careers of McNabb and Grossman knew Shanahan's claims had no validity. McNabb hasn't had the best first season in D.C., and maybe the team regrets trading for him, but to imply that the 'Skins were closer to victory with Grossman under center was an obvious sign of a coach assuming the general public is clueless about what is going on with the team.

Same goes with 49ers head man Mike Singletary, who after his team fell to 1-6, told everyone who would listen that his team still had a good shot of making the playoffs. Really? The playoffs? In the entire history of the NFL, only one team, the 1970 Bengals, started that poorly and made the postseason.

Mike Martz has done it, too. The Bears' offensive coordinator told reporters that QB Jay Cutler had some "outstanding plays" in the team's 17-14 loss to Washington in Week Seven. That would make sense, except that 65,000 fans at Soldier Field and countless others on TV saw Cutler airmail four second-half interceptions and lose a fumble at the goal line, single-handedly costing Chicago the game. If that qualifies as "outstanding," then Martz is a "great football coach."

It is understood that coaches have to keep some information and opinions secret. Martz can't honestly tell reporters what causes Cutler to make bad throws, because opponents will use that as a blueprint in future games. Singletary ­wouldn't be much of a leader if he let everybody inside and outside his locker room know the 49ers' season is over. Coaches are paid to win games, not please the public, and they have to do whatever it takes to get that done.

However, coaches need to find a middle ground. With the number of smart football fans growing every week, it's time for team leaders to halt the nonsense and start giving honest assessments of their players, strategy and decisions — something they've resisted doing to this point.


This column was originally published in the current print edition of Pro Football Weekly (cover date: Nov. 14, 2010), the midseason awards issue, which features reports on all 32 teams, as well as Week 10 game previews and timely fantasy football and handicapping info. The print edition is on sale at retail outlets, or you can purchase a copy (print or electronic) at

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