I’ll get to Tony Romo’s weekend later on in this post. But, first things first.
The Chart is for losers. You know, the two-point conversion Chart that every football coach references after an unsuccessful two-point conversion try. The Chart tells coaches when to kick the PAT and when to try to score two based on the point differential between the two teams being three or seven points. When you’re behind in a game, the idea is to do what you can to close the gap so there’s one full score difference between you and your opponent so you can tie or take the lead with a score of your own. If you’re ahead, do the same thing so your opponent can’t take the lead or beat you with a single score of their own.
And, by overthinking it, coaches blow this call every single week.
There’s only one reason the Steelers lost at home to the Jaguars Saturday: Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin went for two, not once but twice, when he should have just kicked the extra point.
The Steelers scored a TD with 10:25 to play in the game to pull to within 28-23. An extra point makes it a six point game. But Tomlin elects to go for two, even when a holding penalty on the play pushed the attempt back to the 12 yard line. There’s still two-thirds of the fourth quarter to play, and he went for two. And failed. The Steelers scored again at the 6:21 mark to go ahead 29-28. And now they HAVE to try for the two-point conversion so a Jacksonville field goal won’t beat them, it’ll only tie them. The run failed. And Pittsburgh’s only up one. And, of course, the Jags march down the field and kick the game-winning, not game-tying, field goal with 37-seconds left to win the game.
And somehow today Tomlin is still employed.
I haven’t done the research on the numbers in almost four years. But four years ago in the NFL, a one-point PAT was more than a 99% certainty while a two-point try was good only 54% of the time.
If Tomlin kicks the automatic point on both of his TDs there right in the middle of the fourth quarter, the Jaguars cannot beat them with a field goal. The worst case scenario is that the game goes to OT. And Pittsburgh’s at home!
And I knew Tomlin would invoke The Chart in his post-game meeting with reporters. I knew Tomlin would deflect all personal responsibility for the poor decision to go for two by blaming it on the chart. And he did.
“We’re playing The Chart. That’s not out of bounds. That’s just baseball; everybody’s got The Chart.”
But then when these coaches are pressed on it, when they ought to be, they get defensive.
“If I had a crystal ball and I knew we would lose by two, we would have kicked the extra point if that makes you feel good.”
Here’s my beef with The Chart: it’s just a lousy excuse for a coach who won’t take responsibility for his call. If the two-point try is successful the coach talks afterward about how they had scouted out the situation, they had planned for just that exact circumstance, they had seen something during the week they could exploit, they had prepared for just that moment and just that play. But if the try is unsuccesful, they blame it on The Chart. It was out of my hands. The Chart said to go for two, so we went for two. I have no control.
The problem is that football coaches are the most controlling freaks in all of sports. They demand complete control over every single aspect of their football teams. They take great public and private pride in over-preparing for every single hypothetical situation. They drill their assistants and their players on the minutiae of every single circumstance, real and imagined. They leave no rock unturned. They don’t leave anything to chance. They’ve studied and re-studied every single angle looking for the edge. And we’re to believe that in the fourth quarter of a playoff game they say to their offensive coordinator, “Let’s just go with The Chart.”
No. They make the decisions every time. You only hear about The Chart when they’re wrong.
I tried to pin Bill Parcells down on all that following a Monday night game in Seattle in which he had gone for two in the second quarter of what wound up being a nail-biting win against the Seahawks. He, too, claimed The Chart. He said he went with The Chart everytime. But on their very next TD in that same game, The Chart would have said go for two also. But Parcells kicked the PAT. When I pointed that out, he got defensive and used the crystal ball answer that Tomlin threw out there Saturday. They only reference The Chart when they’re wrong. And they attempt to escape all blame by saying they always use The Chart in every situation. And when the inconsistencies are pointed out, they get angry.
I’m not really sure there is a Chart. I think, instead, there’s an agreement among the coaches to call it a Chart when they mess up the two-point conversion.
What do you think the quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys was doing this past weekend? Up at Valley Ranch watching film or getting some treatment or maybe working out? He was at least hanging out at the house and watching the wildcard games, right?
No. Your quarterback was with Jessica Simpson and Jessica Simpson’s parents in Cancun.
Somebody explain to me what this guy’s doing!
You’re the quarterback of a team that hasn’t won a playoff game in over a decade. Your team has really struggled, especially the offense, over the past four weeks. You’ve already been in the news way too much with your celebrity girlfriend. The last time she was seen with you publicly you turned in the worst performance of your career. What are you doing?
Do you suppose Peyton Manning or Brett Favre thought the wildcard weekend would be a good time to get out of the country and hit the beach?
I doubt Simpson has much, if anything, to do with Romo’s execution on the field. But Romo knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that if he went to Cancun with his celebrity honey and her parents right in the middle of the playoffs it would dominate the conversation in the media and in the Cowboys lockerroom all this week. And he decided to go anyway. He knew his teammates and coaches wouldn’t be thrilled with his very public romance being headline news again, but he decided to go anyway. At best that shows a lack of judgment. At worst it shows that he doesn’t care.
I didn’t hear all of Wade Phillips’ media session with DFW reporters today. But I heard enough of it to know that Romo’s weekend getaway with Daisy Duke was the main topic. Not the Giants. And not the New York pass rush.
Add to that Tony Sparano and Jason Garrett jetting all over the country for job interviews with the Falcons and Dolphins and Ravens. Who’s actually thinking about Sunday’s game against New York?