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Savran: Coordinators could be wrong for top job

Saturday, January 18, 2003

Head coaches have to come from somewhere. Most often they are coordinators, and the units they have dominated with their influence have been highly successful. But maybe NFL owners should find a better and more complete way to judge candidates. Because even though a coordinator turned head coach will most certainly install his particular offense/defense, he won't have the control over it come Sunday afternoon that he did as a coordinator.

Mike Mularkey, for instance, has developed one of the most innovative offenses in the NFL, which clearly makes him an attractive head coach candidate.

But his total value isn't limited to scheming in a darkened room on a Wednesday night, developing a game plan to beat the next opponent. It comes on game day, when he's matching wits with the enemy's defensive coordinator.

It's not only what you call, but when you call it. It's calling a play in the first quarter just to set up another later in the game. It's sequencing, setting up the defense, luring the opposition into your trap, then snapping it shut around its ankles once it has taken the bait.

That's the genius of it.

That's as much a part of Mularkey's skill as are his concepts. And unless a head coach plans to call his own plays, you lose some of that.

Even if he has hired an offensive coordinator with a similar philosophy, it still comes down to the snap-decision chess match.

There's so much more to being a head coach, and many of the duties of the job preclude that person from concentrating solely on the particular area of expertise that made him so attractive to the team in the first place.

Congratulations! This year's HOH (height of hypocrisy) award goes to the National Football League, by acclamation.

This week, the National Phony League forced ABC Television to reject a Super Bowl commercial buy from the Las Vegas Convention and Tourism Bureau because the league sanctimoniously declared they never want to be connected to, mentioned in the same sentence with or be in the same hemisphere as gambling.

That rumbling noise you're hearing is the sound of an entire nation of sporting enthusiasts vomiting as one.

This not only stretches the boundaries of political correctness, it shatters them. What nauseating pap, even from an institution that could give the Kremlin lessons on propaganda and media control.

You know, I know, and the NFL knows gambling is an umbilical cord to the very popularity of the game. Whether they admit it or not -- or like it or not -- people can and do bet on the games (hundreds of millions of dollars worth).

One of the big reasons Monday Night Football became so popular is that the wagering public had a chance to get even from weekend wagers gone bad.

Do you think more than half the nation's television sets will be tuned to the Super Bowl because they care who wins? Most care only about who wins by how much.

The NFL thinks Las Vegas is a bit too oily and greasy for their taste, and therefore sullies their pristine image.

Funny. After this week's pronouncement, when I think of the NFL, oily and greasy are the first things that come to mind.

While perched atop their correctness pulpit, the NFL should do the right thing and change overtime rules.

And there's only one way to do it: If the team that wins the coin toss scores on its first possession, it must then kick off to the other team, which then gets a chance to at least match what the first team has done.

If the coin toss winners kick a field goal, then the other team can keep the game going by doing at least as well. If they score a touchdown, game over. If they fumble the kickoff or throw an interception on the first play from scrimmage, game over.

I don't like the idea that the second team has to do better than the first. That gives an advantage to the team that won the coin flip, which is what you're trying to eliminate in the first place. This would further discourage the team that gets the ball first against settling for what is now a winning field goal, because the other team could win with a touchdown.

If neither team scores on its first possession, it would then revert to sudden death. There would still be a one-quarter limit in the regular season, and a play-to-the-finish format in the playoffs.

It's fair and equitable, gives no advantage in winning the coin toss, and does not take significantly more TV time than it does now.

Of course, under the current system, there is an antidote for losing the coin toss: Play some defense!

Stan Savran is the host of a talk show, weekdays from 3 to 6 p.m. on WBGG-AM (970).

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