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Need A Scapegoat? Blame the Coach!

Need A Scapegoat? Blame the Coach!

In the locker room after the final game of the season in Green Bay, Dominic Raiola sat at his locker, obviously extremely upset, looked up and said “You can’t blame the coaching staff every year. At some point the players are going to have to be held responsible.” He should know, he’s on his third head coach and has had more than a few offensive coordinators and O-Line coaches since his rookie year in 2001. But Dom’s right: When you get paid $15-20 million to catch a pass or throw a ball or in Jeff Backus’ case miss a block, you’re supposed to perform no matter who’s calling the shots. So why is the coach always the one who gets blamed? Flip Saunders is trying to figure that out right now.

The Detroit Pistons fired Flip Saunders today after he led the team to three straight conference finals, three straight division titles and the best record in the NBA in 2005-2006, his first year with the club. Flip brought a more offensive approach to a stagnant team that already was the best defensive team in the NBA, but never won over the team’s captain, Ben Wallace. We can now point back to that first season when Flip and Ben were never on the same page. Ben was a crybaby who was upset the Pistons were going away from their defensive roots and that he wasn’t getting any touches on the offensive end. Flip could never get control of this bunch if the team’s so called leader was against him. So the Pistons chose not to pay Ben what he thought he was worth and thought they rid themselves of the problem, but the OTHER Wallace stopped listening in the huddles during time-outs. He started having brain farts and chucking up deep three-pointers. Fans started saying more and more “If only ‘Sheed would do this we’d be really good.” Naïve us to think that Sheed was even capable of playing at a consistent level higher than he already was. Doesn’t make him a bad player, we just expected too much out of him. Now he’ll probably be gone with Flip.

As a coach your job is to lead your team and put them in positions to succeed, but when your two biggest leaders on the floor brush you off it makes it kind of hard to do. Is it Flips fault that the players don’t execute the plays he diagrams? Is it Flips fault his players get hurt or disappear in big series? (I’m talking to you Tayshaun). This sports society has got to stop blaming coaches for the player’s mistakes. I hear your argument too: Well it’s the coach’s job to make sure they listen and to make them do what he says. So a grown man has to tell another grown man listen to him? He has to baby-sit men who have been playing this game their whole life? He has to walk out on the court during the game and move them three inches to the left so they’re in the right spot? Come on now, this isn’t college. No grown man should have to be told the same thing over and over again. And when he doesn’t do what the coach told him to do who do we blame? The poor coach. Flip did his job: He developed the young talent, he handled a balanced rotation, and he pushed all the right buttons. But the player’s dropped the ball.

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Coaches now-a-days get three years to win a championship it seems. If they don’t win it all in three years they get fired, regardless of how many improvements they’ve made. The NBA, NFL and college are filled with teams that improved under one coach just to see him get fired a few years later. Mike D’antoni, Avery Johnson, Tyrone Willingham, Stan Heath, Marty Schottenheimer, the list goes on and on. I know you can’t punish a player who makes more in a year than most do in a lifetime the same way you’d punish a coach, but something has got to change. Another coach takes the fall for his player’s mistakes.