"Worst coaching decisions" on ESPN.com

Okay, it’s not often that I feel the need to comment here about a Page 2 feature, but I absolutely cannot remain silent on this one.

The subject, worst coaching decisions. Here’s the link: http://espn.go.com/page2/s/list/worstdecisions.html

I picked #4, because IMHO that one was a no-brainer. When you’re up by two scores, then you can think about padding the stats or running up the score. But when it’s just one score, and a *completely safe kneel down ends the game[/i, doing anyting else isn’t just boneheaded, it’s downright insane. This is the only one which was completely unjustifiable, so it was an easy choice.

As for the others? While I usually admire the creativity of the Page 2 staff, they were way off base on nearly all the others.

#1: Yeah, I know what happened…the Red Sox closers threw away a 3-run lead. (There may have been just one…feel free to correct.) I’m bewildered at how this almost never comes up. You’d think that the guys who <<BLEW THE SAVE>> would get some heat, but no, it’s always Buckner, Buckner, Buckner. And I don’t remember him committing any errors while the Red Sox still had a chance of winning it in the 10th.

My goodness. The ubergoats of the game getting off completely scot free. I don’t believe this crazy game sometimes.

#2: Maybe there wasn’t anyone better? Since ESPN.com hasn’t actually mentioned who Dressen shoulda picked, I’m inclined toward that view. Cal Ripken Jr. Syndrome strike again.

#3: I’ve already covered this in Week 12 Picks. My view in a nutshell: Look, I don’t care how damn questionable the call is, you’re damn professionals; MAKE THE STOP. In fact, sometimes coaches deliberately do this just to see if you really got what it takes. Hmm…on the other hand, this is the Lions we’re talking about, so maybe it was a no-brainer.

#5: Who knows. Maybe if it were just one goal, he wouldn’t have been pulled. Maybe the Soviets’ number was up, and nothing they did that day would’ve given them the win. I definitely don’t think that one man is to blame for this.

#6: Almost as baffling as forgetting all about that stupid worthless Red Sox bullpen was forgetting about, oh, Scottie Pippen, Toni Kukoc, and Horace Grant…wait, I think it was Dennis Rodman that year, who was even tougher. The reason no one ever double-teamed Jordan was because it would’ve left Pippen, or Kukoc, or maybe BJ Armstrong wide open, and since they were offensive threats as well, that wasn’t an option. Jeez, less than half a decade removed from the glory days, and everyone thinks Jordan did everything all by himself with no help. Unbelievable.

#7: Okay, I’m kinda inclined to go with this one. Except that it’s a college game between two teams with nothing to lose. Remember what I mentioned about the coach testing the players? Exactly what was happening here. Jeez, what’s next, Michael Vick getting crucified for a game-losing interception in the Pro Bowl?

#8: This would’ve been a horrible decsion. That is, if it were not the '95 Cowboys, who…I’m still extremely adamant about this…had Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin, and a crushing offensive line, and thus should’ve been able to get one measly damn foot. Oh yeah, weren’t they able to overcome this horrible, horrible failure and win the Super Bowl? Holding this up as one of the worst coaching decisions ever is nearly as stupid as endlessly ragging Retief Goosen for three-putting from 12 feet on the final hole of the US Open THAT HE WON ANYWAY.

#9: Maybe this wasn’t the best decision, but keep in mind that these are the Vikings we’re talking about here, who have a history of finding ways to blow big games. Green was probably worried that Cunningham would throw an interception that’d be returned for a touchdown, or a field goal blocked and returned for a touchdown, or Moss would make the catch but get his bell rung and run the wrong way, then fumble into his own end zone, whereupon a Falcons defender falls on it for the touchdown. I certainly woudln’t have put money against any of these occurrences.

#10: Eh. I guess it was questionable, but let’s be serious here, the Pacers were not winning the championship. Because they never win the championship. Kinda like the Cardinals.

Fire at will, sports fans.

The editors most pointedly don’t blame Buckner here, they blame the coach for playing a player who was less capable of playing the position than another available player. They blame the coach for changing a tactic used successfully all year in the most important game the Sox had played in seven decades.

I’m not much of a sports fan, but I’ll take my shot anyway.

I believe your thinking is contradictory on some of these. Explain to me the difference between #4 and #7. Final seconds on the clock for both teams. No timeouts left for the opponents. It takes a kneeldown to win the game. They both run. They both lose.
In #4 you call it a “no-brainer.” To do “anyting else isn’t just boneheaded, it’s downright insane.”
Yet in #7 you said “Remember what I mentioned about the coach testing the players? Exactly what was happening here.”
What’s the difference? Why couldn’t #4 be a test of the players too? Goodness, if Larry Csonka was such a good football player, he wouldn’t have dropped the ball, now would he?
But I don’t buy this whole testing of the players theory. That’s why I disagree with you about #3 as well. Yes, when you’re in that situation you do what you’re paid to do and make the stop. Yes, it’s partly the defense’s fault for failing. That’s not the point. That’s not what the list is about. It’s about boneheaded coaching decisions and this was as boneheaded as they come. We’re talking sudden death overtime. You receive. You always receive. Always! Save the life lessons for those afternoon scrimmages and put another notch next to the “W” column.

I also disagree with you on #9. Any scenario you gave in your OP and any one you can dream up is just as likely to happen in OT as it is in regulation. Play the game. If you’re that concerned over injury that 2 extra minutes of playing is going to make a difference to your health, perhaps football isn’t the sport for you.

I do agree with you on #6.

Hey, what can I tell you. You’re right. I’d love a spirited sports debate as much as the next guy, but you’re right.

There’s no forgiving the Giants staff in that one. Just really really stupid, and a guy like Csonka had been there a few times and knew better. Not that he gets off scot-free for botching the exchange with Pisarcik, but they should never had to attmept it.

A few tidbits that I think you’re missing on the Bulls-Jazz game. Sure there were other talented guys on that team, but having watched probably 95% of the games MJ ever played in, I’ll tell you there was never a time when he didn’t get that last shot in big games unless he was absolutely mugged. As good as Pippen and Kerr would have been as options, there’s no way thats gonna happen. It was flat out dumb to not help on MJ, if you make MJ kick it out and Kerr beats you from the corner, you just tip your hat. But you never let the stud have a easy look. Still, its not nearly as dumb as #4.

The Red Sox game was pretty dumb too, but there’s alot ofother reasons they lost besides Buckner. I’d still have it in the top 4 or 5, but not #1.

I don’t know enough about the Dodgers and Giants back then to speak inteligently. But you make a good point, and if Branca was their stopper, you know he’s going in. You really think that Torre would have not brought in Rivera against a guy who’d homered off him a couple times before? Just like in the MJ case above, you don’t let the stud beat you, and you don’t pull your stud when the game is on the line, no matter what. I’ll admit that Branca might not be a stud, but its still not in that ballpark of the football Giants fumble.

And while the Lions recent choice was really dumb, its not even in the top ten. Especially since both teams suck. Granted the weak Bears offense had managed to move the ball at will against the Lions in the 4th quater, and the wind really wasn’t that big of a problem for a guy like Edinger who’s been playing at Memorial Stadium and Soldier Field his whole career, but can you honestly say that the Bears driving the field was a likely occurance? There’s been lots of games where teams decided to put the game on the defense (both in OT, or by punting down a score with time running short) and have had it pan out. Its not a wise choice considering the context, tired Lions D that just got eaten up minutes before and a excellent kicker, but there are cases where it would have worked. And there’s no garauntee that had they taken the ball, the Lions wouldn’t be 3 and out giving the Bears a short field.

Like I said…you’re right.

Ender, a quick comparison between #4 and #7.

First, one is between a pair of bad college teams with little to play for other than bragging rights. Also they were down close to the goal line where it might have resulted in a score. While you always go for the win, in this case there’s the slight justification that getting the extra TD (remember margin of victory tends mean something in college ever so rarely) might be a worthwhile gamble. The chance of a fumble would be less likely to be a disaster since they were 99 yards away, and in dealing with young impressionable college athletes showing the attitude that you play til the final snap no matter what, and that you show no mercy against a rival seem like mitigating circumstances. In the Giants-Eagles tilt, the play is completely moot. Nothing is to be gained statistically of consequence and it occured at about the 42 yardline where nothing good is likely to happen from a run. Secondly in the NFL, where margin of victory is meaningless and the veteran players are mainly concerned with not getiing injured on plays like this its completely baffling.

Not to say that #7 isn’t dumb, but its vastly less dumb than #4.

Ender, one more thing. As a die-hard Bears fan I can tell you I didn’t feel all that thrilled or confident when I saw the Lions decision. The Bears offense has sucked hard all season, and while they showed signs in that game, I wasn’t brimming with confidence. I certainly found it curious, and risky, but I wasn’t shocked. In retrospect and analyisis it is more supsrising as choice, but in the heat of the moment I wasn’t really caught off guard.

Some comments:
#1 – no one really blames Buckner; it was McNamara who made the mistake of keeping him in (and of pulling Roger Clemons too soon). Calvin Schiraldi also deserve blame.

#2, actually, Dressen’s big mistake came earlier in the inning. I don’t recall the particulars, but Bud Greenspan talked about it in one of his book (maybe “Play it Again, Bud”). Basically, he had one of the infielders playing in the wrong position, so Monte Irvin’s ground ball could not be reached. If it had, it would have ended the inning.

#5 was my choice, since it was inexcusable and made a different in championship play. #4 was a close second.

As far as not guarding Jordan goes, the real goat horns for stupid coaching decisions belong to Lenny Wilkens, who refused to doubleteam him during the first round of 1989 NBA playoffs. Poor Craig Ehlo had to guard him one on one. Jordan went on to make the shot that has been repeated to death on ESPN and the Cavaliers went on to nothing.

IIRC, #8 on ESPN’s site doesn’t tell the whole story. The play was ran and Emmitt Smith was stopped dead cold. The really bone headed thing was that for whatever reason-(whistle wasn’t blown, clock didn’t start, I really don’t remember) the play was called a non-play. Then, after careful consideration Barry decided to run the same exact play, where Emmitt was stopped again. No real opinion on the stupidest of the choices though, I only saw 2 of those myself, and their summaries seem to be more than lacking.

Another point is not mentioned in the account of the Lions-Bears game that IMO is critical and really makes the decision look idiotic.

The ostensible reason Moron-wheg kicked was so that he could force the Bears to play into the wind, making passing and KICKING more difficult. Fine, I could buy that I suppose, given that no points had been scored against the wind in that game.

BUT, BUT, BUT… When the Bears could have faced 4th and 8, and would have had to punt or attempt a 52 yard field goal into that wind that Marty was counting on, he then inexplicably accepted a holding call, contradicting his earlier logic that the wind would make such a long field goal very difficult.

racekarl, very good point. Frankly this decision was far dumber than the one to kickoff in OT.