Bills, Packers lost because of coaches' cowardice
Posted: Tuesday October 9, 2007 1:48PM; Updated: Tuesday October 9, 2007 2:05PM
One day, in the 1968 offseason, I was in Dallas and I dropped in to the Cowboys' office to visit Tom Landry. It was a bad time for him. His team had lost two straight NFL Championship games to the Lombardi Packers, each game coming down to the final moments, the Ice Bowl being the latest. Already the rumors had started that he was the coach who "couldn't win the big one."
We talked about one thing and another and then, inevitably, it came down to the Packers game, and all of a sudden, as if he were in a kind of trance, Landry began this stream of consciousness recitation that I've never forgotten.
"It's toughness. We're just not tough enough. We're not tough enough for those kinds of games. I'm not tough enough. I don't know what I can do, get out of coaching maybe."
It was amazing to hear. Here was the man with the most innovative mind of his era. The guy who devised the flex defense and that up-down movement of the offensive linemen to shield the defenders at the last moment. The person who first drew up the 4-3 defense on the blackboard in September 1950, as Steve Owen's player-coach on the Giants. Here he was wondering whether or not he should quit the business at 43.
Well, three seasons later his Cowboys were in the Super Bowl, and the following season they won it. All the negative talk stopped. But I thought about Landry this weekend when I saw two teams fold because they weren't tough enough. Packers against the Bears. Bills against the Cowboys on Monday night -- this last one being so painful because a bunch of players on the verge of a sensational upset were deprived of their chance by gutless coaching.
Buffalo's defensive coach, Perry Fewell, handed the game to the Cowboys. Here, you've done a hell of a job fighting back from all the interceptions, so it's the least we can do to make your evening a little more enjoyable. On Dallas' last two possessions he called off any pass rush pressure, giving Tony Romo all the time he wanted, challenging no one ... coaching the way scared coaches operate. The fear of giving up the big one created as many little ones as it took to accumulate nine points.
He should have remembered what the Romo offense was capable of in a short period of time. Nursing a 17-7 lead near the end of the first half, coach Dick Jauron sent his kicker, Ryan Lindell, out to try a 54-yarder and pad the lead. Lindell is a good kicker, but in eight years in the NFL, he had kicked a field goal as long as 54 yards only once. He missed, way right on Monday, and the Cowboys got the ball on their 44 with 36 seconds left. In three plays and a spike Dallas had gained 27 yards and cut the lead by 17-10 with a 47-yard field goal. The message, they can move quickly when your defense is less than the full pressure variety.