That game was lost by coaching. This is a statement used on Monday mornings just about as frequently as "play Freebird" is at just about any rock show.
Is this notion a truth or better yet, is it fair? Is coaching really relevant in an era where athletes are as naturally gifted and are in mythological Greek god like physical condition?
New Orleans Saints fans unfortunately know all too well the answer to these inquiries.
It is November 13th, 2013 and the New Orleans Saints are 7-2. Their defense is run by coordinator Rob Ryan and oh yeah, they are ranked 5th in the league in total defense.
Sean Payton continues his dominance in the regular season, currently five games over .500 and masterminding one of the NFL's most prolific offenses. To really understand and appreciate the teams success one has to take a look back at last year's whirlwind of a season.
November 6th, 2012, the Saints are 3-5 heading into a matchup with the undefeated rival Atlanta Falcons. The team is continuing on with their second interim head coach Joe Vitt after being led for the majority of the season under overwhelmed offensive line coach, Aaron Kromer.
The defense is on a record-setting pace to allow the most yards in a single season in NFL history. On ESPN, the word "bounty" is not only being tossed around like baseball in spring but it is now notoriously synonymous with the city of New Orleans. With reporters and various national media constantly lingering at practices and team activities, a fan base so involved and reliant on the success of the franchise-it's difficult, to say the least, for the team to keep their focus on the uphill task at hand. These are times where attitude reflects leadership.
Not to say that the captains on the team lacked proper and respectable leadership, but there is a certain control and calm that only a seasoned head coach can portray. When the players don't perform to the best of their ability the coach shoulders the blame by claiming that he "did a poor job of preparing the team during the week".
When the team soars in victory, he confidently states "our guys did a great job of executing and played hard for 60 minutes". When there's conflict within the locker room, a good coach keeps it out of the spotlight and finds a way to turn the conflict into team building foundation upon which champions are constructed. This is the reason why players win and coaches coach.
So in conclusion, Are coaches going to burden themselves, by choice and by occupation, with the blame of a loss? Absolutely. In a Godfather-esque sort of way, this is the life they have chosen and unfortunately taking ownership of shortcomings is the life of an NFL coach.
Can a team succeed based on talent and passion alone? The answer is an unequivocal no. Talent without correct leadership will only bring a team, a corporation, a family, a classroom, a protest, a cure for cancer or any union in which togetherness is key so far.