2014 Proves Measured Patience Wins, Feels-Right Panic Doesn’t
After the hard-fought victory by the Dolphins over the Vikings last Sunday, Miami owner Stephen Ross declared that Head Coach Joe Philbin would continue for a fourth season.
This decision is commendable for its embrace of patience in the intricate world of both business and the game.
The response to this news has been varied, with strong support from those with ample experience and a well-rounded perspective, such as Dolphins player leaders like Ryan Tannehill and Cameron Wake.
However, some media members have criticized the decision, condemning it as dismissing their persistent calls for a coaching change.
Such sentiments are hardly surprising. In today’s media landscape and online sphere, one of the fundamental principles is never to discount the value of outsider insight when making intricate decisions, be they in the world of business or football.
Because, of course, there’s no better preparation for making sound administrative and football decisions in multi-million-dollar organizations than a journalism degree or avidly watching football on TV.
The “School of Imagined Expertise” boasts a sizable alumni community.
Jokes aside, a cursory glance at the NFL in 2014 is all it takes to see that patience emerged as the clear victor, securing an emphatic victory. Panic and shortsighted viewpoints fared poorly that year.
For those NFL teams that have made strides but now harbor aspirations of transforming their middling fortunes, the path forward isn’t elusive.
Unfortunately, it demands time, patience, and unwavering perseverance. These qualities might not resonate well in the court of public opinion.
If conventional wisdom had its sway, Marvin Lewis and Jason Garrett would no longer be at the helm of the Cincinnati Bengals and Dallas Cowboys, respectively.
Despite being considered good (though not exceptional) coaches and, like Joe Philbin, regarded as “nice guys,” they were deemed unable to compete with the AFC and NFC powerhouses of the world. Or so it was said.
Currently, Cincinnati stands on the verge of clinching yet another AFC North title or, at the very least, securing another playoff spot in an intensely competitive division.
Meanwhile, Dallas has methodically built one of the most robust and formidable teams in the NFC, following their dominance over the media-favored Colts.
In both these instances, persistence has indeed proven to be prescient.
It’s not a matter confined to just the present year. Had the Maras paid heed to popular sentiment about Tom Coughlin’s job security over the past decade, he might not have guided the NY Giants to two Super Bowl championships.
They didn’t; in the end, they emerged as big winners. Similarly, if conventional wisdom had its say, Bill Belichick wouldn’t have produced one of the most prosperous stretches in modern football history.
I was a part of that 2000 Patriots football team that struggled with a 5-11 record.
As we kicked off the 2001 season with a lackluster 1-3 start, the prevailing notion was that Bill Belichick, despite being hailed as a brilliant defensive mind, was in over his head as a head coach and talent evaluator.
He was seen as someone who had reached his limit and wouldn’t ascend any higher.
Or so they said. It would be a challenge to find anyone outside our organization who would dispute that strain of conventional wisdom – perhaps one of the most misguided in modern sports history.
On the flip side, there’s the Cleveland Browns’ situation with Johnny Manziel, which has turned into a debacle.
Throughout the offseason, a recurring question was whether any team that drafted Manziel could resist the pressure to put him on the field.
This notion might sound absurd – the idea that external opinions should be a decisive factor in a football season rather than the internal assessments that should guide a professional organization.
Just two weeks ago, it would have been a challenge to come across widespread support for sticking with the steady but unspectacular Brian Hoyer over the more flashy Manziel, especially when coupled with the formidable Browns defense.
While Hoyer’s performance wasn’t exceptional, he gave his team a shot at victory.
Manziel, on the contrary, was viewed as the riskier option to inject some “spark” or produce exciting plays. Or so the thinking went.
However, once Manziel took the reins, it became painfully evident that he was unprepared to lead an NFL offense.
Cleveland, amid a playoff contention push, saw those hopes dashed with two notably poor performances.
Were those losses solely on Manziel’s shoulders? Certainly not. Yet, it was the kind of choice that disrupted the progress the organization had achieved throughout the season, all for the sake of a quick, attention-grabbing fix.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the seasoned veterans on that Browns team felt let down.
I’ve admired the way Mike Pettine managed his team right up until the past two weeks.
However, after yielding to ill-informed public opinion, the team’s prospects took a nosedive.
Could Manziel potentially develop into a good QB in the future? I honestly can’t say.
Nevertheless, surrendering to conventional wisdom’s pitfalls is a lesson that should resonate with the wiser heads in that organization moving forward.
Miami faced a similar decision, but they made the challenging (yet correct) call.
Admittedly, “you don’t know what you don’t know” isn’t the most popular message, but it’s a reality that all players come to understand with utmost clarity within the game.
It’s a realization they must fiercely hold onto once they step away from it.
Being outside an organization is arguably the least advantageous position to determine what course of action should be taken, especially when seasoned individuals within the training facility possess superior perspectives and experience.
Claiming to have all the answers with only a fraction of the information and no firsthand experience is futile, especially when one fails to grasp the repercussions of a seemingly reasonable suggestion.
“Fire the coach!” is only the correct response in situations of absolute certainty.
The situations in Miami this season (and previously in Cincinnati and Dallas) were far from that.
The teams that invest in the process, exercise patience, and rely on sound internal decision-making are the ones that will emerge victorious far more often than not.
For fans of the other teams in the AFC East, it’s regrettable that the Dolphins didn’t succumb to the panicked ignorance of popular but inexperienced sentiment.
The same sentiment sought to write off Ryan Tannehill early in the season, only to witness his transformation into a very accomplished young quarterback by the season’s end.
The notion of overhauling the coaching staff in that context, after all the progress made, is yet another instance of amateurism in action.
The Dolphins are holding fast to their course, seeking to learn from their missteps without dismantling the foundation. That’s a prudent approach – a genuine manifestation of NFL wisdom.