This is it….what we’ve worked for since February. We’re headed to Chicago tomorrow to play against the Boston Militia on Saturday. Even after 24 years of coaching, in over 275 games, the realization that win or lose, this is it, always strikes me as odd. I guess it is because these types of games come around rather infrequently. Either you’re not even good enough to make the playoffs, or you make it to the championship game. Any other scenario and that last game comes as sort of a shock. You could see it on the faces of the teams we beat during this playoff run, the realization that it is over for them. It’s a tough feeling, especially when the result isn’t obvious until the very end.
The preparation coming into the game is tough as well. The evaluation process is much more complicated. Unless you are absolutely certain that your athletes are markedly better across the board, then you have to find an edge. If you don’t you find yourself in danger of being outcoached. I believe that we fell into that trap in 2011 when we played Boston. However, I also like to think that we learned from that and it carried us through the 2012 win, and that we’ve maintained that lack of assumption.
Unfortunately, I also believe that arrogance (for lack of a better word) may have affected at least one of our playoff opponents – there’s no other way to look at how they aligned against us and didn’t adjust to what we were doing. I can only pray that others who watch the championship game won’t say the same of us this year. I can assure you that we’re giving this game our very best as a coaching staff.
Of course, things may happen during the game that make everyone watching (including us) think, “WTF?” So be it. It comes with the territory of scrutiny in a big game.
So many things come into play when trying to decide how to approach a game like this. You have no common opponents and Boston is one of the few staffs where I don’t know a single coach on it. So trying to evaluate their athletes versus yours is tricky, as is trying to get an idea of what the coaching staff’s personality is. We know they’ve played some quality teams, Chicago and DC in particular. DC has excellent personnel but a completely different offensive style and personality from us. Chicago is more similar, but the minor points between our respective players are more difficult to pinpoint. So will what we want to do in certain situations work? What changes, if any, do we need to make to increase our chances? What do we have to look out for? Is there anything we just have to scrap completely?
I think those items are what makes football the greatest game imaginable for a coach. So many variables – not only the physical, but also the mental – of both players and coaches. Neither team has been in a particularly close game at the end. Although we’ve had close scores at the end of the first half (even trailing against Seattle), we’ve come out and dominated the second half. Although we know the final scores of Boston’s games, and know that they were in at least one track meet against DC, we don’t know their mindsets in all of those games, whether they’ve ever felt any pressure. We hope we’ll find out how they react to it on Saturday.
I hope to meet any of you that happen to be in Chicago this weekend – please come up and say hi. I’ll be taking a short vacation after the game, so there will not be a blog next Wednesday. Depending on how much there is to think about after Saturday, it may come out on Thursday or Friday, but no promises. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you soon!