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Nov 17, 2012 12:02am
Medium lingzi 1454 posts

After four weeks of NFL football the biggest surprise to me is that the New
Orleans Saints are 0-4. Last year this was the leagues best offence and knowing
what we know now, the leagues most vicious defence. On special teams,
Darren Sproles is as good as any returner in football and the New Orleans
Superdome was a true home field advantage. The Saints did not lose one game at
home last year. And they ended the season with a quarterback in Drew Brees that
broke the single season passing yardage record previously held by Dan Marino –
5,476 yards and 46 touchdowns is one heck of a good year. But this year, 0-4
with losses to Washington and their rookie quarterback, Carolina and their
second-year quarterback, Kansas City who is not a playoff team and Green Bay,
well, okay, that is understandable. Does the absence of Sean Payton make the big
of a difference? Did Gregg Williams as a defensive coordinator influence good
play that much? I mean neither played, they just directed. But what other
possible answer could there be? The team is basically the same in personnel, but
it is not the same in consistent excellent execution and determined resolve.
What other answer is out there? I will say this, Sean Payton and his absence has
elevated the pay scale for any new and good NFL head coach. There is conclusive
evidence that the good ones make the difference between winning and losing, the
Saints have proven that. All coaches are different just like all players are
different. For some, their greatest strength is teaching the techniques and
details of the game in a specific position. Often they are former players that
have transferred the ability to play to the ability to teach. Not an easy
transition, I tried and could not do it for various reasons. Others are planners
and preparers and schemers. Almost always the coordinators, guys who design
plays, love plays, and have an intense level of gratification in seeing what
worked on the practice field work on the game field. They know both sides of the
ball and are kind of the “nerds” of the game in that the game is all-consuming
and affects all aspects of life outside of work. (If they have a life outside of
work). Then you have the head coach and he is all of the previous two and then
some. The head coach is the intimidator, the Buck-stops-here guy, the guy you
dont want to be called to the office for any reason guy. The guy who hires and
fires and everything in between. Not all have that type of personality or
presence. Tony Dungy for example was a coach that pulled people together to win
(and he had Peyton Manning in his prime). But, for the most part the head coach
of a NFL team has the job because he has the internal strength to activate a
response from others. If you dont have a tough guy head coach you better have a
Top-5 quarterback. When the Saints had Payton as head coach I could sense a
focus that was unique, it transferred from Payton to his players. How? I dont
know, its difficult to describe but I could sense that Paytons resolve was the
teams resolve. I think part of it is that the head coach will address the team,
as a team more than any other coach. Usually as many as four times: after the
game, before the Monday morning meeting, before the Wednesday morning meeting to
prepare for the next game, and right before the actual game on Sunday. That is
64 times a year over 17 weeks, 16 games, not including training camp and
off-season. If you were to give me an opportunity to talk to a group of people
64 times over four months, I am sure I can mold and influence too, to some
degree. It is true that a football team reflects the personality and often
morality of the head coach. The reflection is more subtle than intense but it is
there. At 0-4 I doubt the Saints are going to make the playoffs, they would have
to win 10 of their next 12 to achieve Wild Card status. And they still have two
games with Atlanta, San Francisco at home and at the Giants. Jim Harbaugh in San
Francisco is a good example of a coach that makes an impact. His brother John
does in Baltimore, too. What would happen if Bill Belichick left New England?
Would they improve? Sean Payton must be sitting back and not enjoying the
downfall of the Saints, but in a quiet moment he might be thinking that his
future is bright for many years to come. His discipline, play calling, and
in-game decisions all are missed and as much as the Saints will try to duplicate
his absence, they cant. There is only one Sean Payton on the unemployment line.
Only one Gregg Williams on the suspended list. And the Saints are 0-4. Logic
rules in this one. LONG BEACH, Calif. —It doesnt seem to make a difference
where Will Power starts an IndyCar race anymore. No matter how far back in the
field he goes, hes managing to find his way to the front. Power earned his
second consecutive victory Sunday—keeping Penske Racing perfect on the season
—by picking his way through the field to drive from 12th to first in the
Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Even though he drove from ninth to the victory
at Barber two weeks ago, Power didnt think he could do it again. “I go into
every season thinking that theres no way I can win another race,” the Australian
said. “I dont know why I feel like that, but I do. I guess I have an insecurity
or something or I dont believe in myself enough.” That seems sort of silly,
though, considering Sundays win was the 17th of Powers career and moved him into
the points lead. He pulled it off by working his way through traffic on a street
circuit where passing is difficult, conserving gas over the final 31 laps—
three laps past his fuel window—and holding off hard-charging rookie Simon
Pagenuad at the end. So just where does Power have to start to guarantee he wont
win? “Pole. If you get on pole you wont win,” he said. “Weve experienced that a
number of times here and many other tracks.” Sure enough, Power had started on
the pole the last three years and failed to win at Long Beach. Not this time, as
he gave Penske its first win at Long Beach since 2001 and kept the team perfect
in three races this season. Helio Castroneves won the opener at St. Pete, Power
won the last two races, and theyve combined with teammate Ryan Briscoe to win
all three poles. But their starting positions were scrambled Sunday because all
11 Chevrolet teams were penalized by IndyCar after the manufacturer decided to
yank all its engines as a precautionary measure. The punishment is the loss of
10 spots on the starting grid, so Chevy officials did not make the engine change
lightly because they knew it would put rival manufacturer Honda in strong
position to win its first race of the year. Instead, Chevrolet drivers claimed
10 of the first 14 positions and had six of the top seven spots. Chevrolet
IndyCar program manager Chris Berube called it a showcase of “determination,
talent and spirit of co-operation of Team Chevy.” “Each one of our Chevrolet
teams and drivers put forth their best effort to overcome the adversity of their
starting positions,” Berube said. “It was an amazing race to watch and a great
show for the fans.” Pagenaud, probably the fastest at the end of the race,
settled for second and the Honda driver passed on criticizing lapped traffic. An
encounter with E.J. Viso created a hold-your-breath moment, but Visos team
instructed him to move over for the leaders and both got by. But asked if hed
have had a shot at catching Power if Viso had moved over faster, Pagenaud
wouldnt speculate. “With a lot of ifs, you could change the world,” he said. “Im
really happy with second. If I had an opportunity, I would have definitely
tried. You can trust me on that. The day I have the opportunity, I will try. But
I didnt have the opportunity.” James Hinchcliffe of Oakville, Ont., finished a
career-best third, but had his teammate to thank for his first IndyCar podium.
Hinchcliffe was actually running fifth behind Ryan Hunter-Reay when his teammate
spun Takuma Sato on the last lap. The third-place finissh had been Satos to
claim, but he wound up eighth.dddddddddddd Hunter-Reay was penalized 30 seconds
for avoidable contact, dropping him to sixth, and moving Hinchcliffe to third.
“Any competitor wants to earn it,” Hinchcliffe said. “I would have rather have
done that pass on the track to get the first podium, to get any podium, to get
anything. You dont like being given stuff like that. But at the end of the day,
its a function of racing, and it is what it is.” Sato, who has been fast all
season but has yet to finish a race, was not pleased. “On the very last lap Ryan
Hunter-Reay basically took me out,” Sato said. “There was not enough depth on
his overtaking manoeuvre. He had a chance for the last few corners, so its very
disappointing to finish the race this way.” Hunter-Reay seemed apologetic. “I
feel bad Sato ended up in the tires, but I knew he was saving fuel and I came up
on him really fast,” Hunter-Reay said. It was a messy race from the start as
rookie Josef Newgardens aggressive move on leader Dario Franchitti backfired.
Newgarden was moved to the front row after the Chevrolets were penalized, and
the 21-year-old joked after Saturdays qualifying that he might try to pass
Franchitti immediately because the four-time champion wouldnt be expecting such
a bold move. Newgarden backed up his words, and tried to get past Franchitti on
the outside as they headed into the first turn. There seemed to be some contact
between the two, and Newgardens car sailed into the tire barrier, ending his
race without a single completed lap. “I just got touched on the exit, went right
to the wall. Maybe it wasnt the right move,” Newgarden said. “I thought I had a
good run on him and got a good jump on him. Maybe I probably should have just—
its a tough call.” That immediate incident set the tone for a rough race, with a
hard crash between Marco Andretti and Graham Rahal the most frightening moment
of the day. The drivers disagreed on who was to blame for the collision that
resulted in Andrettis car sailing up and over Rahals before spinning into a
barrier. “Its a cluster back there,” Rahal said. “I think I surprised Marco. He
wasnt going to make the corner no matter what.” Andretti thought Rahal
intentionally cut him off and should have been penalized. “There is one thing,
blocking, but there is another thing, chopping,” Andretti said. “That was a
chop. Im lucky I didnt get upside down. I could have been killed.” During the
yellow flag for IndyCar to clean up the mess from Andrettis wreck, Scott Dixons
car stopped on the track to punctuate a rough day for the Target Chip Ganassi
Racing drivers. Franchitti never could stay out front, he was passed on the
first restart by Justin Wilson, faded back through the field and suffered damage
from contact with Briscoe on another restart. Franchitti, who started from the
pole because of the Chevrolet penalties, finished 15th. Briscoe, meanwhile,
never got to enjoy his pole-winning run. The penalties pushed him back to the
11th starting spot, and although he eventually made it back to the front during
the cycle of yellow flags and pit stops, he wasnt able to stay there and
finished a season-best finish. “We just were stuck in traffic all day long,” he
said. “Its a real shame because I think we had the quickest car out there and we
just couldnt do anything with it.” ’ ’ ’ 

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