National Columnist

Don't believe coaches when they say, 'I see nothing!'


Hate Mail: Arkansas fans dig up the past

Just once, Mr. Big Shot Football Coach, admit it. Accept responsibility. Say you ordered the damn code red, and then pay whatever consequences are coming. Is that too much to ask?

Apparently, it is.

So Rex Ryan didn't know anything about his team's sideline activites? Sure ... (US Presswire)  
So Rex Ryan didn't know anything about his team's sideline activites? Sure ... (US Presswire)  
Rex Ryan hid behind his strength and conditioning coach.

Jeff Tedford hid behind his defensive line coach.

Josh McDaniels hid behind his video operations director.

All of them, scared little boys, without a skirt to dive behind. Mommy's not around, so they pick up whatever human shield they can find and thrust it at Daddy and say, "It wasn't me!"

And maybe it wasn't them. Maybe Sal Alosi, the Jets' strength and conditioning coach, was the evil mastermind behind that borderline illegal wall of coaches on the Jets' sideline Sunday against the Dolphins. Maybe Alosi, a staffer who makes his living slinging heavy metal plates, came up with the idea to line up four or five Jets coaches and inactive players on the sideline, positioning them foot to foot, to form a wall in the exact spot where the Dolphins gunner, Nolan Carroll, would come running as he tried to cover a Miami punt.

Maybe Rex Ryan didn't know. He has a lot on his mind during the game, though he would have had plenty of time before the game, in the hours and days and weeks that coaches sit in their office scheming for an extra advantage, to implement that sideline wall. But let's not go there. Rex Ryan already is on record as saying the idea wasn't his, and Alosi has played the loyal solider and accepted full blame, so who are we to suggest otherwise?

By the same token, maybe Tosh Lupoi, the defensive line coach of the Cal Bears, was telling the truth when he claimed to be the one and only coach on the Cal sideline who decided that the best way to beat the No. 1 team in the country, the Oregon Ducks, was to slow down the Oregon offense by faking injuries on defense. It's possible that Tedford allows his position coaches the kind of latitude to devise and implement tactics that are, in the words of the NCAA's own rule book, "dishonest, unsportsmanlike and contrary to the spirit of the rules."

It's even possible that Tedford didn't know what he was watching as his players rose from the ground after plays, looked to the sideline, then fell down like a pre-schooler with a make-believe boo-boo. Maybe the acting was so good, Tedford got lost and thought he was watching a scene from The Reader.

As for McDaniels, well, you're going to have to pull this leg and listen to it play Jingle Bells before you'll get me to believe he had no idea his video operations director with the Broncos was illegally taping the 49ers in London. Given the enormity of the punishment handed to McDaniels' own Patriots organization after their illegal taping episode from 2007 -- a $500,000 fine for head coach Bill Belichick, a $250,000 fine for the organization and the loss of a first-round draft pick -- you're just not going to convince me, ever, that a video operations director decided to risk the draft pick, the money and the reputation of his head coach and franchise all on his own. McDaniels was later fired, but not because he took the blame for the videotape scandal. He took no blame. Wasn't his fault.

As for the bigger picture, I don't like the lesson coming from these head coaches, these men who preach Honor and Loyalty as the backbone to a life spent defending something. And here I am, using them as a punch line. And quoting extensively from A Few Good Men, which leapt to mind as these arrogant micromanagers -- these head coaches who know or claim to know when a mouse passes gas in their football offices -- suddenly don't know a damn thing.

Not sure why A Few Good Men comes to mind. I shouldn't be hearing Col. Nathan Jessep. I should be hearing Sgt. Schultz from Hogan's Heroes as he screams, "I see nothing. I was not here. I did not even get up this morning!"

Because when the crap hits the fan, these guys don't know nothing. Rex Ryan had no idea his sideline was setting up like a chess board, pieces moving here and there, whenever the Dolphins punted. Tedford had no idea his defensive line coach was instructing players to collapse like they had been shot in an effort to beat Oregon. And McDaniels had no idea his ... sorry. I can't even finish that sentence. Can't believe I played along with that joke as long as I have.

All these guys are jokes, because they preach one thing but live another. With few exceptions, a head football coach demands career-changing loyalty from the very people he will sell out, in a heartbeat, to save his own career. Take a scholarship from a kid because that kid can't help the team? Coaches do that. Demote a coordinator? Coaches do that. Fire a position coach? Sure. Everyone in your program is expandable if you're a head football coach. It's one of the perks of the job.

One exception is Duke football coach David Cutcliffe, who was fired at Ole Miss in 2004 after he refused to fire some of his assistant coaches. Rather than throwing his assistants -- and friends -- overboard like a broken toilet, Cutcliffe flushed his own job. Another example is Jim Mora, fired by the Colts in 2002 when he refused to get rid of his defensive coordinator, a 20-year staffer named Vic Fangio.

You can argue that such loyalty didn't work for Cutcliffe or Mora, that it ultimately cost everyone on their staff their job, and you would be right. But I can argue that David Cutcliffe and Jim Mora didn't just ask for honor and loyalty from the staffers under their command -- they gave it. And there is no price you can put on a man's honor.

Rex Ryan, Jeff Tedford and Josh McDaniels have no honor. Things go wrong under their watch and they give excuses. They give stories. And they expect us to believe those stories, but here's the thing: If we believe those stories -- if we believe they have underlings running amok -- it punctures their aura of leadership. It makes Ryan, Tedford and McDaniels look weak, ineffective. Vulnerable.

So which is it, guys?

Are you liars and cowards -- or are you simply too weak to keep your staff under control?

Gregg Doyel is a columnist for He covered the ACC for the Charlotte Observer, the Marlins for the Miami Herald, and Brooksville (Fla.) Hernando for the Tampa Tribune. He was 4-0 (3 KO's!) as an amateur boxer, and volunteers for the ALS Association. Follow Gregg Doyel on Twitter.

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