Finding a Way to Win, the former New York Giants’ coach Bill Parcells and co-author Jeff Coplan lay out four possible scenarios that may unfold each Sunday. In his view, these dichotomies shed light on coaching a team to prepare for their next challenges. Let’s take a look at these scenarios and see how they hold up to this season of play with regard to the New York Giants.
Prior to each game being played, fans and experts alike enjoy discussing the challenges and opportunities each team faces. Usually, examples of performance in previous games highlight talking points. Player X ran great routes, player Y can’t cover, or player Z is having issues with A, B and C.
But, past performance does not necessarily predict the future.
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As an example, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ DeAngelo Williams had one of the most prolific rushing games through the first two weeks of the season according to ESPN.com. During that time, he had 58 carries for 237 yards; an average of 4.1 yards per carry. Only a week later, his production was reduced to 8 carries for 21 yards – a 2.6 yard average. Clearly, the game plan had changed.
For the New York Giants’ fans riding the wave of an 2-0 start, last Sunday’s loss against the division rival Washington Redskins was a bitter pill to swallow. We have been left to speculate, what happened? And more importantly, how do we turn things around?
Jan 27, 1991; Tampa, FL, USA; FILE PHOTO; New York Giants head coach Bill Parcells prior to the start of Super Bowl XXV against the Buffalo Bills at Tampa Stadium. The Giants defeated the Bills 20-19. Mandatory Credit: Photo by US PRESSWIRE (c) Copyright 1991 US PRESSWIRE
Understand the Psychology
The game planning is up to the coaches and is not, frankly, something I care to speculate on. Enough other people cover that already. Yet, what many may miss is the psychological aspect of the game. To be more precise, the psychological aspect when combined with the actual performance in a previous game.
Coach Parcells suggests there are four basic scenarios coaches must consider:
Play Well and Win
Play Well and Lose
Play Poorly and Win
Play Poorly and Lose
These scenarios offer insight into player psychology and perils that coaches must avoid for success.
Play Well and Win – The Danger of Overconfidence
When a team performs well and earns a victory, they can become complacent. After all, they are clearly the better players, the better team. They earned this victory on their performance. And, if they have done it once, they can do it again.
Such view points have led to championship teams falling into obscurity. As an example, look at the Carolina Panthers (defending NFC Champions) loss to the Minnesota Vikings.
The Giants try to stem this pitfall in two ways. First, high value is placed on players with a great work ethic. The theory being that these individuals always strive to improve, no matter the situation. Second, the coaching staff attempts to drill the idea of fundamentals to the team during practice.
Play Well and Lose – The Plight of Lost Confidence
Nothing seems quite as aggravating as doing your best and still failing to accomplish your goals. While many quotes are given about persevering throughout a season, it’s a bitter pill to swallow when that final whistle blows and you are left short.
Oct 4, 2015; Orchard Park, NY, USA; New York Giants guard John Jerry (77) against the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
The nation got a taste of what this looks like last Sunday with Odell Beckham Jr.’s sideline tantrum. Beckham had seven catches for 121 yards, a 17.3 yard average. By most metrics, he had a stellar game. Yet, gaffes out of his control gave the game away – Beckham recognized that, and his inability to do anything about it.
Keeping that level of passion and drive at Beckham’s high level is difficult to sustain. Perhaps Odell’s ability to maintain that is what makes him a superstar. But, the Giants are not just Beckham.
What makes this scenario so difficult is when the good play gets lost in the outcome. How many of us have recognized Right Guard John Jerry’s play this season. It’s definitely improved over last year.
Coach McAdoo and his staff can highlight the good performances this week and build upon that. Allowing the team to dwell on the negative, then they move in that direction. Better to be positive.
Playing Poorly and Win – The Pitfall of False Confidence
Over the first two weeks of the season, the Giants’ defense clearly won the both games. Going into the contest against the Redskins, the talk of the town (not related to the Beckham-Norman rematch) centered around the improvement on defense. The Giants climbed in nearly all of the national Power Rankings, due largely in their shutdown performance against Saints’ Drew Brees.
But, was that warranted?
In those first two games, the Giants started a few trends. We lost the turnover, and time of possession battles. Yet, we won.
Dist Giants’ execution of basic fundamentals following the sloppy lost last week to the Redskins, . Could the preparation have been better? Was there too much confidence in the defense that led to lax preparations?
When you win, watching game film can become and exercise in self approval. Coach McAdoo must use that film to point out the gaffs and miscues that lead to bad habits.
“It’s always easier to coach after a loss, because everybody knows they’re going to get yelled at and it’s easier to chew some ass after a loss, as a coach…If it’s after a win and you come in and start chewing butts, everybody looks at you like you’re crazy because they’re like ‘Hey, we just won.” – Ben McAdoo
Yet, that chewing is objectively more important after a win played poorly.
Play Poorly and Lose – The Pain of No Confidence
During the 2015, the Giants lost five games in which they led during the final two minutes. As we know, that led to the 6-10 record. Consider, had they been able to hold the line for those five games, the Giants could have won the division with a record of 11-5. It was not to be.
Feb 24, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; New York Giants head coach Ben McAdoo speaks to the media during the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
Beaten down, the defense’s confidence was shattered. Each time they found themselves in similar situations, they folded.
As a coach, rebuilding lost confidence is a Sisyphean task. Every obstacle seems insurmountable. Yet, that is the coach’s job.
With the loss to the Washington Redskins, McAdoo has his work cut out for him. They played poorly and lost. The team, media and fans are all revisiting the concerns of the preseason. Monday night’s game against the Vikings will be a test for McAdoo. Will he show that he has a handle on the team and can return disciple? Or, will last week’s loss be the first in a snowball of disappointment? Time will tell. Perhaps McAdoo has read Bill Parcell’s book and will learn from a great in Giants’ history.