Vince Lombardi

No Monday Morning Quarterbacks

No Monday Morning Quarterbacks!!

"The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function," said writer and passionate Princeton football fan, F. Scott Fitzgerald. "Genius is the ability to put into effect what is on your mind."

Given his sentiments and the paradoxical nature of football, it is no surprise that Fitzgerald loved football. Players must hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time--competition and teamwork--and still retain the ability to function. "Competition" is a rivalry between people for territory or resources. "Teamwork" is people working collaboratively towards a common goal. To succeed in football, players must function while simultaneously holding these ideas in mind.

Coaches must put into effect what is on their mind.

Football is a game of multiple equlibria. Multiple equilibria means there are many possible satisfying solutions to a problem. Because a professional football coach has multiple solutions to his problem, a coach is always vulnerable to hindsight and second-guessing commonly referred to as "Monday Morning Quarterbacking." (If the chef prepared fish for the restaurant customers and the customers did not like the fish, then obviously he should have prepared beef.) However, multiple equilibria also lead to monopolistic dominance, rather than perfect competition. In other words, because multiple solutions to every problem exist, a coach theoretically can design a solution to his team's problems that will eliminate competition and guarantee victory.

How can a coach design such a solution? It appears that to do so, a coach must be able to see everything that happens on a football field simultaneously. In When Pride Still Mattered, David Maraniss wrote that Gerald Lodge, a linebacker at West Point while Vince Lombardi was an assistant coach there, said that "Lombardi was as valuable on defense as on offense because of his uncommon ability to notice several events simultaneously along the line of scrimmage as though they were happening in slow motion and in isolation.

'I would come out after the first series of plays on defense and Lombardi would get me on the phone and tell me what to tell each of the players on the whole defense--what the opposing team was doing differently than we expected and how to adjust to it. The ends were too split; tighten up; the quarterback is tipping off his passing plays, subtle things like that. It is hard to watch more than one or two people at a time, but he could see everybody and just rattle it off,' Lodge said."

Bill Walsh had the same uncommon ability. "Fortunately, in my case, I can envision 11 men at one time. I can still see it," Walsh said in an interview with FoxSports. "That was at the height of my career. I had a real feel for what everybody was doing. I enjoyed designing plays to beat defenses. But I also enjoyed the players themselves."

So how did Lombardi and Walsh overcome this paradox of multiple equilibria so much more effectively than other coaches and put what was on their minds into effect? It appears that the answer is that both coaches accepted the paradox, perhaps even embraced the paradox, because to do otherwise would have been to deny their very selves. In What It Takes to Be #1, Lombardi's son, Vincent Lombardi, Jr., wrote "paradox is a universal law." In When Pride Still Mattered, Lombardi Jr. said, "People say the only constant in life is change. I say the only constant in life is paradox. My father's life was a paradox. Everything about him."

Walsh was similar. Fred Von Appen, who coached with him on the 49ers and at Stanford, told an interviewer in 1993, "He's a complex man, somewhat of an enigma. I gave up trying to understand him a long time ago. In a way, he has the kind of personality that creates a love-hate relationship. He's not always the distinguished, patriarchal guy television viewers are used to seeing on the sidelines. He's a very competitive guy, and he can be scathing, especially in the heat of battle. There have been times when I gladly would have split his skull with an ax. Then again, he's the greatest."

In light of the inherent paradoxical nature of both coaching and the game of football, QC will strive to not second-guess any coach at any time. QC quantifies coaching by objectively describing play design with statistics. QC does not judge or rank coaches.

© 2009 is not affiliated with the National Football League or any of its members.
The material contained on is for entertainment purposes only.