Posted Jan. 19 at 06:47 AM
You can learn a lot about football players in the playoffs. The way they handle winning -- and losing -- tells you more than any studio interview. This weekend I saw one player handle losing well, and a team handle winning poorly.
Have you ever been on a project at work that took several months to complete and have it look fantastic? Did you ruin the whole thing in one day, letting everyone down? That's how Nate Kaeding feels right now. The Chargers' kicker missed three field-goals (for the first time in his career) in a game the team lost by three. While you can't blame a loss on one person (and the game would have played out differently had one or more of those kicks had been made) a lot of it falls on Kaeding. He's also gaining a reputation as a choker in the playoffs; in his rookie season he missed a critical field-goal and the Chargers lost to...the Jets. In a situation like that, you'd expect him to skip post-game interviews, slip out the back door and fall into an off-season depression. But obviously, that's not Nate Kaeding. Instead he said things like "If you play this game and you can only accept when things go well, then you're in the wrong business. Especially in my position because you're going to miss some and unfortunately some days like this will come and my really bad days have been untimely ones. It's tough to deal with but you have got to deal with it, it's part of the deal."
Can't say it any better than that. Kaeding doesn't have ice water running through his veins, but he has perspective. He took responsibility for what happened and put it in context. He's very disappointed but it's not going to ruin his life. In contrast, I've seen fantasy owners have bigger meltdowns after a tough loss. I'd worry about the Chargers if he needs to kick a game-winner in the playoffs, but I'm not worried about Nate Kaeding as a person at all. He's going to be just fine. And if you're looking for sports role models for your kids, Nate Kaeding is a pretty good one. Children shouldn't just look up to the guy who hits the game-winner or has the biggest contract or the best stats. They should admire the guy who tried his hardest, falls short and takes responsibility for what happened-- and then moves on. In the real world, people have to overcome adversity and keep going. Watching someone handle it the right way is good to see, even if the game's outcome was painful and disappointing.
I was also disappointed at the end of the Dallas-Minnesota game, but for different reasons. I don't support either team, so I didn't care who won. But I think Minnesota throwing a meaningless touchdown with less than two minutes left to play was poor sportsmanship. Now, I realize that my position might not be a popular one. After all, if the Cowboys couldn't stop them it's their problem, right? And the offense's job is to score points so they didn't do anything wrong. What's with all this wimpy complaining?
In my opinion, that's all incorrect. The offense's job is not to score points. If it was, teams wouldn't run on 3rd-and-15 to use up the clock. The offense has one job, and it's the same job the defense and special teams has: Help the team win. Usually that means scoring points, but sometimes it means just making first downs and eating up the clock. And if the goal has been reached, there is no real purpose anymore. That's why backups might play or teams take a knee. Nobody is trying to score points in those cases.
And if the defense can't stop you when you have a big lead at the end, the game is over. The Vikings didn't win anything extra with that last touchdown. They still get one win and still have to travel to New Orleans. They didn't gain anything by scoring again. So why did they do it? I think they're poorly-coached. In the post-game press conference they were unapologetic and cocky. It's as if "sportsmanship" is a dirty word and showing mercy to an opponent is a sign of weakness. What message does that send to kids? Winning is good...but humiliating your opponent is even better? A victory should be enough on its own. When the game is in hand there's nothing positive to be gained by running up the score. The NFL is not a total points league and it isn't "manly" to try and embarrass an already-defeated team. But I don't hope another team does that to the Vikings. Instead, I hope at some point another team shows them the proper way to seal a victory and teaches the players what their head coach cannot. Most of this weekend's games weren't very good. Only the last one had real drama. I hope the conference championships are classic contests, and I hope the players handle winning and losing with class.
You can reach Michael Murillo at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted by ANDY RICHARDSON | Jan. 19 at 08:01 AM
I agree that throwing a pass there was lame. But, they had to run an offensive play of some kind. It's 4th and 3 and they can't take any time off the clock with a knee. Bringing the field goal unit out is also an exercise in excess; that would probably also have been criticized. Had they called a running play, and Peterson broke through for an 11-yard touchdown, would that also have been criticized? Probably. As for the postgame from Childress, what I got from it was that he was kind of ticked off by all the talking up of the Cowboys before the game. I don't know if it was the Cowboys doing the talking or the ESPN talking heads and other media types, most of whom did favor the Cowboys. If that's all it was, running up the score on another team because of media hype of that team is pretty weak. Of course, I've never liked Childress. All season he's acted as if he, not Brett Favre, is running the team. So he's got a lot of nerve.
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