It was just a quick little blurb when I first saw it. President Bush in South Florida, having dinner at Joe’s Stone Crabs with a bunch of well-known Floridians. Nick Saban, Head Coach of the Miami Dolphins declined the invitation because he was “too busy with training camp.” It struck me as amusing, but not weird, that’s how coaches act and I’ve been conditioned to expect it.
Since that “blurb” everybody’s had their shots at Saban and have run his decision into the ground. Of course it’s weird and wrong, but I’m sure Saban can’t figure out what the fuss is all about. In fact, anybody in the coaching profession is probably totally perplexed with the reaction. Coaches coach, that’s what they do. The ones that are “so-called” successful think that out-working the competition puts them a little ahead of the rest of the world.
Dick Vermeil and Joe Gibbs were the first over the top workers. Sure you can go back to Vince Lombardi and a few others, but Vermeil is the first celebrated self-proclaimed “burnout” while Gibbs stepped away from the game when he realized he was missing his whole life. He even tells a famous story about himself going home early one night to tuck his son into bed and realizing his son had a goatee and was 220 lbs! His wife used to record dinner table conversations among his family and send them to Redskins Park hoping Gibbs would get a chance to listen to them.
Vermeil was famous for sleeping at his office in order to not waste the time driving back and forth to his house. We’ve seen that first hand in Jacksonville with Tom Coughlin. He’s a famous over-worker and several coaches left or turned down jobs with the Jaguars because of Coughlin’s famous over-working habits.
Right after September 11, 2001, Paul Tagliabue declared a moratorium on working one day that week, mandating that the league be shut down. Coughlin ignored Tagliabue’s directive and came to work anyway, his car the only one in the stadium parking lot.
So that kind of bizarre behavior doesn’t seem strange to me. Anti-social, tunnel vision, call it anything you want. It’s weird, but acceptable in that profession, even lauded. If a guy doesn’t work enough (see Steve Spurrier) he’s criticized for letting things get away from him.
Gibbs does have three Super Bowl rings, and Vermeil finally got his, but not before he realized life was passing him by. Saban’s team won it’s last six games last year and is the trendy pick to be a contender this year. But it doesn’t matter. Even if the Dolphins win the Super Bowl this season, Saban will always be known as the coach who picked two hours of film over two hours with the President of the United States.
I hope when he’s 80 and nobody remembers he was a coach he can remember the plays he researched. I hope they work.