Does Coaching Football Cause Madness?
2:21 PM EDT on October 1, 2020
Drew Magary’s Thursday Afternoon NFL Dick Joke Jamboroo runs every Thursday at Defector during the NFL season. Got something you wanna contribute? Email the Roo. Buy Drew’s new novel, “Point B,” here.
You know that Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, and perhaps you know also that he was big into, uh, eugenics. But what you might not know is that the instantaneous, nationwide success of the telephone—an invention that only gained notice because the Emperor of Brazil happened to spot it while strolling through a national Centennial exhibition where it was on display—gave Bell tacit permission to indulge in a personal work ethic that you will find deranged.
I begin my work at about nine or ten o’clock in the evening, and continue until four or five in the morning. Night is a more quiet time to work. It aids thought.
Bell thought a lot. Armed with both the time and the resources to pursue every feat of new engineering he possibly could, he went on to invent the wireless telephone, the hydrofoil, and an early prototype of a metal detector to help find a bullet that had been shot into President James Garfield. Bell never was able to find that bullet, perhaps because the bed Garfield was laying on itself had a metal frame. But failure was little deterrent to Bell, who holed himself up in his workroom and hated to ever leave it. Bell worked such long hours that his wife Mabel wrote to her mother about it:
“He has his machine running beautifully, but it will kill him if he is not careful.”
In fact, prior to Mabel, Bell’s own mother had persuaded him to leave his native Scotland because she felt a life in North America might help calm his ambitions. That move failed, so much so that Ma Bell wrote directly to her son to tell him, in florid 1800s prose, to chill the fuck out:
“I wish very much that you would for a time turn away your thoughts altogether from the subject you have so long been poring over, and give your mind a rest. I am dreadfully afraid you are overstraining it.”
That kind of deliberate strain has been a showcase feature of the American work culture ever since, and it’s at perhaps its most visible, not to mention insufferable, in the field of coaching. Football coaching, to be specific. I’ve always joked that coaches are fucking insane. But these coaches go out of their way to render that observation a serious one.
Take Adam Gase, for instance.
Adam Gase is a bad coach who runs a bad team. Neither of those things have disrupted his tunnel vision. In fact, Gase can’t even acknowledge his failures because that would get in the way of his insatiable drive to orchestrate those failures. Witness his machine not working so beautifully here:
New York Jets coach Adam Gase, under fire after an 0-3 start, remains committed to struggling quarterback Sam Darnold. "He just needs to keep playing," Gase said Monday. "He needs to keep playing and keep fixing the mistakes that are made and really emphasize the things he's doing really well, and just keep building on those."
Gase is convinced you can work through any problem. His mind won’t allow him to believe anything else. And we’re talking about an objectively shitty coach here. We’re also talking about a familiar strain of workaholism lionized by every terrible boss you’ve ever had that: a work addiction that has already proven to be both ineffective and unhealthy. But it’s so NORMAL for NFL coaches to be this fucked up that coaches with healthy personal habits and relationships get laughed out of the stadium. It’s been this way forever. I grew up with canonized stories of Joe Gibbs sleeping on a cot in his office, like a goddamn hobo. This was presented as an impressive feat of determination, and not as the sad state of a man’s life that it really was.
As with politics, the structure of the coaching profession is designed to exclusively accommodate the unwell and the narcissistic. The average coach’s refusal to ever stop tinkering has real problems that he rarely, if ever, gets around to fixing. Remember Chris Foerster, the Dolphins coach who did rails on video? He’s back in football. Remember when Gary Kubiak collapsed on the sideline in Houston and then suddenly retired from the Broncos because he suffered from a terrifying migraine condition? He’s now toiling as offensive coordinator for a shit team. Remember Steve Sarkisian getting shitcanned for being a hardcore alcoholic? He summarily went about dismantling an otherwise useful Falcons offense after that.
These are damaged men. And football, with its endless and fascinating intricacies, invites them to damage themselves further. Look upon their work and the voices of Bell’s wife and mother come screaming into your mind. For too many coaches, the work is secretly more important than the result. You don’t see Adam Gase being like, “You know what? This clearly isn’t working for me. I’m gonna go sell guitars instead.” Obviously these men are paid handsomely for their fruitless toil, but the bulk of them were already rich before they demonstrated a terminal inability to give up. Adam Gase wants to coach too much to stop coaching. In his obsessed mind, there is always a solution, and that solution is always to work more. It never dawns on a lot of these coaches that there may not BE a solution. They’ve watched successful guys like Bill Belichick and Andy Reid solve football, an inherently unsolvable game, and come to believe that they too can scheme their way into immortality.
This is a profession of men conning themselves, and the damage they’re doing to their minds is plainly evident. In fact, do the slightest amount of digging and you’ll find that overwork leads to any number of mental health issues, including depression, addiction, anxiety, ADHD, and a shitload of other problems. And that’s on top of the requisite physical strain the profession takes on coaches: heart attacks, etc. That strain has been so thoroughly codified into the coaching culture that it’s all taken as a given. There have been studies about the effect coaches have on games and on businesses (mostly positive in both cases), but rarely have there been studies on how COACHES are affected by coaching. The closest thing you get to that are shitty old Rick Reilly columns about Bo Ryan getting his wife to do all the housework so he has more time to coach. There’s plenty of research on how football kills players’ brains, but maybe there should be more research into how—albeit under different conditions—it kills the brains of the men bossing those players around, not that coaches would ever agree to participate in such a study.
Ideally, there would be a coaches' union as well. One that restricted working hours just as the NFLPA managed to curb working hours for players. Of course, coaches fucking hate those player restrictions, and they’d piss and moan even more if their own precious work habits were reined in by even the slightest percentage. Hence, there will never be a coaches' union, only a collection of mad scientists endlessly tinkering with a game only one of them can win. The math is plain, but these men are less scared of losing games than they are of losing quality time with their own mania.
As for Bell, he lived to the ripe old age of 75 before dying of diabetes. His compulsions, in an upset, never defeated him the way similar compulsions have burned out so many other relentless minds. Along the way, he gave us the foundations of modern communication. His work was worth it. What the fuck has Adam Gase ever given the world?
All games in the Jamboroo are evaluated for sheer watchability on a scale of 1 to 5 Throwgasms.
Patriots at Chiefs: I was watching the Chiefs clean out the Ravens on MNF last week, and it finally hit me that the announcers weren’t pissing me off. I was like hey wait a second… is this booth, like, good? Reader, it is. I had NO expectations for this 934th combination of MNF announcers to be worth a shit, especially since ESPN assembled the Levy/Riddick/Griese Voltron from spare parts they had lying around. That was how we ended up with Tess and Booger up there last year, after all.
And yet, this booth works. Levy is cheerful without being a melodramatic idiot. Louis Riddick tells you shit that you wouldn’t have noticed had he not pointed it out. And Brian Griese never talks, which is the nicest thing any color guy can ever do. It’s a small revelation. I’m so used to having my thumb on the MUTE button during the whole MNF broadcast that I now have to wean myself off that reflex. Feels strange, but in a reassuring way.
Steelers at Titans (postponed!): I drank the Kool-Aid for the first two weeks on the NFL’s COVID protocol. I was like, “Hey! They’re actually pulling this off!” Right after that, of course, the Titans decided to play a team game of spin the bottle and play my team six seconds afterward. And you know what? I’m STILL in the tank. I’m like well OK they’ve announced the positives and are taking precautions to prevent a larger outbreak. Join me next week when 18 players on 12 teams have died from the rona and I’m like THIS IS WORKING GREAT! WE’RE STILL GONNA HAVE A SUPER BOWL!
In other news, the Steelers are good and it’s fucking awful. Why couldn’t THEY have all gotten the rona? I know where Ben Roethlisberger has been, man. Karma owes him a visit.
Falcons at Packers: We’ve reached the point with the Falcons now where they choke so horribly and so routinely that they’ve become appointment television. The Chargers should file a lawsuit against them for stealing their bit. Like, if I see the Falcons up by three touchdowns on Green Bay in the third quarter on Sunday, I am SPRINTING over to that game. I know how that shit ends. Speaking of this game…
Colts at Bears: I caved and watched a little college football this past weekend. I was flipping around and saw that K-State had upset Oklahoma and all those old college football feelings came rushing back. It felt like a real Saturday again, so I flipped to the LSU game while the angel on my shoulder was like YOU’RE BEING A NAUGHTY BOY, DREWBEAR! I couldn’t help it. You could stage a football game with cancer patients played on the surface of fucking Venus and I’d still probably end up watching it. I’m as bad as the rest of them.
Bills at Raiders: During the preseason Bills fans sent in a lot of Why Your Team Sucks letters that said, “We will absolutely win the Super Bowl during the plague season because that’s what we deserved,” and I laughed because I was like, “That team isn’t winning dick even if the other 31 teams all die.” But it turns out those fans might have been RIGHT! The Bills are really fucking good! The racist guy has suddenly become accurate! LIVE OTTERS ARE FALLING FROM THE SKY IT’S MADNESS.
Browns at Cowboys: FUN FACT from last week… The Browns are over .500 for the first time since 2014. That shouldn’t be possible. I know we’re talking about the Browns here, but even hopeless teams go 1-0 or 2-1. Happens all the time. Sometimes a bad team opens with a soft schedule, or they pull an upset that turns out to be a fluke. Bills fans know this kind of false start intimately. The fact that the Browns needed SIX FUCKING YEARS just to reach 2-1 is obviously an indictment of their nonstop pantshitting, but it’s also a statistical anomaly you’d have to map out using very large exponents. I don’t think this Browns team is very good. I know they aren’t. And yet, they have a winning record. Again, this is a common fluke unless you’re the Browns, who have not gone 1-0—just 1-0!—in 16 fucking years. This shouldn’t be possible. It’s a cosmic fluke on par with the existence of life on earth.
But let’s take the easy way out and just say LOL BROWNS instead. The black magic constantly emanating from Lake Erie’s flames is the obvious culprit here.
Chargers at Bucs: In yet another strange fluke, both Tom Brady’s old team and his new team both added wide stripes to their uniform ensemble this season. I know I’m the Chopped shirt guy. But that just makes me an expert in shitty fashion. And these stripes are ugly as sin. I know mom jeans are back in style, but there’s no reason for an NFL team to sport threads that look like a rugby shirt I wore back in eighth grade. Even Cam Newton can’t pull that look off.
Seahawks at Dolphins: You will vehemently disagree with this, but Troy Aikman is starting to sound more like latter-day Madden when he calls games. I don’t mean that he’s charming or insightful. I just mean that he’s slowly acquiring that form of Madden-ese where your words are slurred, and you notice a guy on the field just because you notice him. “Tell you who probably didn’t like that play was Chris Carson, Joe!” He’s scraping his inanity down to a dull blade. Five years from now, Troy will sound like he has a mouth full of shredded wheat throughout the entire telecast.
Broncos at Jets: I know every Thursday game is the worst game ever, but you and I know that this one is special. It’s not just ANY Thursday Night when you get to watch Mark Rypien’s father’s cousin’s nephew’s former roommate take on an entire organization that wishes it had COVID to make the pain go away. This game is like Tuesday night's presidential debate: The only reaction people will have after the fact will be THAT CLEARLY NEVER SHOULD HAVE BEEN ALLOWED TO HAPPEN.
Eagles at Niners: They will never listen to me, but DBs need to stop taking the ball out of the end zone when they make a pick. Every time I see an end zone pick I scream at the TV, “Get the fuck down!” What happens? Ballhawk McGee back there suddenly thinks he’s Deion, takes the ball out, and gets tackled at the eight. It’s just like kickoffs. Sometimes you get a decent return when you pull that stunt, but the odds in favor of it are longer than the Browns starting any season 3-2. You got the pick. That’s badass enough. Now get the fuck down before I snitch to your mom about it.
Ravens at WFT: I always need a moment to myself when the announcers remind me that Calais Campbell is 6-foot-8. He’s not even the tallest lineman in the NFL, and linemen have been tall guys for a long time now, but still… my brain can’t comprehend it. I’m used to outside wideouts being tall and tight ends being former basketball players and all that tired shit. But I will never fully grasp how insane it is that a dude who could touch the fucking moon can put his hand on the ground every down and not only play a position that demands you keep a low center of gravity, but be dominant at it. If I could draft pro athletes to fight on my side in Civil War II when it starts next month, I’m drafting Calais Campbell first. I’m scared shitless of him, and I’m just watching him on a screen.
Vikings at Texans: Last Sunday morning, I was about to put on one of my Vikings gameday jerseys—yes, I’m one of those fans—when I stopped short. The team had played so badly the first two games I decided that they were no longer jerseyworthy. They had to EARN my jersey, dammit. Then they built up a lead against the Titans and I was like, “I guess it’s okay to put my jersey back on now.” WRONG. So horribly wrong.
Giants at Rams
Saints at Lions
Cardinals at Panthers
Jaguars at Bengals
Pregame Song That Makes Me Want To Run Through A Goddamn Brick Wall
“Brainwasher,” by Warthog! Here’s reader M.:
This is "Brainwasher" by WARTHOG. They have this cool shirt of some MAGA creep getting his brain ripped out while his throat is also being sliced open by a very pleased reaper. I've been listening to this group for years and this song is where they've taken their iterations of hardcore punk into some frenetic, rumbling, meanacing, riff-heavy, hell hound-screaming jumble -- but, the solo during the video is when their reaper hatches out of a dragon egg, smashes the other eggs, and summons a bunch of crazy lighting, yessssssss.
I’m extremely pleased to have disturbing claymation metal videos back in my life. Haven’t seen a good one since Tool made the “Sober” video and everyone had to guess what kinda meat was passing through that one tube. And this video starts off with some clay booty action! WHO ARE YOU TO RESIST?
Gregg Easterbrook Memorial Haughty Dipshit Of The Week
Must we? We must.
How the mighty have fallen. It used to be about the CONTENT, Darren. You’ve changed, man.
Magic Johnson’s Lock Of The Week: Titans (+2) vs. Steelers
“The Titans are two-point underdogs even though they are playing at home! I expect them to be fully healthy and to win this game on Sunday! You know what’s always been a second home to me and to Cookie? The executive lunchroom at CDW! What a wonderful meal of chicken breast and steamed rice we had with CDW President and Chief Warehouse Officer Gary Hump and his staff! They’re not only bringing the world great products, but also great JOY!”
2020 Magic record: 2-1
Fantasy Player Who Deserves To Die A Slow, Painful Death
Anthony Sherman. I’d like to say something to all of the fullbacks and backup tight ends out there right now: You are not allowed to score. I know it’s a rare personal thrill for you to score, but you are fucking the rest of us in the process. I hate you all. The Chiefs have 19 other guys who are regular fantasy starters. It should be illegal for someone who is NOT in that group of studs to vulture TDs. It’s immoral. Thankfully, we no longer live in a free country. That means THERE WILL BE CONSEQUENCES FOR DISPLEASING OUR DEAR LEADERS. So watch your ass, Sherman, because there’s a CIA black site with your name on it.
Eric Fisher scoring was cool, though.
Bad Local Commercial Of The Week!
The Benedict Motel! In scenic LINDEN, NEW JERSEY. Nothing says hot wet romance like sneaking in a quick fuck a mile away from the Turnpike! From Brian:
I legitimately saw this commercial for them on broadcast television, and had to track it down on Youtube to confirm I hadn't been hallucinating. Criminally, it has some 600 views, despite the commercial's unmitigated balls, conceptually speaking. "Benedict Motel. THIS IS WHERE YOU CHEAT." Heck, maybe they're capitalizing on a market inefficiency. But don't you dare go looking for more info on the Benedict Motel. Dave wants to show you his Japan Room, North Pole Room (complete with heart shaped tub), and Tahiti Room, where he's presumably enjoying a 2PM fling with his mistress.
The linked commercial in Brian’s letter takes you to a commercial that’s been made private. NOT UNLIKE THE SULTRY AMBIENCE OF THE TAHITI ROOM. Anyway, if you wear a cheap suit and have no safer place to bed a hooker, here’s your oasis!
Fire This Asshole!
Is there anything more exciting than a coach losing his job? All year long, we’ll keep track of which coaches will almost certainly get fired at year’s end or sooner. And now, your potential 2020 chopping block:
(* - potential midseason firing)
I didn’t put Ron Rivera on here, because it’s his first year and Dan Snyder always gives his new coaches (non-Schottenheimer division) at least two years to assist in polishing the turd before his patience starts to wear thin. But friends, ol’ Ron here seems hellbent on speeding up the process:
“As far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing to answer,” Rivera said after Washington’s loss at Cleveland, when asked why, for the second consecutive week, he didn’t use any of his three timeouts to stop the clock as part of trying to get the ball back in the fourth quarter of a two-score game. “I did what I did. Like I told you guys, my concern is about the development of this football team, not appeasing anybody that has an opinion. Okay? I’m going to do what I need to do to help this football team.”…
Surprisingly, Rivera opted not to use any of his three timeouts on Arizona’s ensuing possession, allowing the Cardinals to burn more than six minutes off the clock and ice the game with a field goal. Why?“I don’t want to expose my players to injury,” Rivera explained after the game. “It’s a long season. We’ve got 14 games left to play. We got an opportunity to learn and grow, and that’s probably, to me, a little bit more important right now than exposing our guys to getting injured in a situation like that.”
I’d like to think that Ron Rivera is a sleeper agent sent by the ghost of Jerry Richardson’s penis to infiltrate the WFT and finish it off from within, so that the Panthers can annex all fans living in Virginia. IT’S THE SIMPLEST EXPLANATION.
Great Moments In Grandpa History
Reader Patrick sends in this story I call RAT TUESDAY:
I am not sure if it was from his experiences in WWII or if it was just how my grandpa always was, but he had a different perspective on safety than most people. One time when I was seven, he told me to help him in his work shed, handed me a .22 rifle, and said he cornered a rat behind his workbench. He moved the workbench told me to shoot the rat and not him. Luckily I shot the rat and not him. Now I have a 7-year-old and I don’t trust him to pour milk without spilling it, much less to shoot a gun at my feet.My grandpa would also light the charcoal in his grill with a homemade torch, and while he cooked burgers he would let my brother and I use the torch to melt Hot Wheels cars into silver puddles of metal. After grilling he let us take the coals out of the grill with tongs and dip them in a bucket of water so he could use them again. I can't really remember going to Disney World as a kid but I remember every trip to my grandpa's house.
I really want to melt down some toys now.
Gametime Snack Of The Week
Manwich. I have many things to confess here. First of all, I have never had Manwich. Secondly, I didn’t know that Manwich is just a can of sauce and that you gotta add your own meat. I thought the meat came right in the can. Lastly, I did not realize until LAST WEEK that the name Manwich was a combination of MAN and SANDWICH. I thought it was just called Manwich because, like, it was Manwich. If it were really so manly, the meat would be included. If I gotta fucking brown meat on my own, we’re already failing to adhere to 1969 standards of manliness. Also, why the fuck wouldn’t I just make it Taco Night instead? MANWICH IS THE PROBLEM HERE NOT ME.
Anyway, I asked the rest of the Defector staff if they had ever had Manwich. Billy Haisley told me this:
“Hated it. My parents liked it though.”
Chris Thompson told me this:
“Drew we ate it all the time as kids and loved it.”
Obviously, the Manwich discourse is very nuanced, much like the product itself.
Gametime Cheap Beer Of The Week
Schincariol! From the aptly named Duff!
I don't drink beer. But if I did, I wouldn't drink this one. "Schin" as it's called in Brazil. Take one sip, says my Brazilian wife, have headache for one week. Cheap, popular, nasty. What's not to like?
Nothing. I too no longer drink beer. But, unlike you, Duff, I would indeed drink that Amazon River pollutant if I still did. I wouldn’t even think twice about it… until the next morning. And the morning after that. And the morning after that…
Jim Tomsula’s Lifehack Of The Week!
“I was wearing a face mask before any of you all were, okay? You stand next to a burning oil drum without a mask, that’s gonna be a problem. Because that trash fire is burning trash. You breathe that trash in and were does it go? I’ll tell you where it goes: right into your stool thingies. When I young and bumming around on CSX hopper cars with Lou The Can, I shat enough ash to fill a swimming pool. You better believe I’m too old and smart to let that happen again. I’ve worn a mask since 1989. My friend—enemy, really—Fairbanks Jenny stitched me one out of used Snickers wrappers. Those wrappers are stronger than you think, all right? Try sticking your finger through one that ain’t ripped. Go ahead. I’ll wait.”
Sunday Afternoon Movie Of The Week For Jets Fans
It’s Little Women, which I watched with my daughter because she considers Timothee Chalamet to be her husband already. I watched the movie, and you know what? Tim is great in it. He has my blessing. Sure, he’s 24 years old and she’s only 14, but he seems nice enough.
Gratuitous Simpsons Quote
“HEY WHY DON'T YOU BE POLITE YOU STINKING PUSBAG?!”
Enjoy the games, everyone.