I Am The Coach Now
1:28 PM EST on January 18, 2024
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. And buy Drew’s book, The Night The Lights Went Out, through here.
I’m at the gym with my dad. My dad doesn’t like me mentioning his age in public, so for the sake of this story let’s say he’s 36 years old. At 36, “use it or lose it” goes from being a proverb to being a doctor’s order, so Dad has to hit the gym to keep all of his muscles not only strong, but operational. He hits the exercise bike, which is something he never forgot how to do. I show him how to use the elliptical trainer, but gathering up enough speed to get the pedals revolving consistently is too hard. More important, he straight up dislikes the machine. OK, I say. That’s fine. You don’t have to like everything. Let’s hit the weights instead.
We walk down to the lower level. There are squat racks in the adjacent room, but those are too advanced for either of us. Instead, I take Dad on a circuit of Nautilus machines. I don’t have to show Dad how to use the leg press, because he’s already well familiarized with it. You sit, you push, Bob’s your uncle. But a few other machines elude his comprehension, as they might any newcomer down here. If you haven’t used Nautilus machines before, they can resemble modernized torture devices, or sex toys for middle-aged people, or both. I’ve lifted enough weights in my time to know what muscle each of these machines works, and I know how to fit yourself into each machine’s array of steel bars and synthetic upholstery. So I’ll be Dad’s personal trainer for the morning.
We start with the leg extension, blasting Dad’s quads. He gets the hang of this one quickly, so much so that I have to remind him to take a rest between sets. He asks for more weight, and I say hell yes. I begin to move the peg down two holes, but he’s already pumping the iron before I’ve locked the peg back in. I have visions of my beautiful hand getting sandwiched between weights, and so I ask him to bring his legs back to a rest. He obliges. Two holes down proves to be too heavy, so I move the peg back up one, which is right in Dad’s Goldilocks zone.
Is that good? I ask him.
It’s hard, he says.
That’s good! You want it to be hard.
We move onto leg curls, with me lifting his legs over the rollbar to get him into position. Dad has two artificial knees, which actually improved his range of motion after he got them (artificial joints have not only become more commonplace, but more effective), so he gets the hang of this machine quickly, too. But I can see that he’s not using his full range of motion toward the end of each set, and he’s not—say it with me—working the negative. So I coach him up. Bend those legs all the way, Dad. Now bring them all the way back up, but slowly. Good. Good.
Onto the other machines: the lat pull, the seated row, the chest press. I adjust the pads and the weights to make sure everything is the way it needs to be. I log the weights and reps into my phone, so that I can type it up later as a daily workout for him to follow after I drive back home. Dad eyes the abductor/adductor machine with great skepticism, as everyone does. I tell him he can skip that one, but he wants to see what the deal with it is anyway. So I sit him down and then lift each of his 36-year-old legs over the thigh pads to get him into position. He looks like he’s about to deliver a baby. This is not comfortable for him. "You wanna bail on this one?" I ask. He does.
From there, we move to the military press. I sit Dad down and tell him to lift the bars directly above his head. This proves to be the hardest machine of them all. I can see Dad struggling to get the bars all the way up. He’s sweating. He’s gritting his teeth in an extremely Dad fashion. But he’s undeterred. I’m not certain he can make it through this set, and he may not be, either. So I cheer him on, verbally tush pushing him to the finish line.
You got this, Dad.
You’re almost there.
Lift it all the way up! NICE!
He’s done. He’s exhausted, but pleased. I’m pleased, too. Taking him around this gym feels less like a chore than it does a child’s duty to a parent. To care for Dad as he once cared for me. To complete the circle of life. I’m touching and moving and handling Dad in all of the same ways he had to handle me when I was very small. It’s only fair that I repay the favor now, when he’s 36 and in need of a little extra attention. More to the point, it’s a joy. I love taking care of him, and I love seeing him triumph over every pile of iron.
I take him to the gym the next day, and the day after that. I wear him out every time, and every time he is pleased. He is using it, and not losing it.
I’m at a summer house with my nephew. He’s a middle school football player, the only tackle football player in my extended family. The boy is built like a tank, and so he plays tight end. I can’t catch for shit, I tell him. But I do know how to block. Want me to set up some drills for you? Yes, he says.
So we walk over to a wide patch of lawn and I tell my nephew to get into a three-point stance. You want to have enough weight on your haunches that you can lift your hand off the ground and not fall forward, I tell him. I have him pick his hand up off the turf, and then put it back down, and then repeat. Then I have him do duck walks: forward, back and side to side. He has to go where my thumb tells him to go, all while facing me and in position to fend off oncoming pass rushers. When you’re run blocking, I tell him, your job is to clear defenders out of the way. When you’re pass blocking, your job is to stay IN their way. Again he listens, and again he proves to be a natural.
Now it’s time to put it all together and fire out of your stance, I tell him. We’re not at a football stadium, so blocking sleds are nowhere to be found. I have to improvise. Luckily for me, a pool skimmer is sitting right there on the patio. That’ll do in a pinch. I hold the skimmer out parallel to the ground, like a limbo stick. On HUT, I tell him, fire out under the bar. HUT! Fire. HUT! Fire. HUT! Fire. These are all drills I had to do back when I played this game 30 years ago. Football has changed, but much of the fundamentals have not. This boy has ability and he takes to coaching—even from a non-coach—with no fuss at all. He’s going to be a better football player than I ever was. He might be there already. I tell him so, and he is pleased.
I’m in my backyard with my youngest son. He wants to play flag football, but needs to know the basics. Well shit, I’d love to help. He has receiver gloves that are way too large for his hands, but he thinks they look cool. He’s growing faster than my wife and I can keep up with anyway, so it won’t be long. I teach him the basic route tree, even though I never played receiver, and even though routes have different names depending on your team, your coach, and probably the state you live in. I teach him the go route, the flag, the post, the quick slant, the slant-and-go (sluggo), the buttonhook, the square-in, and the square-out. His routes aren’t terribly precise, but this isn’t the Rose Bowl. This is our backyard, and it’s not even flat. There’s an acceptable margin of error here.
Then I show him to catch a football. You catch it with your fingertips, not your palms. Try the latter and the ball will bounce right off of your hands. Ask Marquez Valdes-Scantling. Make a picture window with both of your hands, and then look the ball into your fingertips as it’s coming your way. I throw him dozens of passes. He drops many of them.
I suck, he says.
You practice so that you can get all of the sucking out of the way, I tell him. Better you suck here than in a game.
I don’t yell at my son, because I’ve had coaches yell at me. I never liked that. Feared it. Some of my coaches almost seemed excited for me to fail. That’s not the kind of coach I want to be. I want my players to succeed, especially if they happen to be one the most important people in the world to me. So I tell my son that he’s doing great, even when it’s evident that he’s struggling. If he’s ever going to quit this sport—and he does roughly a year from now—it won’t be because I drove him away from it. It’ll be his choice.
We end our session with a completed pass, because you can’t walk off the field on a bad note. The boy is frustrated with his lack of progress, but reluctantly pleased that he’s at least started to put in the work.
I have spent almost the entirety of my adult life invested in my own success. This was necessity, given that I have a family to provide for and bills—so, so many bills—to pay. I need money for all of that, plus money for various future expenditures: vacations, college tuition, medical emergencies, a comfortable retirement, and lots of Ossetra caviar. So I’ve worked and worked and worked. I’ve also exercised, mostly so that I can keep on working without disruption.
I’ve done this all for my family, but I’ve also long since crossed the Walter White threshold where I’m also doing the work for my own pleasure. Everything I know, I use to serve myself. So I have zero interest in classroom teaching, unless it’s a no-show job that pays me bank. But coaching … well now, that’s become a different matter. I have spent more of my life being coached than coaching, but the pendulum has begun to swing. I coach my dad to remain ambulatory. I coach my nephew to play O-line. I coach my son to play wideout. And when they’re pleased, I’m pleased … much more pleased than if I had done the thing myself.
I make fun of bad coaches here a lot. I revel in their mistakes and celebrate their demise. Coaches are responsible for my team, and therefore my personal happiness rests in their hands. I’d prefer they not take that happiness for granted. The majority of them don’t, and yet I still feel affronted whenever they fail. But when they succeed, I succeed.
Jared Goff arrives in Detroit a broken man. He’s a millionaire many times over, a former No. 1 overall pick, and an NFC champion. None of that matters because his old coach, documented psychopath Sean McVay, treated him like shit before treating him like an unwanted piano. The Lions take him in damn near as a favor to the Rams, getting two first-round picks for their trouble. No one believes that Goff is worth a shit. I certainly don’t. He’s a robot. He can’t improvise, and he can’t go through his progressions without McVay telling him how to do so in real time. He’s not a franchise quarterback. The Lions will use up whatever’s left of him and then get on with drafting a proper signal-caller. That’s what any sane team would do.
But the Lions, as you know, have never been a sane team. So they don’t look at Goff the way that you and I do. Where we see a lost cause, they see something else entirely. GM Brad Holmes:
“I never really deemed him as a bridge, I think everybody else did.”
QB coach Mark Brunell:
“We wanted Jared, and once he got here we embraced him as our quarterback. There’s nothing better than playing for a team that believes in you and playing for a coaching staff that said, ‘Hey, this is our guy, and we’re gonna put the resources around him.’”
And the Lions do just that. They build a top-shelf line. They draft vital skill position players like Amon-Ra St. Brown, Jahmyr Gibbs, and Sam LaPorta. They treat Goff like a franchise QB, and offensive coordinator Ben Johnson coaches him like one. A coach can teach you how to play, but not if they constantly expect you to fail. They have to believe in you, just like you and I have to believe in the people we love the most. Their success becomes your own, and that’s exactly what happens in Detroit three years after Goff arrives. Goff outduels the man he was traded for, and everyone—from his coaches to his teammates—is more than pleased. They’re in ecstasy.
This is what good coaching looks like, and it’s not something you’ll only find in the NFL, or in college sports, or at the Olympics. It’s everywhere. It’s in your town. It’s in your kid’s youth league. It’s in your classroom. It’s in you. You learn so that you might one day teach, even if you never intended to teach anyone anything. When the time comes for you to pass on what you know, you’re passing on more than a bit of yourself to go with it. And when you see the light go on in your pupil’s mind—be it your player, your son, your nephew, or your father—you will be more pleased than you could ever possibly fathom.
All games in the Jamboroo are evaluated for sheer watchability on a scale of 1 to 5 Throwgasms. And for the playoffs, I pick the games, because that’s a smart thing to do.
Ravens 35, Texans (+9.5) 30. C.J. Stroud is my new favorite player and if I can’t pick him to win this game, well then I’m definitely gonna pick him to put on a show anyway. Not only is Stroud fun to watch, but he’s also a symbol of hope, and of profoundly happy energy, for any other team in need of a QB. This man made the Houston Goddamn Texans enjoyable when the Texans themselves seemed to have no interest in becoming any good. And he did it one goddamn season. So if the Texans can un-fuck themselves with one simple draft choice, why can’t my team?
[You lay out an airtight case as to why not]
Yeah OK, but still!
Packers (+10) 27, 49ers 24. On paper, the Niners have everything they need on offense to take advantage of the Packers’ defensive shortcomings, and everything they need on defense to turn Jordan Love into Cream of Wheat. But again, the Packers have the power of Satan behind them, and Satan remains undefeated in my lifetime. So watch in horror as Brock Purdy tweaks his MCL Jr. in the first quarter and then President Biden declares Jan. 20 to be National Packers Day from here on out. Then he’ll tap John Kuhn to be his running mate in November. I refuse to take any chances here.
Lions 21, Bucs (+6) 17. One of the posts I regret writing the most here at Defector was this breakdown claiming that Baker Mayfield represented an upgrade at QB for more than half the teams in the league, Detroit included. Since I wrote that piece-of-shit post, Mayfield has been cut twice (once at midseason), used as a temp QB by a Rams team that had no intention of keeping him one second longer than they had to, and then picked up on the cheap by a Bucs team that needed any available warm body to replace the greatest quarterback of all time.
All Mayfield has done since then is post his best statistical year as a QB, win the division, and beat the piss out of the Philly in the wild card round. Mayfield’s completion percentage in that Eagles game was lousy, but only because his receivers dropped a hundred catchable balls. These Bucs are good, and Todd Bowles is a good head coach, and Mayfield is, for the moment, a genuinely good quarterback. So perhaps I was onto something back in that old post. Maybe this guy really does have it. Now, do I want my team to sign him this offseason? God no.
On an unrelated note, Kerby Joseph is a dirty player. Watch your knees, Cade Otton.
Bills (-2.5) 44, Chiefs 13. Fuck it, let’s get nuts. Bills get their revenge. The gut punch comes NEXT week.
Last week: 4-2
Pregame Song That Makes Me Wanna Run Through A Goddamn Brick Wall
“Worry Converter,” by The Hentchmen! In honor of the Lions first playoff victory in 32 years, reader Dan celebrates with one of Motown’s finest:
The Hentchmen are a fucking kickass Detroit garage band that peaked when I did. “Worry Converter” is a song about how all the nagging worries of life can be put behind you while driving your car. Maybe not the best car, but your car. The car that shit on your heart for the last 32 years but is finally driving smooth and beating Matt Stafford at home. This metaphor is stupid and I am drunk. Go Lions! I AM NOT ZODIAC MOTHERFUCKER BUT I MISS HIM AND HOPE THIS WIN MAKES HIM VERY HAPPY!
Same here, my good man. Same here.
Eric Adams’s Lock Of The Week: 49ers (-10) over Packers
“Now I’ve lived in San Francisco my whole life, and lemme tell you, every street corner in this city is dangerous. When I was just eight years old, my mom sent me down to the store to buy a box of Corn Flakes. A San Francisco specialty. Well I walked into that store and right behind me came two thugs. One with armed with a knife, the other a ball and chain. There was no time to run, so I hid behind the stacks of beer toward the back. And one of the thugs shouted, ‘I bet they got a big safe in the back room.’ He came down the aisle, and I toppled the cases of beer right over him. Then the other one threw his knife at me and, on instinct, I caught it in my teeth. Then the clerk took out a shotgun from behind the counter and blew both of them away. Then he said to me, ‘You can keep that knife, son. You earned it.’ I still keep that knife on me to this day. Now that’s a true story, and that’s why you never want to live here.”
2023 Record: 10-8
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 2023 chopping block:
Pete Carroll – FIRED!
Bill Belichick – FIRED!
Josh McDaniels – FIRED!
Frank Reich – FIRED!
Brandon Staley – FIRED!
Ron Rivera – FIRED!
Arthur Smith – FIRED!
Mike Vrabel – FIRED!
Dennis Allen – NOT FIRED!
After Sean McDermott was exposed as a micromanaging lunatic two months ago, I figured Brian Daboll was the one Buffalo let get away. This report from Pat Leonard in the New York Daily News, surely built on leaks from deposed defensive coordinator Wink Martindale, shows that I was WAY off:
But now Washington’s offense was driving, aided by a Kayvon Thibodeaux roughing the passer penalty outside the red zone. And that’s when Brian Daboll started playing the blame game on Martindale and the defensive staff: “You’re gonna lose this game just like you lost us the Jets game,” Daboll griped on the headset, according to numerous sources in the building.
This makes me want to wiretap every headset of every head coach, just to hear all of the nasty shit they say to their underlings. I wouldn’t do that if I were an NFL head coach. I would be NICE. I would also somehow lose to the Giants 57-0.
Great Moments In Poop History
Reader Tim sends in this story I call REAR WINDOW:
I was in my third year of college and living in a fourth-floor apartment with my best friend. Considering my diet was mainly pizza and beer, it wasn't surprising to have some serious gushers first thing in the morning, especially after that first cup of coffee. This morning was no exception.
As I made my way from my bedroom to the bathroom, my roommate and his girlfriend ran into the bathroom ahead of me and I heard them turn the shower on. These two liked to shower together in the morning. There was no way in hell I was going to barge in there and let this beast loose, so I figured I'd just pace around the apartment for a bit until the sensation passes. After all, how long could they possibly take?
Well, too long. I could feel the point of no return approaching, so I had to act fast. I grabbed a plastic bag, ran to my room, locked the door, dropped trou, and let the hot lava erupt. My aim was true that day, and I got it all in the bag.
I had to get rid of the evidence, and the two of them were still (STILL!) in the shower. I had to get the bag of shit out of there! Something about carrying a bag of mostly liquid shit down from a fourth floor apartment to the dumpster didn't exactly instill a sense of confidence in me, so I opted for the quick escape: I tossed the bag out of my bedroom window onto the unsuspecting world below.
They finally finished up in the bathroom and I got fresh and clean. This was eleven years ago, and to this day neither of them know about what happened.
tl;dr: I had to take a big dump but my roommate and his GF were taking a shower together, so I took a shit in a plastic bag and threw it out of my bedroom window of our fourth floor apartment.
I would’ve barged right into that bathroom and taken a shit while they were doing it. Shitter’s rights.
And Now Let’s Go Down To The Sideline To Check In With Charissa Thompson
“Drew, I just saw my uncle limping as he came back into the house after shoveling show. Right now, my aunt is looking him over in the blue medical breakfast nook, paying careful attention to his right knee. I could hear Uncle Gerry saying he was good to go, but Fran has yet to give him his shovel back. I’ll give you further updates on his condition as soon as I have them.”
Gametime Cheap Beer Of The Week
Everest Premium Lager Beer! From the good side of Everest in Nepal! Jeff writes in:
I'm in Nepal. I was here in 2008 and 2009 and came back to hike to Kanchenjenga Base Camp, the third highest mountain in the world. I was an hour into a 26-day hike when I tweaked a knee ligament I injured over 20 years ago. I hobbled along for two days but eventually had to bail. I was in a group with two other hikers and couldn't hold them back.
So I am resting my knee with EVEREST beer. It's just your garden variety lager, but what a kickass label! It has the iconic photo of Tenzing Norgay on the summit of Everest. Except Everest is in the background, so he appears to be planting a flag at the bottom of the mountain... They have added the Southern Cross since I had it last time, probably to honor Sir Edmund Hillary, who was a Kiwi.
They also put Norgay at the summit on the new label. But frankly, I like the original, factually incorrect label better. I need my beer label to have whole mountains in the background, not just teeny ass summits.
Gameday Movie Of The Week For Panthers Fans
The Lobster, which I watched the other day because it was made by Yorgos Lanthimos, who made The Favourite, which I really liked, and Poor Things, which I have not seen but which made every year-end list a month ago. I’m gonna try to summarize The Lobster for you and fail, so bear with me. It’s is about a man (Colin Farrell) who checks into a hotel where you have to find your true mate, or else you’re transformed into the animal of your choosing. Everyone who stays at this hotel has to be very careful about the rules and about their behavior (especially their sexual behavior), so they all speak to each other in matter-of-fact terms, like they’re robots. If you jerk off, they stick your hand in a toaster. I didn’t like that part. Not one bit.
Then Farrell escapes the hotel and lives out in the woods with a bunch of people who also talk like robots. He falls in love with Rachel Weisz (as anyone would), and then the woods people get mad at them. Lanthimos doesn’t explain why this world is the way it is, or why anyone in it behaves the way they behave. I’m all for stories that are open to interpretation (scroll down in this post for more on that), and I enjoy surrealist filmmaking in the Spike Jonze vein. But I finished The Lobster ultimately unable to understand what the fucking point of it was. It’s very dark and mean, but it’s not much else. Also, there are no lobsters in it. One and half stars.
Gratuitous Simpsons Quote
“I want the most intelligent hamster you've got.”
“Okay. Uh, this little guy writes mysteries under the name of J. D. McGregor.”
“How can a hamster write mysteries?”
“Well, he gets the ending first, then he writes backward.”
“Aw, come on.”
“Look kid, just take him before his mother eats him, all right?”
Enjoy the games, everyone.