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NFL Coaching Trees Are A Scam

at Hard Rock Stadium on December 11, 2017 in Miami Gardens, Florida.
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Time for your weekly edition of the Defector Funbag. Got something on your mind? Email the Funbag. And preorder Drew’s next book, The Night The Lights Went Out, while you’re at it. Today, we're talking about going peepee, leaving the Mormon church, dick panic fatigue, moon sports, and more.

Before I get started, we’re a week away from the release of The Night The Lights Went Out. Any book you preorder counts toward first-week sales, which is handy for someone like me who would willingly kill your mom to finally make the bestseller list. So do me a favor and buy the fucking book. The one thing I promise is that I would never ever ask you to buy a book of mine if it sucked. I’m not gonna sell you a lemon, and I didn’t almost die just to turn in Tuesdays With Drewie instead of something that’s actually worth a shit.

Now for your letters:


Do you think that people will stop giving a shit about NFL coaching trees shortly? They're just plain stupid. Not only will I refuse to give a shit in fifteen years about how the new coach of Jacksonville got his start as Sean McVay's pre-snap motion coordinator, but also coaching hires in general are nothing more than a carousel. 

They won’t stop caring. Honestly Phil, I cared about NFL coaching trees right up to the moment you asked me this question. The idea of coaching trees has been part of the NFL landscape ever since Bill Walsh was a head coach. It might even go back to Don Coryell before Walsh. And it’s always made sense to me on a schematic level. Walsh concocted a brand-new style of passing offense in San Francisco, and then other coaches who worked for him took those plays elsewhere when they got head coaching jobs. That’s always how I’ve viewed a coaching tree, and that’s why I’ve taken them as credible for decades now.

But since Walsh, basically any NFL head who employs future head coaches is said to have a tree, even if their schemes aren’t particularly novel, or even distinct. This is especially true of the Belichick coaching tree, which I have referenced so many times now that I should be outlawed from ever doing so again. Bill Belichick has no trademark offensive attack, and he does custom-tailored defensive game plans for every single opponent he faces. So anyone who works under him isn’t gonna have a patented system to bring along and install in Miami, or in the Meadowlands, or wherever else. They’re just gonna have Belichick’s penchant for uncommon moodiness. His tree means nothing.

Most trees mean nothing. Sean McVay has a tree and he’s only 9 years old. Also, given that NFL assistants get passed around from franchise to franchise like they’re hand towels, your average new head coach has—hopefully!—worked under many head coaches and wants to crib from a great many differing playbooks they’ve been forced to use. The NFL is trying to fabricate lineage when there’s none there, which is especially funny in a league where actual nepotism runs rampant. So they’re gonna keep trying to make coaching trees a thing. But thanks to Phil, I’m now onto their little scheme. Pun intended. Fuck these trees. [Saruman voice] RIP THEM ALL DOWN.


I know you’ve written about your peeing issues before, but was this ever one of your pee problems: I just got up from the couch and walked to the bathroom to pee, and when I got there I thought, “Wait, why am I here?” because I didn’t really think I needed to pee. Since I was there, I still tried to pee and got a little bit to come out. But what was it that triggered me to even do that? My body becomes more of a mystery to me the older I get. (I am 57.)

It has indeed been one of my pee problems. I had a hyperactive bladder for so long that I would just get up and go to the can out of sheer habit, or because I crossed by a bathroom and figured I should take advantage before sitting down. It’s been a constant struggle my entire life. In your case, the trigger could be something related to your anatomy, and I don’t wanna discourage you from visiting a doctor if you think you ought to. I saw doctors. I got PT. I tried elaborate breathing techniques. I monitored my fluid intake like I was my own nurse. None of it was useful because, in my case, it was all in my head. I was just a poorly trained dog.

So, on the advice of my trusty therapist, I made a rule that I could piss only when the clock struck the top of the hour. In the beginning, this was a real bitch to honor. But as the days passed, my brain slowly rewired itself to the schedule. Eventually, I was able to go two hours without pissing, then three, etc. I also discovered that whatever TINY urge I felt to go in the interim moments would often pass if I simply distracted myself. Strategically, my mindset went from, “I can’t piss for another 40 minutes!” to “I don’t have to piss for another 40 minutes! Minimum!” And that ended up making a huge difference.

I don’t fear head problems anymore. That’s ironic given what I just went through (book plug alert), but it also makes sense in a counterintuitive fashion. Because I got hurt, I needed therapy. Because I got therapy, I realized that some of the problems inside my mind were treatable. Before all this, I thought that if I had a problem that was all in my head, that meant it would ALWAYS be a problem. I’d never be able to treat it, the way you can a broken arm etc. No pill would work. No PT either. Also, I secretly felt like a freak for having any head problem of any kind, which is pretty antiquated when you consider the broader awareness of mental health everywhere in American popular culture right now.

Now, thanks to what I went through, I know that if I have a problem going on upstairs, I can recognize it and make a plan for treating it. It doesn’t daunt me the way it used to. Not every mental health problem is fixable, just as not every physical problem is. But that doesn’t mean that every mental health problem is UNfixable. I piss less. I quit biting my nails. And I can manage my anger. If something is all in my head, it doesn’t always have to remain there.


Recently, in conversation with my husband, I brought up that guy with two dicks who was briefly internet famous after a Reddit AMA a few years ago. I said, “You remember that guy, right?” and, looking spooked, he replied “A month hasn’t gone by that I haven’t thought about that guy since I first heard about it.” When I pointed out that *I* hadn’t previously thought about that guy once since the story first came out, my husband countered that I, “don’t have a penis.” Is this a thing? Are all penis-having individuals equally haunted by double dick dude?

They are not. I’m not haunted by double-dick dude. First of all, he was almost certainly a fraud. Too many frauds out there now, America. Please just be who you really are so that I’m not confused all the time.

Secondly, even if double-dick dude had been real, it’s not like I would grow a second penis if we both turned the same doorknob or something. That’s not how genetic anomalies work. I absolutely believed this man had two dicks when that AMA dropped. I was like, “Wow, two dicks. That means he can have sex with, like, TWICE the babes!” But I wasn’t like OH MY GOD WHAT IF MY SON GROWS A SECOND DICK AND HAS TO JOIN THE CIRCUS?

In fact, I am now over most, if not all, penile hang-ups. I was like any other '80s kid growing up who had Eddie Murphy Raw committed to memory. Something bad happening to your dick and balls was the absolute worst thing that could happen. Simply TALKING about the idea was a no-fly zone. Lorena Bobbitt cut off her husband’s dick and tossed it in the bushes (because he was a wife-beater) and every guy in America was like Dude that could have been MY dick. I had all of that dick panic within me.

No longer. My genitals have now been through the gauntlet. I’ve had a vasectomy. I’ve had my testicles double in size after that vasectomy. I’ve had a catheter. I’ve had a camera up my schlong (legitimately the worst pain I’ve ever experienced). I’ve had ED. My junk has seen it all, baby. I’ve even had multiple friends get a testicle removed after a cancer diagnosis. Your dick and balls are just another part of your body, and therefore just as vulnerable to the dangers of the world as the rest of you. Once you know that firsthand, the dick panic subsides. Or at least, it should.

Now, I say all that while STILL obsessing over my dick constantly. It’s why the answer to this question is so … long. I still want my dick to have a healthy and vigorous career going forward. Also, if I ever catch myself NOT thinking about my dick, I feel old and prudish. Terrible. But I’m done worrying about my bits and pieces. The odds of my nuts getting chopped off in an unexpected helicopter blade accident are slim to none. They’ll survive to old age with me, dropping down to my ankles and their veins getting all gnarled and weird. Whatever. I got other shit to worry about.


What is the worse annoying thing that nobody likes but has nonetheless survived for years: pennies or daylight savings time?

Daylight Saving Time. Pennies are a nuisance, but they’re also easily ignored. I sold my Kia last week and found a bunch of them in the console as I was cleaning it out in the CarMax lot. So I put those pennies in a sandwich bag, stuck the bag on my nightstand, and will leave that bag there until I die. Problem solved.

But unless you live in Hawaii or Arizona, you can’t avoid Daylight Saving Time. You still have to switch your clocks twice a year and destroy your circadian rhythms when you do. When you think about it that way, it’s an easy choice. How many pennies would you tolerate on your nightstand if it meant the sun didn’t set at fucking 4:30 in January?


Is there any professional sports team you think could improve its record solely by relocating the franchise? Individual athletes often have rebound years after leaving a dysfunctional team, but what if a whole team left a boring or low-expectations city for a better one? I guess what I'm asking is if there is a "Sacramento factor" to the Kings sucking.

No. I could rope in variables like the weather and friendly state income tax laws to give you a more ornate answer, but if we’re talking about seamlessly airlifting an existing team to another town and seeing what changes, the answer is nothing. Players who suck in one city will suck in another. Even if Tyrese Haliburton feels more refreshed because he finally escaped Cowtown to play in, like, Malibu, he’d still be surrounded by hapless puds who can’t play for shit. Individual players can flourish or collapse when they change cities on their own, but whole teams? In a vacuum? No.

In fact, I went back and looked at the most recent franchise record changes after a move. Here they are:

    • Seattle Supersonics move to OKC (2008): +3 wins the next year
    • Expos move to Washington (2005): +14
    • Raiders move back to Oakland from L.A. (1995): -1
    • Raiders move to Vegas (2020): +1 (with identical blown 6-3 starts)
    • Rams move to St. Louis (1995) +3
    • Rams move back to L.A. (2020): -3
    • Chargers move to LA: +4
    • Browns move to Baltimore (1996): -1
    • Atlanta Thrashers move to Winnipeg (2011): +3
    • Hartford Whalers move to Carolina (1997): +1 (but +2 losses)
    • Charlotte Hornets move to New Orleans (2002): +3
    • Vancouver Grizzlies move to Memphis (2001): No change in record.

With the exception of the Expos becoming the Nationals, every single team relocation has resulted in virtually the same on-field product the following year. And that’s with all of the upheaval that relocation brings: new city, new stadium, new leadership, new fans, and a shitload of hard feelings left behind. None of that ultimately made a difference in the end. You are who you are on the field.


Utah Man:

I’m a 35-year-old, dyed-in-the-wool Mormon from Utah. I’ve spent the last 15 years, however, becoming gradually more and more disaffected with the leadership, teachings, and history of my church. When the pandemic hit, church meetings were cancelled, and my wife and I decided it was the break we were looking for. We haven’t returned to church in a year and a half and don’t anticipate doing so. With that background, here’s my question: should I drink some alcohol to see what the fuss is all about, or should I just close out the second half of my life like I did the first? There are the obvious downsides: cost, carbs, and I’d be pouring alcohol into an increasingly creaky body. My family/work/social circles remain 65% Mormon, and drinking around them (or even privately if they know I do so) would likely be a wedge, even if it’s never explicitly stated. I’ve also read how negatively alcohol impacted your life. But for most people, alcohol plays a small role in their lives. And since I didn’t drink a drop over the last 20 years, how much harm could a few drinks now and then do to me if I start now?

“How much harm”? Cue the gif:

I stopped drinking three years ago but, ever since then, I haven’t gone out of my way to discourage other people from doing so. I still grab beers for my wife whenever she wants them. I hang out at bars without any Puritan disapproval. I still do Cheap Beer of the Week every Thursday. People are gonna drink and that’s fine with me, unless I see them getting shitfaced at 9 a.m. and then getting behind the wheel, etc.

I still remember drinking for the first time when I was in middle school. Those were good times. Whenever I think about them, it’s always fondly. To this day I have more good memories of drinking than bad. So if you start drinking now that you’ve left the church, I’m not gonna freak out on your behalf. Maybe you’ll have a magical time with it, the way I did a bottle of peach Schnapps in the school parking lot.

But I’m not gonna actively encourage you to give alcohol a whirl if you’ve been hunky-dory without it for over three decades. Alcohol is, objectively, a toxic substance. Unless you imbibe it like some mythical French lady who enjoy three square sips a night after a nibble of camembert. You can’t just assume that alcohol plays a bit part in the lives of “most people” when, according to the Washington Post, one in eight American adults meets the criteria for being considered an alcoholic, which is almost certainly an underestimate. Plenty of alcoholics are late bloomers. Even if you think you’ll somehow be immune to addiction, that’s no guarantee. You don’t want alcoholism, same as you don’t want COVID. You’re likely better off staying sober, or dabbling in weed, OR becoming a swinger. What’s Joseph Smith gonna do about you hosting a key party? NOTHING, that’s what.


I'm very much the type of lame, old, dad to wear a White Sox hat and a t-shirt, with a pop culture reference from 1989 on it, while I'm out running errands. But the amount of random conversations I've had with people during the last year and a half has me considering a severe wardrobe change. Whether it's a stranger screaming "Go White Sox!" from an aisle away, or "oh wow, I looooooved Mario Bros!” I never know how to respond. Sometimes I don't even realize what I'm wearing until the interaction is over and I've already stared at them like a crazy person. What reaction are they expecting? A deep dive into the White Sox managerial hiring process waiting in line at Home Goods?

I have only one rule for this column, which is to not answer any question to make fun of it. So I’m gonna politely tell John here that the entire POINT of wearing fan merch is to announce your fandom to other fans of that team. I’ve seen other people wear Vikings merch out in the wild and been like FUCK YEAH THERE’S ONE OF US! I’ve even said “Go Vikes!” to these people. Then they go, “Are you a Vikings fan?” and I say yes and then we both nod in approval. Always a quality part of my day when it happens. Everyone else at the airport can fuck off. But that one dude in a Vikings hat in line at the Sbarro? That guy is my new best friend. He made wearing my Kevin Williams jersey in public totally worth it.

That’s how sports fandom has worked for my entire lifetime. You get into sports for the company, be it in the stands or anywhere else. So yeah John, they’re very much expecting a deep dive into the White Sox managerial hiring process with you if they see you in team garb. They probably also wanna talk about the team’s playoff chances this month, which gives both of you a chance to dump on the Astros for an extended period of time. You should know all this by now. You didn’t just arrive here from Holland. Your email is so naïve I have to assume it’s fake.


I know what your thoughts are on the replay system. But why, if they review everything in the NFL, shouldn’t they have like 15 more cameras at every game? And why do some games have a pylon cam? Shouldn’t every game have a pylon cam?

Because money. Only the national games get all those fancy bells and whistles. If it’s Jags-Jets at 1 p.m. on a Sunday, you get Mike Patrick and Bill Maas doing commentary from a sound booth in Los Angeles, no graphics, and all game footage shot using an iPhone 8. The problem has become even more acute since the pandemic, when the networks skimped on production costs and decided that they never needed to spend that money again. That’s how you end up with ABC shooting one of the biggest upsets on the college football season on a Sony handycam. They don’t give a shit about broadcast quality, and they certainly don’t give a shit about whether or not it’ll have a pronounced effect on any replay decision.

That’s one of the reasons why I’m an old crank who hates replay. The infrastructure of the broadcast can change from week to week and you’ve got coaches hoping they get a decent replay on the Jumbotron to tell them to throw the red flag before the next play gets off. Plus you never know if the network got a decent angle for the replay. That’s true even of primetime games, where I’ve been deprived of even a basic angle flush with the goal line. None of it is consistent. Especially this year, when Walt Anderson and Perry Fewell in dreaded New York command center would rather eat a bucket of golf balls than overturn any call on the field. I want replay blown to smithereens with a Tokamak, and I want every game, no matter how shitty, to have 50 cameras on hand for the broadcast. I want a camera up the QB’s asshole. Gimme everything you can.


What would the best sports to play/watch in the low gravity environment of the Moon? Basketball would have sweet dunks, but hockey would have people checked into outer space.

“Slow down, Tubby! You’re not on the moon yet!” We already have sports footage from the moon. Let’s have a look at it!

Somehow that’s even more boring than golf on Earth. If you think sports on the moon will be as cool as the kickass buggy chase from Ad Astra, you are sorely mistaken. What you gain in height you lose triple of in speed. Everyone has to wear spacesuits, which would be like if everyone on a regular NBA floor had to wear an inflatable dinosaur costume. Human bodies are not designed to operate on the moon, and it would show in any contest of strength and guile. Therefore, the only moon sport I could ever sincerely endorse … is motocross.


Given the resistance to the vaccine by parts of the population, I was wondering if history will even remember them. Like, in our history books, we never heard of anybody who opposed JFK wanting to go to space, or the U.S. entering WWII. I'm sure there was some resistance and dissenters, but all these years later, we only ever hear about how "America came together" during these times.

That’s because our history books are often comically inadequate—if you live in Texas, deliberately so—and will likely remain that way. This is because Americans will always fight over school curricula, and because all textbooks are written to be painfully dry. But in this case, it’s also because there’s SO MUCH HISTORY. My kid’s AP American History text is heavier than a fucking gravestone and it still didn’t have enough space to recap every facet of every major story in the nation’s history. It’s not possible.

So there’s a good chance that COVID antivaxxers won’t make the final cut in future history books, either because of politics or simply for the sake of brevity. But there’s a much darker possibility, which is that COVID vaccine deniers have taken the entire antivax movement mainstream. Before, vaccine hesitancy was the domain of Orange County moms and descendants of the Kennedy family. But now it’s everywhere, and it’s likely to stick around even as the pandemic finally goes away. So if I were writing a history book now, I’d make sure to include a section about how fucking Joe Rogan helped vaccine denial flourish in the 21st century and brought smallpox back to American soil in the process. That’ll prove to be a vital detail. History may forget these pieces of shit, but I won’t.

Email of the week!


We moved back to Minnesota about a year ago, which meant we got to go to the State Fair again. Great news! Even though they didn’t have a vaccination requirement, we figured it’s mostly outdoors, we’d wear masks indoors, rates were low in Minnesota—all in all, should be fine. (And it was, at least for us—tested afterwards and all good.)Anyway: On a fine Saturday evening my wife and I take the bus up, figuring we’d get dinner, wander around, and head home. First stop: corn dog for her, banh mi bowl for me, plus a beer for both of us. Afterwards, I head into the restroom across the way from the food building. There’s a short line for the urinals, but it moves quickly.So I’m doing my business and I feel something on my pants leg. Initially I think it’s a bug or something—not out of the question, we’ve got some big ones—but then everyone in the restroom starts shouting, “That guy’s pissing on you!”And sure enough, I look around, and a guy is…pissing on my leg. (He did not, I note, tell me it was raining, to his credit.) He was probably mid 50s, presumably drunk.He initially tries to deny it, but he is STILL PISSING, just now on the floor behind me. He eventually moves up to the urinal and continues to go there, while I am trying to get as much of his urine off my pants as I can with a paper towel and then washing my hands forever (and while also yelling pointless questions at him like, “Why would you do that?” and “Really, what the hell, man?”). He eventually mutters “Sorry,” which was, honestly, not very satisfying.Anyway, my question (the answer to which I hope never to need to know): What is the proper response to an adult man pissing on your leg? Many of the (younger) dudes in the restroom were yelling that I should knock him out, but that seemed certain to lead to a lot more hassle (and I’m not really a knocking-someone-out kind of guy). In retrospect, I feel like I should have at least gotten a cop to get him into what I assume must be a massive drunk tank at the Fair.(Did I stay at the Fair for a while yet that evening? I did. Did I go back another time? I did.)

I would tell you to sic the cops on that guy, but I probably would have been like you and just gone and ate some mini donuts instead.

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