9 Biggest Coaching Blunders in Sports History
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9 Biggest Coaching Blunders in Sports History

by: Penn Collins On  Tuesday, February 3, 2015

biggest coaching blunders pete carroll super bowl xlix

Does Pete Carroll’s call to pass on second and one with just minutes left rank among the biggest coaching blunders of all time? Right now, people are sure acting like it does.

Without getting into the specifics (which we do a little further down the list), it’s easy to see the issue here, about 36 hours after the controversial call. Coaches have a lot going on, and fans don’t always understand or hold valuable the same concerns that coaches do. In hindsight, 10 out of 10 fans will agree that worrying about the time left on the clock cost the Seahawks the title. However, it could have just as easily been called a blunder if Marshawn Lynch had drilled the ball in with enough time left to let the Patriots score. “You had the best running back in the league, eat up the clock!”

The fact is, coaches get criticized by fans the day or year after all the time. Sometimes, it’s because the fans don’t understand, but most of the time, it’s because the coaches had their head up their butts. Run through the list of the biggest coaching blunders ever and see what I mean. Remember: No one’s job is safe. No one’s.

 

Intro

biggest coaching blunders pete carroll super bowl xlix

Does Pete Carroll’s call to pass on second and one with just minutes left rank among the biggest coaching blunders of all time? Right now, people are sure acting like it does.

Without getting into the specifics (which we do a little further down the list), it’s easy to see the issue here, about 36 hours after the controversial call. Coaches have a lot going on, and fans don’t always understand or hold valuable the same concerns that coaches do. In hindsight, 10 out of 10 fans will agree that worrying about the time left on the clock cost the Seahawks the title. However, it could have just as easily been called a blunder if Marshawn Lynch had drilled the ball in with enough time left to let the Patriots score. “You had the best running back in the league, eat up the clock!”

The fact is, coaches get criticized by fans the day or year after all the time. Sometimes, it’s because the fans don’t understand, but most of the time, it’s because the coaches had their head up their butts. Run through the list of the biggest coaching blunders ever and see what I mean. Remember: No one’s job is safe. No one’s.

 

Up by six with a little more than two minutes left, Bill was facing a fourth-and-two on the Pats own 28. Rather than punt away and make the Colts earn 60 yards, he went for it on a pass, leading to one of the few times Tom Brady came up short. The Colts got the ball, had only 28 yards to travel, did so, and got the TD and the win. But before you go thinking that Belichick and Carroll are sharing their misery, Belichick’s error was in a mid-November game. Not the Super Bowl.

9. Belichick Goes For It Vs. Indy

Up by six with a little more than two minutes left, Bill was facing a fourth-and-two on the Pats own 28. Rather than punt away and make the Colts earn 60 yards, he went for it on a pass, leading to one of the few times Tom Brady came up short. The Colts got the ball, had only 28 yards to travel, did so, and got the TD and the win. But before you go thinking that Belichick and Carroll are sharing their misery, Belichick’s error was in a mid-November game. Not the Super Bowl.

Sometimes your brain just stops working. Like when you look for your keys while they’re in your hand, or you forgot how to walk while going down stairs. Marty Mornhinweg was coaching the Lions in an OT game against the Bears. He won the OT coin flip and elected to kick off in OT, even though he’d never get a chance to get the kickoff back in the “second half.” His rationale was that he would have the wind (Windy City after all) but he didn’t have the ball. And you need that to score. Which the Bears did almost immediately.

8. Marty Mornhinweg Doesn’t Defer after Winning Coin Toss

Sometimes your brain just stops working. Like when you look for your keys while they’re in your hand, or you forgot how to walk while going down stairs. Marty Mornhinweg was coaching the Lions in an OT game against the Bears. He won the OT coin flip and elected to kick off in OT, even though he’d never get a chance to get the kickoff back in the “second half.” His rationale was that he would have the wind (Windy City after all) but he didn’t have the ball. And you need that to score. Which the Bears did almost immediately.

You know when a good time for a halfback pass is? When you’re playing Madden. That’s it. They work sometimes, but there’s no way the running back ISN’T going to throw the ball. It’s their one time to shine. So you have to hope that the secondary gets sucked in, otherwise, you have like a 50/50 shot of getting picked. Leon Johnson got the call for the Jets to tie the game against the Lions. The Jets were in the red zone, and…intercepted. The Jets didn’t score, and the Lions got the W.

7. Parcells Calls for a Halfback Pass in the Red Zone

You know when a good time for a halfback pass is? When you’re playing Madden. That’s it. They work sometimes, but there’s no way the running back ISN’T going to throw the ball. It’s their one time to shine. So you have to hope that the secondary gets sucked in, otherwise, you have like a 50/50 shot of getting picked. Leon Johnson got the call for the Jets to tie the game against the Lions. The Jets were in the red zone, and…intercepted. The Jets didn’t score, and the Lions got the W.

If you have the best goalie in the world, you better have a really good reason for benching him. The 1980 USSR squad and their coach, Viktor Tikhonov, may have had a good reason for doing it, but we’ll probably never know. Even Olympic coaching decisions in this era were closely guarded secrets. Tretiak was pulled after the game was tied 2-2 at the end of the first period, and we know the rest.

6. USSR Benches Tretiak

If you have the best goalie in the world, you better have a really good reason for benching him. The 1980 USSR squad and their coach, Viktor Tikhonov, may have had a good reason for doing it, but we’ll probably never know. Even Olympic coaching decisions in this era were closely guarded secrets. Tretiak was pulled after the game was tied 2-2 at the end of the first period, and we know the rest.

Giants OC Bob Gibson just had to run out the clock in a 1978 game against division rival Philadelphia. Instead, he drew up a handoff to Larry Csonka. The QB fumbled the handoff and Herm Edwards (!) picked up the fumble and ran it back for the touchdown and the win. This is why football coaches are so conservative. One misstep and it’s still being written about 36 years later.

5. The Giants-Eagles Famous Fumble

Giants OC Bob Gibson just had to run out the clock in a 1978 game against division rival Philadelphia. Instead, he drew up a handoff to Larry Csonka. The QB fumbled the handoff and Herm Edwards (!) picked up the fumble and ran it back for the touchdown and the win. This is why football coaches are so conservative. One misstep and it’s still being written about 36 years later.

Travis Best was a short rookie. In the 2000 NBA finals against the Lakers, Larry Bird had Reggie Miller and Rick Smits, two great shooters, at his disposal. With Game 4 tied and time running down, Bird went to Best. Best went up against a tall verteran, Shaquille O’Neal. He missed the shot and LA won in overtime. Reggie Miller would probably not have missed the shot.

4. Larry Bird Runs an Iso Play for Travis Best, Not Reggie Miller

Travis Best was a short rookie. In the 2000 NBA finals against the Lakers, Larry Bird had Reggie Miller and Rick Smits, two great shooters, at his disposal. With Game 4 tied and time running down, Bird went to Best. Best went up against a tall verteran, Shaquille O’Neal. He missed the shot and LA won in overtime. Reggie Miller would probably not have missed the shot.

Barry Switzer got chastised by the harsh Dallas sports media, and the national media for running the same play twice on third and fourth downs against the Eagles in a November division matchup. The play was a simple running play called “Load Left” that the team used with great success on short yardage situations. He ran the play twice, and Philly stopped them on fourth and one to kick a short field goal with the wind at their back. Calling the same play twice may catch your opponent off guard, but you’ll look like you lack a brain when you do it.

3. Switzer Runs Load Left…Twice

Barry Switzer got chastised by the harsh Dallas sports media, and the national media for running the same play twice on third and fourth downs against the Eagles in a November division matchup. The play was a simple running play called “Load Left” that the team used with great success on short yardage situations. He ran the play twice, and Philly stopped them on fourth and one to kick a short field goal with the wind at their back. Calling the same play twice may catch your opponent off guard, but you’ll look like you lack a brain when you do it.

So, this is the most recent addition to our list. Rather than hand the ball off to Marshawn Lynch, a power runner if ever there was one, Pete Carroll decided eat up a little time off the clock with a very short pass from the one. It didn’t go well. The pass was intercepted, and with that possession went the Seahawks hopes of repeating. While there was strategy behind the call, it appears now that Carroll should have just focused on getting the ball in and not left possession to chance. Hindsight!

2. Pete Carroll’s 1-Yard Pass

So, this is the most recent addition to our list. Rather than hand the ball off to Marshawn Lynch, a power runner if ever there was one, Pete Carroll decided eat up a little time off the clock with a very short pass from the one. It didn’t go well. The pass was intercepted, and with that possession went the Seahawks hopes of repeating. While there was strategy behind the call, it appears now that Carroll should have just focused on getting the ball in and not left possession to chance. Hindsight!

3 days after Jose Canseco had a ball bounce off his head for a homerun, he successfully lobbied Rangers manager Kevin Kennedy to let him pitch an inning during a blowout loss at Fenway to the Red Sox. Jose Canseco threw too hard and too much in the bullpen and arrived to the mound already spent. He pitched and got shelled, not revealing to his manager that his arm was injured as he pitched. Canseco was lost for the season, requiring Tommy John surgery. Sometimes you have to put your foot down for the superstars, Kevin Kennedy.

1. Jose Canseco on the Mound

3 days after Jose Canseco had a ball bounce off his head for a homerun, he successfully lobbied Rangers manager Kevin Kennedy to let him pitch an inning during a blowout loss at Fenway to the Red Sox. Jose Canseco threw too hard and too much in the bullpen and arrived to the mound already spent. He pitched and got shelled, not revealing to his manager that his arm was injured as he pitched. Canseco was lost for the season, requiring Tommy John surgery. Sometimes you have to put your foot down for the superstars, Kevin Kennedy.



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