Bears

Silverman: In-Game Decisions Are Crucial Aspect Of Coaching Search

John Fox. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)

John Fox. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)

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By Steve Silverman-

(CBS) As the Bears’ coaching search goes on, it seems that Phil Emery is turning over every stone as he gets close to making his hire.

It’s reportedly down to three coaching candidates – Marc Trestman, Bruce Arians and Darrell Bevell – unless a “secret” candidate emerges.

Much of the coaching interviews have to do with offense, game-planning and personnel, but there are a couple of other key aspects to coaching that Emery has to be concerned about before he makes his hire.

NFL coaches have to be excellent teachers. Every player who comes into the NFL has superior ability, but it’s the players who keep on making progress and getting better that become impact players in the league.

It’s not really natural ability that helps them improve. It’s the time they spend getting stronger in the weight room and working on their technique.

But it’s not all on the players.

The best pro coaches have to be the best teachers. Not teaching the basics – although coaches have to make sure the fundamentals don’t slip – but giving players the little tips that will make them better players on the field and give them the small edges that are so vital when competing against superior athletes.

There’s less emphasis on teaching now, but Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots and Tom Coughlin of the New York Giants will point out things that help players improve their on-field performance. The Harbaugh brothers will also offer teaching advice as a regular part of their coaching.

Jimmy Johnson did this much of the time during his run with the Dallas Cowboys and so did Bill Parcells did this in all of his stops around the NFL.

A great teacher will pay dividends and so will a coach who understands strategy and how to use his timeouts.

During the divisional playoffs, major mistakes were made by John Fox of the Denver Broncos, Mike Smith of the Atlanta Falcons and Pete Carroll of the Seattle Seahawks.

Fox and Carroll won’t have the opportunity to make up for their gaffes since their teams have been eliminated, but Smith will get his shot to avoid disastrous mistakes in the NFC Championship Game against the 49ers.

Start off with Fox. He decided to do nothing with the ball at the end of the first half and again at the end of the second half even though he had Peyton Manning at quarterback and timeouts in his pocket.

He sat on the ball and gave the Ravens an opportunity to win the game in overtime. After the Ravens tied the game on Jacoby Jones’ 70-yard touchdown catch, the Broncos could have used the 31 seconds on the clock to their own advantage to work the ball into field goal position.

Fox defended his decision to take the air out of the ball by saying he would make the same decision 10 times out of 10. ”You watch a (70)-yard bomb go over your head, there’s a certain amount of shock value,” Fox said. ”A little bit like a prize fighter who gets a right cross on the chin at the end of a round, you’re looking to get out of the round.”

That was utterly ridiculous. He had one of the best quarterbacks in the history of the game who has seen every situation in football. Manning would not have been a in a state of shock. If he found open receivers, he would have made the throw. If they weren’t, he would have thrown it away.

Manning knows what to do in game-ending situations. Fox didn’t.

Smith called his timeout much too early in setting up the game-winning field goal that Matt Bryant sent through the uprights with eight seconds to go. If he had waited until there were three seconds remaining on the clock, Bryant’s kick would have ended the game.

But instead, the Falcons were forced to kickoff and their ill-fated squib kick gave the Seahawks one more opportunity – however desperate – that they would not have had otherwise.

Carroll made the mistake of not kicking a field goal in the second quarter on a fourth-and-one play with 5:38 to play. He could opted for an easy 28-yard field goal attempt with placekicker Ryan Longwell, but he decided to go for it instead. The Seahawks handed the ball off to Michael Robinson when they needed 18 inches, but he lost almost a full yard and that kept the Seahawks from getting on the scoreboard.

Do you think Carroll wanted those three points at the end of the Seahawks’ 30-28 loss? No doubt.

However, he let the 13-0 deficit dictate his decision. He thought that going for a field goal at that moment would not help his team.

The decision was emotional and foolish.

There’s no way Emery will be able to tell what his eventual head coach will do in the same situation. He can quiz them and ask them what they would do in similar situations, but that’s not the same as being in the moment.

Overemotional and unsure coaches will make more mistakes than clear thinkers.