By Dan Bernstein-
CBSChicago.com Senior Columnist
(CBS) Tom Thibodeau and Marc Trestman. Visionaries, both.
How else to describe their ability to elevate the idea of a perfunctory managerial activity to the level of philosophy?
Just as Descartes led 17th century rationalists, Lao Tzu founded Taoism and Epictetus codified the ideas of ancient Greek stoics, these two coaches have apparently pioneered a radical, new concept — replacing an injured player with another player.
Here’s how this brilliance has been described:
“Thibs: Bulls Employ Next Man Up Strategy” – 670theScore.com, 3/15/12
“Thibodeau’s ‘next man up’ philosophy” – Chicago Sun Times, 4/4/13
“It’s next man up. It’s how we do it.” — Josh McCown, 10/21/13
“Marc Trestman keeps referring to the ‘next man up’ philosophy” – Yahoo Sports, 10/11/13
And here are the men in their own words:
“The philosophy here is the next man up.” – Trestman, 10/21/13
“This team has an obligation with the next-man-up philosophy of coming together.” — Trestman, 10/21/13
“We’ve called it the next man up mentality” – Trestman, 10/11/13
“We believe in it.” – Thibodeau, 5/13/13, when placards with the three words were placed around the United Center before a playoff game against the Miami Heat.
I had no idea that a depth chart was something that required belief. I just thought it was an ordered list of names of people in line to do a job, but it’s apparently an entirely new way of thinking about the theory of backups. All this time I had been under the impression that this was how all teams did it, but I guess not.
Instead of this all being assumed practice in every workplace anywhere, ever, it’s now considered “strategy” to “employ” to…put a guy in a game. It’s a “mentality” that b-teamers are on a roster and are expected to perform when needed, and it’s a “philosophy” to tell whomever is on a lower tier that it’s now his turn.
Before Thibs and Trestman arrived to revolutionize the thinking in team sports, what did we do as an alternative? Not replace guys with other guys? I must be unable to recall such incomplete squads that had to have been sent on their doomed, heroic missions — these plucky, three-man NBA units or courageous NFL defenses of eight, guarding the gates of Thermopylae from the advancing Persian armies of Xerxes.
I get it, that coaches even at the highest professional levels feel that anybody in possession of a uniform should feel that he can compete at the same level as the injured player, even if that guy was just signed after an open tryout and had spent the last seven months processing car loans at a dealership in suburban Des Moines.
(Meanwhile, at Fleener Hyundai, general manager Gary Shartz strides purposefully across the gleaming showroom to the cubicle of their young, inexperienced Assistant Loan Processor. Sliding the newly-titled nameplate into the slot by his desk, he explains “Tom has just been signed by the Bears. Our philosophy here has always been ‘next man up,’ and there are loans to be processed. This is your time. Make the most of it. May God be with you.”)
It’s just not unique, obviously, to have to use a full complement of players. Put a team out there and get on with it.
Repackaging a universal fact into an essentially meaningless mantra accomplishes little outside of abstraction. Far more often than not, the next man up sucks. And everybody knows it.
Dan Bernstein joined the station as a reporter/anchor in 1995, and has been the co-host of Boers and Bernstein since 1999. Read more of Bernstein’s columns, or follow him on Twitter: @dan_bernstein.