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A combination of the Thanksgiving games and an ill-timed support call at the weekend got me thinking about the obsession with routine that many NFL head coaches seem to have.

I think the desire for routine was part of the reason that John Harbaugh was comfortable in complaining about his team’s trip to London earlier this year.

An NFL head coach is used to micromanaging. I’m sure there has to be a degree of flexibility built in, but a coach has his plan for the entire season prepared before it starts in terms of practise, travel, and everything it takes to play a game of football. This is much easier to implement if you are working in a familiar routine, particularly if you have a heavy schedule and any NFL coach, yet alone the one in charge of an entire team works an awful lot of hours.

One of the reasons that Bruce Arian’s is a favourite coach of mine is that he often talks about how important it is to maintain a work life balance and that if he hears of any of his coaches missing an important family occasion then he’ll fire them. However, in the ultra-competitive world of professional sports people are always looking for advantages and with the complexity of tactics that make up an NFL game plan you can see why coaches put in as many hours as they do.

I know from personal experience how if you don’t have a focussed plan, that you can spend a huge amount of time watching the coaching tape of a single game, and comparatively I know nothing about football. Not that I let that stop me from commenting about the game or coaching.

However, I don’t pretend that coaching is easy, and whilst I can and do share frustrations or wonder what was going on, something I heard Michael Wilbon of ESPN say really struck a chord with me.

He was talking about coaching and given how prepared these coaches are, the hours they put in, what interference and distractions must be going on for them to make the decisions they do.

Take for instance the Buffalo Bills. They have a quarterback in Tyrod Taylor that the franchise has not committed to, and with the GM and coaching regime change and apparently there still being no faith you begin to wonder what influence the owners are having. Certainly the decision to start Nathan Peterman ended badly and with Taylor back under centre this last week, the Bills were able to beat the Kansas City Chiefs.

I had a lot of time for what Sean McDermott did this season with a team that had move a lot of players on yet was still found a way to win, but for many the decision to sit a quarterback who didn’t turn the ball over for a rookie because Peterman gave them the best chance to win was fireable given how badly Peterman played. However, with a win McDermott at least stabilised the situation and what we don’t know is how many people were involved in the decision, but when it comes to a starting quarterback I wonder how many voices are involved.

Certainly with the announcement that Eli Manning is to have his starting streak of over two hundred games for the New York Giants ended because he is being sat for Geno Smith I start to wonder who was involved in the decision apart from Ben McAdoo. I’m not saying that anyone else told him to do it, but with all that is going on in New York, with the press being less than impressed with McAdoo’s handling of the team – what influenced him? The play of Eli Manning has not looked that great for a while now, and predates the loss of Odel Beckham earlier in the season, but what is he hoping to gain with his two time Super Bowl winner on the side lines.

I wonder how you get into the position to keep making the best decisions. How you have to be in lock step with all the people round you. I know how some approach it as coaches like Pete Carroll or Bruce Arians will write a book or talk about it, whilst someone like Bill Belichick reveals as little as possible.

However, I can easily see how being in the head coach’s office of an NFL franchise could be very different once you’re in there to how even an experienced coaches thought it might be.

And how only a tiny change could derail the best laid but highly complex plans.

So we move to a game featuring a coach who very much appears to be on the hot seat after a quick glance at last week’s results..

Gee:      Week 12   8-8                     Overall   97-80
Dan:      Week 12   9-7                     Overall   94-83

Washington @ Cowboys (-1.5)

The Dallas Cowboys have really struggled over the last few weeks, and the reaction of their coaching staff does not inspire confidence with a lack of creative scheming not helping a group of skills players who have not been getting it done with Ezekiel Elliott’s suspended. It maybe that Washington are so injured that they are going to lose on the road, but with both teams having played on Thursday of last week, I’m backing Washington in this one.

Gee’s Pick:          Washington
Dan’s Pick:          Washington