I rarely veer away from the main two topics that I address in my blog: “This” (usually soccer) and “That” (travels) is what I usually write about. Today’s entry falls under “The Other” and although on the surface it’s about [gridiron] football, it really is about a simple lesson in management: experience surpasses everything. And there’s no substitute for it!
OK… Go ahead… Be shallow and accuse me of being a sore loser. After all, the Falcons did lose the Super Bowl last night. But that’s just it. The Pats didn’t win it (as much as everyone raves about it). The Falcons LOST it. All due to lack of experience. And conversely, a very experienced team (and quarterback) were offered the slight opening that they needed to get back into the game.
No qualms about it. It WAS the best Super Bowl ever. Hollywood couldn’t have written a better script. And the Pats deserve a lot of credit for the historic comeback. But the Falcons somehow managed to “snatch defeat from the jaws of victory”.
Yeah, it’s always easy to be “that guy”, the “Monday Night Quarterback” who shows up after the battle with all the “woulda/shoulda/coulda”. But that’s not my angle. It’s not so much about the game. It’s about how experience (or lack of) changed the outcome of the game.
Falcons were all heart. Up for the occasion. Fired up and flying high. As much as they were following a playbook, they were driven by emotion. The Pats had NO response to it, and before you know it, we were looking at a blowout.
But then, the counting of the unhatched chickens began. Players already started thinking about what the celebrations will be like. Of how that ring would feel on their finger. So did the coaches. And the same emotions that enhanced everything up to that point, now were being counterproductive. Instead of running out the clock, Kyle Shanahan (an otherwise brilliant offensive coordinator, now on his way to the top job at 49ers) chose to go for big plays. We’ll chalk that to inexperience. A seasoned coach would have run the ball at third-and-one with 8:30 to go. If they didn’t get it, then a punt would have put the ball back deep in Pats territory. Instead, we fumbled and James White (who in my opinion should have been the MVP) went on to score.
On the next Falcons possession, Julio Jones – what an amazing catch – got the Falcons on the 22 yards’ line. All that was needed from there: a couple of run attempts to get them even closer, and an eventual field goal that would have more-or-less sealed it. Instead, inexperience took over again, another pass-play attempt saw Matt Ryan sacked and pushed back for 12 yards, and after another 5-yard penalty, put Atlanta out of field goal range.
For me (and many others) those were the plays where lack of experience at this stage changed the game. It allowed Brady and the Pats back in. Unexpectedly, even for the die-hard Pats fan. The rest is history. And will undoubtedly remain in the history of the sport forever.
Again, I admit… it’s easy to look back and judge decisions that had to be made in the heat of the battle. And yes, it still hurts. Atlanta deserved the win. The franchise deserved their first ever Lombardi. Many were likely planning a big parade for the Falcons already. In the end, experience won. Or inexperience LOST, rather… A tired and psychologically “down” defense was no longer swarming and pressuring Brady, giving him all that time in the pocket. And you can’t afford to do that to a player of his caliber, without dire repercussions. Undoubtedly, this young team will learn from it and will be back to try it again. If not next year, perhaps in 2019, on home turf!
But back to the topic at hand. In sports, in life, career, in anything, there really is no substitute for experience. Enthusiasm, drive, and “heart” can only take you so far. Yet, unless the fat lady sings your tune, it’s not enough…