Archive for the ‘Bill Callahan’ Category

Bill Callahan For Hire

January 7, 2009

With former New York Jets coach Eric Mangini on his way to the Cleveland Browns, the NY Daily News is reporting that Bill Callahan might be taking the same bus with him to Cleveland.

Rumor has it that Mangini has already started assembling his staff and Callahan is one of his top targets. However, according to the NY Daily News, ‘Callahan is under contract and the Jets aren’t required to grant permission for the Browns to speak with him. Unless an assistant wants to interview for a head-coaching job, it’s deemed a lateral move and his current team isn’t obligated to let him go. Another wrinkle is the fact that Callahan interviewed for the Jets’ head-coaching vacancy. He’s not considered a frontrunner, but he’s a well-respected coach and it’s unlikely the Jets would let him out of his contract.

Jets (offensive coordinator) Brian Schottenheimer and (offensive line/assistant head coach) Bill Callahan were the first to interview for Mangini’s former head coaching job in New York last Friday. However, Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan are believed to be the top choices but they will not be able to interview until their seasons are over.

It looks like Bill has two very good options for next year in either New York or Cleveland. Either way, he’s still far enough away.

Catching Up With Bill Callahan

September 22, 2008

Bill Callahan was kind of enough to call in to an Omaha radio station several weeks ago to let everyone know how his new job as offensive line coach for the New York Jets is working out plus his take on this year’s Cornhuskers after week 1.

Bill Callahan Unplugged: 2nd Edition

May 25, 2008

Coach B Rizzle in North O is back. A few weeks ago we published the first of the Bill Callahan impersonsations (which is still one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard) from radio station 1620thezone and here is number two. Thanks to Big Head, we now know it is Omaha sports anchor Matt Schick. This is gold.

Tim Brown Talks About Bill Callahan

September 17, 2007

This afternoon on The Big Show with Matt Perrault, an Omaha sports radio show, Tim Brown was interviewed about Bill Callahan during their days together with the Oakland Raiders. This is a must listen.

Some Interesting Points:

· Callahan best X and O’s coach he has ever been around but not good relating to players – especially with trust.

· The Raiders could have done without a coach after Gruden left because the system was ‘already in place.’

· He really used to walk off the field during practice?

· Love how he called him a ‘different cat.’

· Interesting how Callahan did the running plays and head coach Jon Gruden did the passing plays.

· When Callahan took over as head coach in 2002, QB Rich Gannon called the plays in a no-huddle offense that lead them to the Super Bowl.

· The players went to Rich Gannon, not Callahan, if there was a problem on offense?

· During a 4 win season in 2003, Brown said he and his teammates weren’t sure if Callahan was doing his atrocious play-calling on purpose to get fired (because they all thought he and staff wanted out) or if he was that bad.

Two great signs that were seen outside the Stadium on Saturday:

Nice work, Husker fans.

Not this again…

September 10, 2007

Well, we’re back to this again where I become Callahan’s biggest defender on a fourth down playcall. What is so hard to understand? There was no doubt in my mind that we were going to go for it. Callahan is a gambler when it comes to fourth down. He is going to take a risk if he feels the payoff outweighs the potential costs of such a move. Perhaps he is familiar with the idea, presented once again for clarity by the Football Commentary folks that coaches punt way too often on fourth down, even when going for it would have been in their best interest.

The best their tables provide is the opponent’s 40-yard line with 3 minutes to go and a 3-point lead. Again we were on the 35 with 2 minutes to go. Anyway, the table tells us that Callahan should have believed the play would have a 60% probability of picking up the first down in order to come to the conclusion that we go for it rather than punt. So if he felt 6/10 times in that situation we pick up a first down – we go for it.

One more thing to consider we needed two yards for the first down. On fourth and two a year ago we went for it, and ran the ball twice. Both of those attempts led to first downs. Don’t think that Callahan isn’t aware of that success benchmark from 2006.

I know what you would have done in that situation. You would have punted. Callahan won’t. Just come to terms with that please people.

Ranking the Coaches Based on…Um, Coaching

June 21, 2007

I’m sure many of you remember Tom Dienhart’s attempt at ranking all of the BCS coaches. Like most of Dienhart’s columns the piece seemed to be based on little other than personal opinion. That’s fine as he gets paid to have an opinion, but there had to be a more scientific approach to the endeavor.

Well, it turns out there was a better approach, like the one taken by LD at the The Corporate Headquarters of the San Antonio Gunslingers.

LD based his rankings on several key factors:

National Titles
Conference Titles
Winning Percentage
Winning Percentage As Against School’s Historic Winning Percentage

I’ve said it before, but this is another example of how the mainstream media gets outdone by bloggers. Anyway, you can see the spreadsheet of LD’s rankings here.

Here are some of LD’s comments related to Nebraska and Bill Callahan

Winning Percentage As Against School’s Historic Winning Percentage:

Biggest upgrade by Dienhart from where a coach would be rated by this objective category: Bill Callahan (from 50th up to 21st).

Coaches upgraded by Dienhart by more than 10 spots (my guess at a reason, and here I don’t consider a bad program as a good reason since it’s already accounted for): Hawkins (small sample), Bobby Johnson (???), Bill Callahan (???), Mark Mangino (???), Greg Schiano (???), Jim Leavitt (Shouldn’t be listed here – he’s the only coach at the program, so his comparison to history is neutral), Houston Nutt (???), Lloyd Carr (title), Kirk Ferentz (???), Tom O’Brien (???), Tommy Tuberville (???, near-title?), Frank Beamer (longevity), Nick Saban (title), Mack Brown (title), Rich Rodriguez (???), Jim Tressel (title).

Looking at the various objective criteria, I think Dienhart overrates and underrates a few coaches, based upon their accomplishments.

OVERRATED: Mark Mangino, Bill Callahan, Bobby Johnson, Rich Rodriguez, Kirk Ferentz, Tom O’Brien.

UNDERRATED: Phil Fulmer, Ralph Friedgen, Mark Richt, Charlie Weis, Jeff Tedford, Les Miles, Tommy Bowden, Bret Bielema, Tyrone Willingham, Karl Dorrell, Bill Doba.

A few more specific nits to pick considering all the categories discussed:

Houston Nutt at #20 isn’t defensible. Guys behind him that best or equal him in every category: Tedford, Richt, Leach, Friedgen, Fulmer, Tiller, Bielema, Miles. Nutt’s objective rankings put him right in line with Tommy Bowden, whom Dienhart ranks 47th (though, arguably he shouldn’t be that low).

Matt at Statistically Speaking also introduced another variable into attempts at rating coaches. He created a formula that looks like this:

Win % Last Season (50%) + Win % 2 Yrs Ago (20%) + Win % 3 Yrs Ago (10%) + .500 (20%)

The four components are winning percentage for the previous three seasons; with each season decreasing in importance as the distance from the current season increases and the final component is a winning percentage of .500 as teams tend to trend towards .500. Including this component ensures we don’t penalize coaches coming off undefeated seasons because improving upon a 100% winning percentage is impossible. Additionally, we don’t reward coaches who go winless because we assume they will improve at least marginally. Next we just subtract the team’s expected winning percentage from their actual winning percentage. This number is the coach’s rating.

Here are the best and worst coaches in each conference according to Matt’s formula:


Jim Grobe (Wake Forest) +.389

Big East
Greg Schiano (Rutgers) +.340

Big 10
Bret Bielema (Wisconsin) +.235

Big 12
Dennis Franchione (Texas A&M) +.215

Pac 10
Mike Riley (Oregon State) +.208

Rich Brooks (Kentucky) +.309

Conference USA
Todd Graham (Rice) +.296

Frank Solich (Ohio) +.271

Mountain West
Bronco Mendenhall (BYU) +.372

Sun Belt
Larry Blakeney (Troy) +.166

Dick Tomey (San Jose State) +.392


Chuck Amato (NC State) -.294

Big East
Randy Edsall (Connecticut) -.203

Big 10
Pat Fitzgerald (Northwestern) -.205

Big 12
Dan Hawkins (Colorado) -.367

Pac 10
Walt Harris (Stanford) -.354

Mike Shula (Alabama) -.185

Conference USA
Tommy West (Memphis) -.427

Shane Montgomery (Miami, Ohio) -.467

Mountain West
Chuck Long (San Diego State) -.181

Sun Belt
Darrell Dickey (North Texas) -.127

Jack Bicknell (Louisiana Tech) -.329

Obviously neither of these systems is perfect, but they have to be better attempts than what Dienhart and most pundits provide.

Press Conference Tidbits

March 21, 2007

Coach Callahan spoke with the media yesterday, but failed to disclose anything new or particularly meaningful. I’ll recap some portions just the same, however.

On the players’ work in the off-season:

“They’ve worked hard, not only in conditioning, but in video review. They’ve had an opportunity to go back and to review their video and their plays and their performance from last year. I thought that was extremely productive for them, as individuals as well as a team and as a unit. Just to get back into football, to refine their techniques, and to refine themselves.”

I like that the players are spending some time critiquing their play via game film. Research indicates that in almost all fields, people tend to improve by watching both their successes and their failures. While I’m sure this is nothing new, it felt good to read about it here.

A lot was discussed concerning the quarterback situation and Callahan did his best to reiterate that it was a wide-open race.

“I think that people naturally look at this as a two-horse race, and it certainly isn’t even that. I think that Beau Davis has a lot of great attributes that have really been kept in the dark the past two seasons. His performance in his rookie year was really an unfair performance because it was really too soon. He has talent, he has mobility, and a good arm, and has been in this system going on his fourth year, so I think that has some merit. If you look at the successful quarterbacks around the country that have performed at a high level, it usually takes awhile to get to that level. So I don’t want to discount any of the guys in the quarterback race.”

The spring is a perfect time to really evaluate the talent and depth that we have at the QB position. That is why I have no problem with dividing the snaps amongst 3-4 guys. I don’t really expect Beau Davis to do much more than carry a clipboard or signal in plays, but if he earns the spot, so be it. Besides, given our recent luck I half expect an ACME safe to fall on Sam Keller some time in the next few months anyway.

Two questions on Tuesday pertained directly to Mr. Keller concerning whether the job was his to lose and what he brings to the offense. Here is the question I would like to have seen answered:

Coach, I assume you traded your soul to the devil himself in return for Sam Keller. Any regrets? And a follow up – had Sam Keller not found his way to Lincoln, is it safe to say that your house would be on the market right now?

Callahan also addressed concerns about the defensive line:

“We graduated some outstanding players, and that’s not to say that the upcoming players will not be outstanding. I think (sophomore defensive lineman Ndamukong) Suh has a chance to be an all-league performer, I think (junior defensive lineman Ty) Steinkuhler is coming into his own. I look at our end position, and unfortunately (junior defensive end) Barry Turner will be out this spring, but he is a top end when compared with other guys around the country. I think (junior linebacker) Clayton Sievers moving positions should provide us some depth and intrigue in regards to what he can do with a full-time position. And of course (junior defensive end) Zach Potter is a guy that has been around for a couple of years and has only gotten bigger and stronger, so we’re changing him really from a base-five technique to a base-six technique, so that should really tie in to his strengths as a player.”

I guess I didn’t expect a miracle here, but part of me was hoping Callahan had some Jared Tomich clone that he was keeping under wraps until the spring. I think we may have some talent on the D-line, but Buddy Wyatt is certainly going to have to earn his paycheck in 2007.

So with that let’s hit the field fellas. Wait, you want an inspirational pre-game speech. Hey, why not. Take it away Coach Coronary-Embolism

More on Fourth Down Decision-Making

January 5, 2007

Here is a New York Times article (Registration required) from December of 2004 discussing the science of fourth down decisions.

“Belichick is known for his unorthodox strategies: being more willing than most to not punt on fourth down; running the ball far more than average in certain crucial situations; and eschewing two-point-conversion attempts in situations when orthodox doctrine recommends them.

Not coincidentally, experts in the world of football statistical analysis endorse all these strategies. For example, David Romer, an economist at the University of California at Berkeley, published a working paper arguing that conventional football wisdom led to far too much punting. Romer analyzed thousands of plays and calculated the chance of scoring from any position on the field. Based on that, he gauged the relative worth of the field position gained by punting against the lost opportunity to score. Romer found that football coaches punt far more than they ought to — perhaps acting out of fear of the worst outcome (going for it on fourth down and failing), rather than rationally balancing risk and reward.

Romer’s paper, ”It’s Fourth Down and What Does the Bellman Equation Say? A Dynamic Programming Analysis of Football Strategy,” is far from light reading, so it came as a shock to Romer when he learned that Belichick, who was an economics major at Wesleyan University, had read it.”

The Fake Punt Revisted

January 3, 2007

By now everyone and their mom (I’m serious, my mom called after the game to question it), is talking about the fake punt early on in Monday’s game. Here is a sampling of the reactions:


“12:20: As if on cue, we turn the channel to the Cotton Bowl and Auburn’s blocking a punt. Wait–no. They’re actually faking a punt on a reverse, which Auburn speedily dismantles. Callahan shows his inner schmuck by making that call, putting Auburn on the NU 15 or so.”

Big Red Network

“You don’t run a fake punt on your own 20-yard line. You…just…don’t. I’m stunned by the raw arrogance of it. In a game where both defenses are playing well, field position is especially important. Why NU did that, I don’t know. And, almost no explanation is likely to be good enough. It absolutely was just like giving the dang game away. Some will say that if the play worked and they got a first down, then it would be genius. Nope. It would still be arrogance. The Greeks had a word for that – hubris. Show too much pride, and the Gods will smite you. Callahan got smote good. And, it cost these kids the game.”

Husker Mike

“Callahan has made a habit out of trick plays this season, and apparantly this fake punt was all that was left in the bag of tricks. It should have stayed there, as this one was all-wrong. Run from deep in Nebraska territory, there’s no guarantee that it would have led to points as we were far from being in a position to capitalize. Simply put, the risk-reward balance was too high on the risk side without that much reward. It was poorly executed, as Dane Todd’s pitch to Andrew Shanle was fumbled, giving Auburn even better field position.”

Fullback Dane Todd

“I thought it was a great call, a great situation to do it. You take a gamble like that, you’re going to get burned once in a while.”

Coach Callahan himself

“It was my call. It didn’t work, obviously, but nonetheless, it was still early enough in the ball game that if it didn’t work and if it faltered, we were still in a good position we felt to come back, but things got discombobulated there. We fumbled the exchange, then lost some critical yardage, so that hurt us. We got behind the eight ball on the short field.”

Given the strong reaction to this call, I decided to give it another look and to try and understand it not from an emotional standpoint, but from a rational and logical perspective. First, in the spirit of full disclosure – I had some immediate reservations about the call. My major concern centered on the use of Dane Todd and Andrew Shanle as the key cogs to the execution of the play. These are two players with limited experience in handling the football. I recognize that the presence of other, more “visible” players might have tipped off our intentions to Auburn. However, this is the coaching staff that lined our backup QB at kicker in order to complete a fake FG against Colorado.

Anyway, onto the analysis.

Examining decision-making during the course of a football game hinges on an analysis of statistical probabilities and hints at the concepts of Game Theory. Despite 18 hours of graduate level statistics, this lies just beyond my expertise. Fortunately, we have the fine folks at Football Commentary to help us out.

The Football Commentary site has developed the Dynamic Programming Model. The Dynamic Programming Model is intended to provide guidance for certain decisions that arise during a game, such as two-point conversions and going for it on fourth down. The Model is built around the idea that in making decisions, we are trying to maximize our team’s probability of winning the game, and the opponents are trying to minimize that probability.

According to the site:

“There are three types of situations, called states, in which the Model explicitly evaluates our probability of winning. The first type of state is when one team or the other has just gained possession. The second type is when a team has just scored a touchdown, but has not yet tried for the extra point (or points). The third type is when a team is about to kick off.

Options to attempt a two-point conversion, to try an onside kick, or to go to a hurry-up offense are modeled explicitly. In addition, making a first down at a particular time, field position, and point differential is equivalent (from the Model’s standpoint) to first gaining possession at that same time, field position, and point differential. Therefore, the model will allow us to analyze decisions to go for it on fourth down.”

The Dynamic Programming Model produces a series of tables that are intended to provide guidance regarding when to go for it on fourth down rather than punt. Although they do not cover the decision to fake a punt directly, I contend that we can utilize these charts to examine the astuteness of Callahan’s decision to fake the punt from deep within our territory against Auburn.

The “Go For It” tables include several variables for guiding the decision-making. These variables include, field position, score, and for first half decisions, whether you will be kicking off or receiving to start the second half. Tables are provided for four different field positions: Our own 5, 20, and 40-yard line, and the opponent’s 40-yard line. In addition, the tables are computed under the assumption that a punt nets 40 yards, except when the line of scrimmage is the opponent’s 40-yard line, from which we then assume a punt nets 30 yards.

So let’s examine the variables facing Callahan and the Huskers when the crucial decision was made. The game is tied 7-7 with approximately 15 minutes left in the first half, and we face a fourth down near our own 30-yard line. We will also be kicking off to start the second half. Because the 30-yard line falls in between the tables for our own 20-yard line and our own 40-yard line, we will have to do some extrapolating.

In the Table labeled “Own 20 yard line, first half, we will kick off to start the second half” we go to the row corresponding to a lead of 0, and the column corresponding to 15:00 remaining. The Table entry is 0.58. This means that if the probability of picking up the first down exceeds 0.58 we should go for it (or possibly fake it), and otherwise we should punt. In the Table labeled “Own 40 yard line, first half, we will kick off to start the second half” we go to the row corresponding to a lead of 0, and the column corresponding to 15:00 remaining. The Table entry is 0.51. This means that if the probability of picking up the first down exceeds 0.51 we should go for it (or possibly fake it), and otherwise we should punt. If we extrapolate from those probabilities to fit our situation at our own 29-yard line we get a range somewhere between .51-.58.

In other words, Callahan should only have called the fake punt if he felt it had a probability of success (gaining 1+ yards), of somewhere around 0.55. Given the element of surprise, the need to gain just one yard, and the likelihood of successful execution of the play in the practices leading up to the Cotton Bowl, it becomes easier to see how Callahan came to the decision to call for the fake. The model is telling us that if Callahan felt the fake would work 6/10 times, then calling it at this point, and from this spot on the field would maximize our probability of winning the game.

Now let’s put the decision into greater perspective by contrasting it with other, similar coaching decisions. First, versus USC, the Huskers ran a similar fake punt. At the time, however, that decision was viewed in a much more positive light, despite the fact that it led to no points. In that situation, the game was tied 3-3 with approximately 10 minutes left in the first half, and we faced a fourth down near our own 40-yard line. We would also be kicking off to start the second half of that game. In the Table labeled “Own 40 yard line, first half, we will kick off to start the second half” we go to the row corresponding to a lead of 0, and the column corresponding to 9:00 remaining. The Table entry is 0.51. This means that if the probability of picking up the first down exceeds 0.51 we should have gone for it (or possibly faked it), and otherwise we should punt.

Notice that the probability is nearly identical to that of the Auburn game. The only difference was that this particular fake punt led to a gain of 28-yards and a first down. The reaction to the two decisions, however, has been vastly different. My hunch is that the difference has nothing to do with probabilities, or game theory, but instead centers solely on the success of one fake and the failure of another. After all, both were designed to catch the opponent off-guard and both came early in the game allowing the team time to come back if the play failed.

For more perspective, consider another coaching decision. When we faced Kansas State, first year head coach Ron Prince also made what was viewed as a high-risk decision concerning a fake punt. In this situation, Kansas State trailed by 7, with approximately 18:00 to go in the first half, and faced a fourth down near their own 9-yard line. Kansas State would also be receiving the second half kickoff. In the Table labeled “Own 5 yard line, first half, opponents will kick off to start the second half” we go to the row corresponding to a lead of -7, and the column corresponding to 18:00 remaining. The Table entry is 0.70. This means that if the probability of picking up the first down exceeds 0.70 KSU should have gone for it (or possibly faked it), and otherwise they should punt. Here we see that Prince should have felt that the fake had a 70% probability of success, or he had no business calling it. In this case, the fake worked and gained 38-yards, but led to zero points.

We see, therefore, several fake punt situations and probabilities associated with this decision-making process. One might argue, however, that the Dynamic Programming Model is simply a computer simulation, and has no bearing on coaches, who tend to make decisions based on “hunches” or “a feel for the game”. I believe that many coaches would disagree with this assessment.

For instance, in his book Developing an Offensive Game Plan, Brian Billick writes:

“Too often people have resisted the technological wave of advancement, thinking that a computer is nothing more than a number-crunching, dehumanizing, complicated mechanism – a device intended either for only the most sophisticated ‘hackers’ or for the games of children. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

In addition, even crusty curmudgeon Bill Parcells has moved into the future. In his own book, Finding a Way to Win, he says,

“If the competition has laptop computers and you’re still using yellow legal pads, it won’t matter how long and hard you work, they’re going to pass you by.”

Coaches are most definitely aware of this type of probability model and are likely using them to guide their decision-making process. Callahan and the Huskers got burnt when poor execution reduced the probability of success for the early fake punt to zero. Auburn jumped on the mistake and Nebraska’s offense could not duplicate its early accomplishments. The end-result was a 3-point loss to a Top 10 team, and another failed attempt to get over the proverbial hump.

Final disclosure – I had no hidden agenda when writing this piece. I am not being paid by Steve Pederson, Bill Callahan or Callahan’s agent. I was not attempting to defend Callahan’s decision, nor was I sure what I would specifically find by examining the Dynamic Programming Model tables. My sole intent, was to examine the data we have at our disposal in order to put this particular decision into a less emotionally-charged perspective. However, you may note that I had previously glanced at the tables in a cursory manner, and was at least superficially aware of a trend indicating that coaches should probably go for it more frequently on fourth down.

What’s Eating at Coach Callahan?

December 6, 2006

Everyone knows that Coach Callahan has blamed himself for the loss to Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship Game. By now, this has been covered by just about everyone under the sun. One thing I haven’t seen though is a cogent discussion as to why Callahan would point the finger at himself.

After all, he didn’t underthrow receivers, miss blocks, or get beat by Malcolm Kelly. That’s not the role that coaches play. As Brian Billick states, “as a coach, you will not catch a single pass, throw a single block, or score a single touchdown this season. Nor will you, on a consistent basis, make that singularly brilliant play call that wins the game.”

And now, we even see Callahan’s players stepping forward to shoulder the blame.

“We all know it wasn’t his fault,” said Taylor, who threw three interceptions and lost a fumble. “We played the game. I know it’s not his fault that I can’t hit Nate Swift on a seam route when he’s wide open. You’ve got to put the blame on the players. But he’s a classy guy and he’s a great coach, so naturally he’s going to take the blame for it, even when we know that we made mistakes that we shouldn’t have made.”

So all of this begs the question – why is Callahan taking this loss so personally?

My first thought, is that perhaps Callahan is becoming entrenched in the culture that is Husker football. Let’s not forget this is the same guy who so famously uttered the “one game, one season,” remark just two short years ago. There is little doubt Callahan is more invested in the program now. We saw a glimpse of this a year ago, when he emerged teary-eyed following the victory over Colorado, but now his disappointment speaks volumes. Each week the Tunnel Walk echoes the sentiments – “I play for Nebraska”. Perhaps his reaction is simply evidence that Callahan has more fully internalized the notion – “I coach Nebraska.”

A second explanation might be found by examining Callahan’s coaching lineage. A pedigree that is superbly laid out in the following illustration.

Atop that illustration you see Bill Walsh’s name and toward the bottom, Bill Callahan’s. Although Walsh’s connection to Callahan seems somewhat removed, his influence might be less distant than you think. Obviously Callahan and Walsh are linked by way of the West Coast Offense. It is important to note, however, that the WCO is more than a system of plays. The major key to Walsh’s WCO was less in the actual Xs and Os than it was in the innovative approaches he took in preparation, installation and implementation of those fundamentals. The WCO was never meant to be just a series of runs and passes that emulates the success of the San Francisco 49ers during the 1980s and 1990s. Instead, Walsh’s structure was based on specific teaching methods that carried a team systematically from the installation of the offense in Fall camp, to weekly installation of the game plans at practices, to the actual implementation of the game plan on game days. A recurring theme then is preparation, preparation and preparation.

What then does this have to do with Callahan and the blame game? For further help with this let’s look at a Harvard Business Review (January, 1993) interview with Bill Walsh. In outlining his philosophical approach to preparing successful football teams, Walsh states:

“A system should never reduce the game to the point where it simply blames the players for failure because they did not physically overwhelm the opponent…the responsibility for the success of the team starts with the coach, who develops the plan, that is then executed by the players – who are extremely well-prepared.”

In Monday’s conference call, Callahan’s exact quote was:

“I was disappointed in everything I did. I could have done a better job. I just didn’t do enough.”

This sounds as though he is blaming himself for failing to fully prepare his team for everything they might see against OU, or for failing to have a contingency plan in place should they fall behind early, or have difficulty sustaining drives.

Similarly, in the Harvard Business Review interview Walsh is also quoted as saying:

“You need to have a plan for even the worst scenario. It doesn’t mean that it will always be successful. But you will always be prepared and at your best.”

According to Brian Billick, another Walsh disciple, this is important because:

“The more your players can gain a sense of confidence that they are prepared for anything that might come up, the less likely they are to feel ‘physically overwhelmed,’ even if their opponent is capable of doing just that.”

Lastly, Walsh emphasized the importance of thoroughly analyzing one’s opponent and making decisions in the cool and calm of one’s office, rather than on the fly and from the sidelines.

“Making judgments under severe stress is the most difficult thing there is. The more preparation you have prior to the conflict, the more you can do in a clinical situation, the better off you will be.”

Could there be a more stressful situation for a coach than trailing 14-0 in a conference championship game? How might that duress have impacted some of Coach Callahan’s decisions? Might he fault his own preparation for the influence it had on a choice to go away from the run and to throw 20 consecutive passes?

And I’m not questioning these decisions; I’m simply trying to get to the bottom of what is eating at our coach this week. The best I can come up with is that Callahan is feeling more at home with the breadth of his position and the investment of the coaches, players and fans. In addition, it signals an adherence to the roots of his coaching philosophy – one that emphasizes commitment, preparation and accountability.