Sports News Without Access, Favor, Or Discretion

Over at Men's Journal check out this excerpt from Nicholas Dawidoff's new book, Collision Low Crossers: A Year Inside the Turbulent World of NFL Football:

Some people question why football coaches put in such hours, but a game plan is their creative work. Coaches say that even on the best professional teams, only 10 percent of the time do all 11 players perform their roles as scripted. But you always aimed for better.

Besides, the mere idea of free time is for them anathema – they feared not working, because working all the time was the only salve for the anxiety-driven nature of the job. In August, with Hurricane Irene bearing down on New York, a Jets preseason game against the Giants had been postponed. The coaches and players were told that they should stay home, and that their practice facility in Florham Park, New Jersey, would be locked and all entry pass codes deactivated. Some of the offensive coaches began plotting to go straight to Florham Park ahead of the storm and stay there, locked in through the hurricane, bedding down under their desks.

"All right, men, Patriot week," Schotty began at the Wednesday-morning quarterbacks meeting. He said he would first show them some film before detailing his game plan for New England because "[you] gotta learn to swim before you go into deep water."

"What about swimmies?" asked Mark Sanchez. The man was loose. At times, so was his play.

Upon taking the Jets job two years earlier, Ryan had no viable starting quarterback, and to his eyes, Sanchez was the best one available. The Jets dealt three players and two draft choices to the Browns in exchange for the fifth choice in the 2009 draft, and Sanchez arrived in New Jersey to sign the most lucrative contract in franchise history. The Jets quickly made Sanchez their starter, and in his first two seasons he led them to the AFC championship game – or perhaps they led him. In Sanchez's young career, the Jets had carefully protected "the Sanchise," emphasizing his virtues, limiting his playbook, minimizing his job competition, posting a media-relations staffer by his locker whenever he gave interviews. While he flashed the potential of someday becoming the polished, dynamic professional Ryan foresaw, he was still erratic, and so mostly he was a restricted element in a conservative run-first offense stocked with able veterans who gradually, over the course of the game, wore down the opposing defense. That the Jets still had no clear idea how good a quarterback Sanchez would become was nothing surprising; it pointed again to the difficulty in predicting the futures of football players and was part of the game's mystery.


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