of Broncos lost his first match Russell Wilson era on a missed 64-yard field goal attempt Monday night with 20 seconds left. Wilson was first on the field to attempt a fourth-and-five conversion, but the offense fizzled with about 30 seconds left on the clock as Wilson conceded an onside play, casually separating him from his teammates and correcting the receiver’s forward position. to eventually take a timeout. and firing of the shock unit.
In these moments, we’d all like to imagine ourselves doing the cool workout thing, pulling aviator shades over our eyes, going with our gut, and calling some kind of finger-gun-inducing football trick that happened. putting in our back pocket, setting up an easier goal to win the game. We’d imagine doing the opposite of what Broncos coach Nathaniel Hackett did, who was pulling a quarterback that the franchise spent years worth of draft capital to acquire and hundreds of millions of dollars to extend.
Of course it didn’t happen that way. Regardless of what the call was analytically protected (if, as ESPN pointed out, you run the numbers from the 20-second mark rather than the 50-second mark), we’ll spend the space and time between the end of Week 1 and the beginning of Week 2 roasting the Broncos. He is our low-hanging fruit. The shot missed by inches. We all did well pointing out that we would have done something else.
Never mind that Wilson could have looked at a defense he’d seen every day in practice for a decade and decided (albeit alas late) the Broncos might not have had as good a chance to convert as they could we would have thought with the game in mind. calls in their pocket or personnel in the field. Never mind that Wilson himself might have been a little rattled at this point, and his coach decided it was early enough in the season to let him off the hook. Who knows what the hell is going on down a certain sideline, through a headset, on the probability chart of a team’s specific analytics expert, out of the mouth of a special teams coach and a confident offensive lineman, or inside tiny synapses that release a relentless and often contradictory stream of information into our brains. The line between the beautiful thing about exercise and the truly awful thing about exercise is sometimes thin, even if we don’t care to look at it that way.
Once upon a time, Pete Carroll himself did a similar very unpleasant coaching thing. Brian Daboll, who we universally loved this weekend for doing a really good coaching thing, shoveled a pass to run after a game-winning two-point conversion that was sniffed out by two Titans defenders on the field back and only managed it through the pent-up anger of a back who had to spend the last four years in football schematic hell. Plus, that cool practice thing required a missed field goal by the Titans to solidify as cool.
What matters now are the moments that come next. Hackett, and by extension, Wilson, were the unfortunate protagonists of the NFL’s opening week. They threw the tomatoes at him. They had to go offstage, with their pants around their ankles. They can let this moment define them, which would make one of the biggest acquisitions of the season a comical blunder, or they can do the next cool coaching thing together.
We’ve seen how potentially debilitating individual moments can be for coaches, and Monday was as instructive a live tutorial as we’ve ever seen on the rigors of the position. It’s impossible to know what it’s like to be an NFL head coach until the weight of a game sits on your chest in front of 80,000 people. One of the few ways to make sure it doesn’t happen again is to experience the worst and move on.
We don’t know how that will play out in Denver, one of the toughest and toughest markets in the NFL; a place with a new owner just getting a feel for the operation. What we do know is that there is some concrete truth to what coaches say when a good coaching thing goes their way. We’re talking realists here, those who have gone through a lot of crap to make a bow. If it didn’t hit, they’d be fools.
That’s how unsustainable it all is. That’s how easily we can all forget what happened on Monday, as soon as the next one rolls around, when a frantic moment comes their way.
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