It was 1990 and I was attending a luncheon with football head coach Bob Stull at the University of Missouri when he was asked by someone in the audience about Colorado coach Bill McCartney. Stull thought for a moment before answering, “He’s not… quick.”
In fairness to the Buffalo’s coach, Stull had not long before that allowed McCartney’s team to run a play on “fifth down” to score a touchdown to beat the Tigers. So one could argue that Stull wasn’t very “quick”, either.
Regardless, the comment stuck with me all of these years and came back to me again this morning. There were half a dozen articles to read on the promotion of Mike Tice to offensive coordinator. But this quote from Sean Jensen‘s story in the Chicago Sun-Times stood out:
“’I have been organized my whole life,’ Tice said via e-mail, ‘because I am not smart.
“’Details are the key. We need to detail everything out. Have a play for every situation. And have a way to get out of all bad plays.’”
I love this quote. First because I think its refreshingly honest. Second because Tice sounds exactly like me.
I don’t consider myself to be “not smart”. I’m betting that Tice doesn’t think of himself exactly that way, either. But I think I know what he means. Because I would apply the “not quick” description to myself much more often that I would like.
Regular readers know that I’m a research scientist. This means that on occasion I am required to stand in front of a large audience and speak about what I’m doing. I like doing this because I actually like what I do and I like to talk about it. But at the same time its a terrifying experience. That’s because of the question and answer period that follows each presentation.
I plan these talks for days. Every detail has to be mapped out so that its presented in a clear and concise manner and so that nothing important is left out. And I think as hard as I can about the audience and what people might ask afterward. In fairness, I’ve gotten pretty good at anticipating the questions. But no matter how much you plan, no matter how organized you are, someone is occasionally going to ask a question you just didn’t see coming and you are going to be required to think on the fly. When it’s me, the result is sometimes not good.
The whole problem translated into football terms can be demonstrated by what happened to the Bears earlier in the season when they played the Seahawks. The Bears played a pretty good first half of football. They were rolling Caleb Hanie out to his right and he was throwing well on the run. On the other side of the ball, they were having a lot of success rushing Tarvaris Jackson, who was holding the ball too long. Then the second half came. The Seahawks adjusted by getting the ball out of Jackson’s hand quicker and by keeping Hanie in the pocket. The Bears had no answer.
People who are very well organized and who plan well can sometimes tend to self-select. We eventually come to the conclusion that this is the only way that we can get by and be successful. We’re very often compensating because we’re “not quick”.
As the Bears official offensive X’s and O’s coach, Mike Tice is about to face a big challenge that he didn’t have as a head coach or as an offensive line coach. Despite his comment above, I don’t have a single doubt that he’s smart. Very smart. But eventually someone is going to throw something at him in a game that he doesn’t expect. And that’s when we’re going to find out who he really is.