Why making a play is so important (or how Bill Walsh reminded me again of Joe Flacco)

So how's your summer reading going?

I'm currently in the process of reading Bill Walsh's Finding the Winning Edge, the so-called bible of coaching, according to everyone from Brian Billick (who helped Walsh write the book) to Bill Belichick, who says the book confirmed his style of coaching (a manic obsession with details).

As I make my way through the book (it's well over 500 pages), I plan on posting excerpts if they seem interesting.  And let me tell you, there's a gem on every page.  Today I ran across something that is as common sense as it gets, but worth repeating:

In any given year in the NFL between 12-14 teams will be one game above or below .500 (8-8). These teams will account for between 40-45 percent of the entire League. Sixty to sixty-five percent will cluster between two games above or under .500. As a result, it has been hypothesized statistically that as few as 6-10 plays a year will separate a team from finishing one game over .500 to one game under 8-8.Typically, the two or three outliers with the most positive records will distinguish themselves from the 40-45 percent grouping with a 12-4 or 13-3 record.

I'd hypothesize that the number of plays may even be less (that's so Bill Williamson of me to use the word "may," I know).  But even if the numbers are up for debate--trust me, the numbers always are--it doesn't change Walsh's basic truth.  A few plays make all the difference in the world.

We hear constantly the old cliche from coaches and players about "making plays," but there's a reason for it.  More than half of NFL games are decided by single digits.  One play, one chance, one moment makes the difference between Joe Flacco getting a monster new contract and Joe Flacco exiting the playoffs in the second round.

Of course, Broncos fans already knew this all along, even from a different angle (be sure to listen to the audio):

And the answer is "no," Bill Walsh is never kidding around.

I’m glad we had this talk.  Now, vaya con Dios, Brah.

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