The Decision-Making Balance In The NFL

Blame is often thrown around in the NFL when things go poorly—just as praise is given when teams win—but it is not always directed at the right people.

For example, people are criticizing Pete Carroll for throwing on the goal line in the Super Bowl, ultimately leading to an interception and sealing the game for the Patriots. However, this was not Carroll’s decision to make alone, as he has an offensive coordinator—Darrell Bevell—who actually called the play in, though both coaches were in agreement that a pass was the right call.

Taking things a step farther, even quarterback Russell Wilson had to make two decisions on that play. The first was not to check into a run with an audible, which he could have done, and the second was when and where to throw the ball.

Four different decisions, made by three different people, led to that interception. And that’s not even looking at the Patriots’ side of things.

A lot of decisions were made on the deciding Super Bowl interception.

A lot of decisions were made on the deciding Super Bowl interception.

Whether you think it was the right or the wrong call, it underscores one important thing about the NFL: You must trust the people around you. This is a team sport all the way from the field to the sidelines to the booth, and everyone plays a roll in the process. It’s crucial to have the right people and the right players in place.

And that’s why Adam Gase is calling plays in Chicago, not leading the San Francisco 49ers as their head coach.

It was surprising when Gase did not get hired. He had multiple interviews, the 49ers were working hard to talk to him and it really looked like he was the leading candidate for the job. Then, everything with Gase got quiet and the 49ers promoted Jim Tomsula to the position of head coach, a controversial move because he wasn’t being sought by anyone else. Fans wanted a big move after the ousting of the very successful Jim Harbaugh, and they didn’t get it.

Turns out, the 49ers were dead set on giving Tomsula a promotion the whole time; they’d probably been eyeing the move since before Harbaugh was let go. They just didn’t know for sure that he’d be the head coach.

When Gase came in for his interview, he told the 49ers that he wanted either Vance Joseph or Vic Fangio to be his defensive coordinator. Fangio was already in that role in San Francisco, though Joseph was—and still is—with the Bengals. The 49ers reportedly told Gase that they already had a defensive coordinator picked out for him: Jim Tomsula. If he promised to give Tomsula the job, they said, Gase could be the head coach.

And Gase walked.

Tomsula, not Gase became the new 49ers head coach.

Tomsula, not Gase became the new 49ers head coach.

It’s unclear if he disliked Tomsula in general or if he just didn’t want the organization to make all his decisions for him, it was probably a mix of both. Not that he had anything against Tomsula, per se, but just that he didn’t think he was a good fit and that he (Gase) already knew what moves he wanted to make.

To have them denied and dictated for him shot down the deal. Gase knows that a head coach has to have the right staff around him, and he wouldn’t put his own reputation on the line with anything less.


It was also a warning sign. Gase wasn’t even in the door and the brass was trying to make all of the choices for him, running the show and not allowing him to make decisions. If they were willing to do that from day one, what would they do for his whole tenure? Would he ever have the power that a head coach is supposed to have? At the very least, would he ever really be asked to be part of the decision-making process, rather than just being told what he had to do?

A lot of reports indicated that Harbaugh was run out of town because he clashed with the ownership, wanting things his way when they wanted things a different way. When he refused to go along, that was the end, wins be damned.

Gase’s interview with the 49ers just backed that up. It showed him that it was less than an ideal coaching position, even with talent on the roster, and he stuck to being a coordinator.

Teams look for new head coaches every year, after all, and Gase will likely be just as hot of a name next offseason. He’s betting on himself and waiting for the right job, and, though it is costing him money now, it’s the right move for his career.

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