There are five simple situations that can be the difference between being a great head coach and an ex–head coach

Bill Barnwell:

It’s pretty clear that being an NFL head coach isn’t a very easy job. A light day at the office during the season runs about 16 hours. You have to manage and assuage the egos of 53 players, a fair number of whom make more money than you and have way better job security than you. For all the effort you might put into your process, you’re judged entirely by outcomes, some of which might very well be chalked up to players you didn’t want to draft in the first place. And then, when you make a decision in the heat of the moment on Sunday while surrounded by 70,000 fans and weighing hundreds of variables at once, some smart-ass who’s never coached a day in his life picks apart your decisions on Monday.

Doesn’t sound like fun. But Thank You for Not Coaching, the section of our Monday NFL wrapup column1 that breaks down the previous weekend’s coaching decisions, is not meant to be a harsh dismissal of coaching! It’s supposed to be educational, to provide some insight into what the different possibilities are in a given situation and how teams might be able to maximize their opportunities to win football games. I won’t pretend that it can’t get catty at times — sorry, Pat Shurmur — but I think about all the hours that coaches put in and all the collected knowledge they’ve gathered during their years on the job and hate to see them throw all that away by being ultra-conservative at the wrong time. Why make a suboptimal decision because it’s what has always been done?