Saturday, September 09, 2006

Workaholism I

No Sleep Till Touchdown
NFL coaches, the hardest-working men in human history.

By Justin Peters

The key play in the Miami Dolphins' 28-17 loss Thursday night to the Pittsburgh Steelers wasn't a play at all. Dolphins head coach Nick Saban inexplicably waited until the last possible second to challenge a highly questionable fourth-quarter Steelers touchdown. The refs didn't see him throw the red flag, and the touchdown stood. A rough break, to be sure, but it's only one game. Will Saban lose sleep over it anyway?

That goes without saying.

Saban epitomizes the modern NFL head coach. His in-season preparations resemble those of a student in the midst of a five-month cram session. His offseason work is just as taxing. Earlier this year, Saban turned down an invitation to dine with George W. Bush because it would have conflicted with practice time. Skipping out on dinner with the president is one thing—but Saban also turned down a chance to play golf at Augusta National. "Where I come from, there is no fun-loving," the coach once said. "You work. You work hard. And good things happen." Or, as the Orlando Sentinel's Mike Bianchi once wrote, "He's a single-minded workaholic control freak who always looks perpetually constipated."

Saban's not the only coach who fancies himself a long-haul trucker. Kansas City's Herman Edwards begins his workday at 4:30 a.m. Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden is known as "Jon 3:11," because that's the time he wakes up in the morning. He used to be considerably more mellow: When Gruden was in Oakland, he'd start his mornings at 3:17. In 2003, he co-wrote a book titled Do You Love Football?!: Winning With Heart, Passion, and Not Much Sleep. It's unclear what Gruden loves more—football or staying awake.

The list of workaholic coaches goes on: In his first run with the Redskins, Joe Gibbs had his wife tape dinner-table conversation so he could catch up on his home life at work. During the season, Eagles coach Andy Reid puts sofa cushions on his office floor and sleeps on those. (Why not just sleep on the sofa?) Bill Belichick, for his part, says he never sleeps at all.

Judging by the hours they claim to put in, NFL head coaches have the most demanding job in the world—medical intern, first-year associate, meth tweaker, and 1920s-era trans-Atlantic pilot rolled into one. It's no surprise that the rate of attrition among head coaches is so high. A 2002 Pro Football Weekly series on coaches pinpointed two ways that the clipboard carriers could lower their blood pressure: retirement and death. With that in mind, it's perhaps understandable why coaches might want to seize every possible moment to do … whatever it is that they do.

What exactly does a head coach do for 23 hours every day? If the exhaustive EA Sports video game NFL Head Coach is to be believed, the football coach's day consists of scrolling through interminable menus and trying to find the volume control to mute Trey Wingo. Even if the job's a little more complicated than that, there's no way it can require that much effort. Imagine telling George Halas that he should have worked 20-hour days. He would have laughed you out of his office, then gone back to inventing the T-formation. No matter how many variations on the spread offense you come up with, it's still the spread offense, not Fermat's Last Theorem.

Indeed, the head football coach has never done less coaching than he does now. The guy with the biggest whistle has a fleet of coordinators and position coaches that handle all the grunt work, from conditioning to game-planning to skill-training. And the head coach is only rarely the general manager, so he's not in charge of player personnel moves. Instead, the coach functions as a sort of CEO, coordinating large-scale strategic planning while ensuring all members of his organization perform competently.

Viewed through that lens, this endemic insomnia shouldn't come as a surprise. After all, CEOs fetishize waking up early just as much as football coaches. Disney President Robert Iger's day begins at 4:30 a.m. The head of the William Morris Agency sleeps only three hours a night. In a 2005 New York Times piece on the business world's early risers, one motivational expert explained the phenomenon: "Getting up late, having fun at work, these are all for losers."

For these overachievers, sleep is for the weak, and dedication is measured by how much time you put into a job. Endurance is a way for someone like the minuscule Jon Gruden to prove his masculinity. Maybe he can't bench-press 500 pounds, but Gruden can go without sleep for a week. Take that, Mike Holmgren!

Plus, it looks better to fans if the head coach is thought to be perpetually drawing X's and O's. In 2002, the Washington Redskins brought in Steve Spurrier, whose laid-back approach to coaching was worlds apart from the amped-up style employed by his predecessor Marty Schottenheimer. "If it takes six hours to get a good plan ready, why do you need 26 hours?" asked Spurrier, who saw nothing wrong with golfing on off-days and getting to work at a leisurely 7:30 a.m. Spurrier lasted two undistinguished seasons before the Skins, tired of losing, rehired Joe Gibbs—who, in his first stint coaching the team, removed all clocks from the practice facility's walls. Are you ready for some football? Joe Gibbs always is.

But in the end, it's not that clear that these sleepless nights make that much of a difference. Miami missed the playoffs last year, as did Andy Reid's Eagles and Herm Edwards' Jets. The Bucs won their division but lost in the first round of the playoffs. The Super Bowl-winning Steelers are coached by Bill Cowher, who sleeps at home and rarely misses his kids' sports games. Cowher was also on the winning end of last night's Dolphins-Steelers matchup. As a man who is well acquainted with the joys of REM sleep, Cowher might not win any masculinity points from his fellow coaches. But at least he's alert enough to throw a challenge flag in time.

20 comments:

hawkeye711 said...

With some teams winning only two or three games a season at times 26 hour days seem crazy.I wonder if all the assistant coaches they have around is there only to get bitched at when the best laid plans go bad.I think that cardiologist's in training camp's have a full time job keeping these coaches from falling over dead.Since these coaches are paid salary not by the hour,why work longer than you have to.After all, what fun is having the best arena in the world to play in if you can't see any fun in what your doing.Take a break ,enjoy a nap. Rome wasn't built in a day neither will a winning program.

jtbbc said...

These men are amazing. They put in 26 hours a day; they work and strive for years, damaging their own bodies and their families, for the recognition of being a winning coach. I am sure it will be worth it to them when they put on that super bowl ring and break open the bottles of wine. I am sure it will be worth it when the gatorade is poured over their head. And in 10 years no one will even remember their names, probably not even the ego-maniac players who no one will remember either.

Karl Marx is wrong. The worker is not estranged from his labour, at least not in this case. There are people just like this in every job sector that are far from being estranged laborers. It would be good if more men were estranged from their work.

The real problem is that too many people are estranged from their real purpose in the name of making money or getting recognition. THe real value is your family and what you do for the Lord. That is what will last forever.

jtbbc said...
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fair_weather_jane said...

It's just strange to me that these guys could put so much effort into something as fruitless as sports. Sure you get paid a lot and a lot of these meat heads probably wouldn't amount to much if it weren't for people shelling out millions to see them running around in tights and jerseys throwing various balls through hoops and goals, but their passion is unbelievable. Say what you will about the incredibly crazy world of overpaid athletes these guys have a lot of heart where ever they may lack for anything else. It's too bad that we can't say the same for ourselves on the whole. If everyone put even a fraction of the supposed effort that these coaches do, into everything they did, our society might shape up to be an okay place.

Adistar1 said...

I'm a big football fan, but when it comes to studying film and making up new plays, I'm pretty much in the dark as far as how much time it takes. However, I don't see how it could honestly take as much work as these guys put in, to produce a winning team. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure its hard work and long hours are probably necessary, but working on 3 hours of sleep! That’s just crazy. I don't think I could think straight if I did that every day of the week. In a way, it could be more detrimental to the team if you don't get sleep because it could affect your decision making and even worse it could kill you. Maybe I'm just lazy, I don't know.

Also, out of all the coaches that the article named, the only one who is having any success this season is Andy Reid. So maybe that shows that there is a strong correlation between how good the team is and how much sleep the head coach gets.

mindjogger said...

Many people in this world are what I like to call working them selves to death. Ceo’s, and other high ranking people literally work them selves to death. They get up in the morning, go to work; work hard all day long with no breaks. Then after work the only thing they do is worry about work, make phone calls about work. Make the next days work schedule. There is no way for this type of person to have a family or a life of their own for that matter. NFL football coaches are a great example for this kind of person. All they do all day is worry about how they are going to win their next day. The truth is it doesn’t even matter as long as Peyton manning and the rest of the colts are playing because they are the ones going all the way. Anyway these coaches cannon have a healthy home life. If they are working all the time, they also have to worry about health issues. If you are always on the go, your are going to eat what is convenient not what is healthy. So these people may also have high health risks. People just need to not worry about life so much. They need to worry about what really matters, your family.

PBTHRICE said...

I would have to agree with Mindjogger...Go colts, the bengals suck. Anyway, the problem with workaholics is that people put their work before family and before their spouse. This never ends well and usually in the end leads to divorce. One of the number one causes of divorce in this county is putting work befor family. It is very relevant in our time, in the past week Ive seen two movies that the main moral at the end is dont put work before your family or youll lose both in the end (Click, R.V.) Bill Cowher is a man that puts his priorties in the correct order, Family then work...along with Tony Dungey (Head coach of Colts), who at a recent high school football game i went to back home, was there with Peyton Manning and Brandon Stokely watching his sons high school football game instead of watching game films or things that in the end won't matter.

Anonymous said...

First off The Bengals are amazing and they are the ones going all the way this year! Secondly I honestly feel that if you are truly dedicated to something then you put as much time as possible into that one thing. I understand that as an adult you have more than one responsibility and you need to balance out your time, but if something means the world to you, then you do everything you can to succeed in that area. I know that I give my heart and soul into what I do. I wake up work out in the morning, go to class, work out again, then practice with the team, and then practice on my own everyday. To me thats an aweful lot for something that I do at the college level so I can completely see where these coaches are coming from being in a professional level. You do what you have to do to be the best you can possibly be and if working a lot leads you down a successful path, then thats what you do.

rinmancan22 said...

I believe that the reason these head coaches are loosing sleep is all a matter of control. Winning and losing a ball game in the NFL can sometimes be something as minuscule as throwing a challenge flag correctly. As a result, you have head coaches believing that if they spend enough hours preparing for a game, then they should win that game. Unfortunately, there are far more factors involved in who wins and loses. Players, assistant coaches, weather, and yes even luck plays a role. It is good to be hard working, but it does not necessarily mean that you are in control.

rodeo8 said...

At the collegiate level a typical athlete puts in a minimum of five hours a day, while a coach generally puts in at least ten hour days while most put in more. Yet at the professional level coaches are getting criticized for putting in eighteen and nineteen hour days. Winning doesn’t come easy and it doesn’t come in just a few hours. Winning takes time, practice, and planning, all of which these coaches are responsible for. On the field coaches can’t play for players, but it is their job to do everything in their power to get players every ounce of information that they can, so that when on the field they can do everything in their power to win, so that all the hard work put in on both sides is paid off. Being involved in any type of athletics is a dedication and more importantly a dedication to win. To any athlete and coach winning is everything, and anything less is unacceptable, therefore both coach and athlete will go to any length to win.
In class discussions we have talked about human nature and the fact that our culture is set based on our own lenses as a society. In my opinion these coaches putting in this much time to win has become this. I believe society as a whole has come to expect NFL coaches to win, no matter what it takes, even if it takes them not sleeping. Our society and its theories shape the way we are, if we as a society can only expect to win, then we as a society will continue to expect the most from everyone, including NFL coaches.

no_names_available said...
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Lokanda said...

For starters coaches at the professional ranks might have the most insecure jobs since getting lucky enough to be picked at the loading dock once a week during the Great Depression. Professional coaches are always getting fired, getting hired, and getting fired again. One bad season can get a coach fired even after he just won the divisional title. Coaching in any sport is rough but professional sports are the roughest and for the NFL it is the toughest of them all with the NBA coming in a close second. The pressure to win far exceeds the willingness to be happy or spend time with their families because that pressure to win is what keeps their families with a house and money. Their job is to coach like a regular man job is to work. If a man doesn’t work he doesn’t get paid and when this coaches are going without sleep and putting in 20 hour days and 140 hour weeks you have to keep up with the Jones’, so to speak. Other coaches showing this work-a-holic mentality is what gets them hired in the first place and failure to work just as hard and more would land them without a job. So maybe Bill Cowher goes to work at 7:30 am. and John Grudden does it at 4 am. Maybe Cowher is a better coach and Grudden feels he has to work that extra 2:30 a day to stay even with the competition. At the end of the day it is about winning and doing whatever you have to do as a coach to get your team to win. Personal enjoyment is not in the job description, if it was then Steve Spurrier would still be coaching the Redskins.

GreatAmerican said...

I am a huge football fan and I never miss a Cleveland Browns game because that is my favorite team. I watch football from the time I get out of bed, to the time I go to sleep at night on Sunday’s. I put a lot of effort into cheering for the Browns on Sunday no matter how the game is going. I never give up on them. I think these coaches feel that if they do not work these 23 hour day’s they would feel like I would if I stopped cheering at halftime. They would feel that they let the team down or that they could have done more to help the team win. So if that means working 23 hours a day seven days a week then that’s what he will do. I have a great respect for what these coaches do because I know that it takes a lot to win football games. If they want to work 23 hours a day then I am all for it because it is their choice and coaching is what their goal in life is. All I can say is if they work these long hours I hope it pay’s off by winning the Super Bowl! Go Browns!!!

GreatAmerican said...

I am a huge football fan and I never miss a Cleveland Browns game because that is my favorite team. I watch football from the time I get out of bed, to the time I go to sleep at night on Sunday’s. I put a lot of effort into cheering for the Browns on Sunday no matter how the game is going. I never give up on them. I think these coaches feel that if they do not work these 23 hour day’s they would feel like I would if I stopped cheering at halftime. They would feel that they let the team down or that they could have done more to help the team win. So if that means working 23 hours a day seven days a week then that’s what he will do. I have a great respect for what these coaches do because I know that it takes a lot to win football games. If they want to work 23 hours a day then I am all for it because it is their choice and coaching is what their goal in life is. All I can say is if they work these long hours I hope it pay’s off by winning the Super Bowl! Go Browns!!!

Anonymous said...

I definitely believe that most NFL coaches lose a lot of sleep for their profession. I believe that this is because football is a year round sport with no off season. This is true at any level. At least if you want to be competitive, there isn't one. When the season is not in there is weight training and conditioning. You truly have to love the sport and your team to sacrifice so much of yourself in hopes that they will benefit from it. I played football for four years in high school and I know that the people who put more time into it than me was my coach. There was always something to do. This included the practices planning, scouting, and training. Many people believe that football is a cut and dry sport that’s for jocks. I know this isn’t true. So much more goes into it. And if losing some sleep is what it takes to win, then I’m in favor of it. As it stated in the article, the most successful people are those who start their days a little earlier in hopes of getting ahead. I don’t think it would be a bad thing if some of the drive and determination of these NFL coaches rubbed off on us.

East_KY said...

I definitely believe that most NFL coaches lose a lot of sleep for their profession. I believe that this is because football is a year round sport with no off season. This is true at any level. At least if you want to be competitive, there isn't one. When the season is not in there is weight training and conditioning. You truly have to love the sport and your team to sacrifice so much of yourself in hopes that they will benefit from it. I played football for four years in high school and I know that the people who put more time into it than me was my coach. There was always something to do. This included the practices planning, scouting, and training. Many people believe that football is a cut and dry sport that’s for jocks. I know this isn’t true. So much more goes into it. And if losing some sleep is what it takes to win, then I’m in favor of it. As it stated in the article, the most successful people are those who start their days a little earlier in hopes of getting ahead. I don’t think it would be a bad thing if some of the drive and determination of these NFL coaches rubbed off on us.

Anonymous said...

DancingChef said. . . . .
I am not what you would call a ‘sports person’. So I do not watch the Steelers or the Dolphins to see who will win and what coach will lose his mind on the field. I can relate to them because I use to be on a dance company which demanded just as much work and time if I was playing on a sport team. I think these coaches work these 20 to 23 hour days because this work that they are doing has become a drug to them. With being a coach the do not have what most people call a steady job. Sport is in the entertainment business. So when the team is winning the coach’s jobs are fine but when they start to lose, owners of these teams are losing money, which means time to start shopping for a new coach. The coaches work so much because they want their teams to do well so they can keep their job with their enormous paychecks. Coaches of NFL teams are workaholics because they enjoy it; they do it so they are in fear of losing their jobs and their enormous paychecks.
I would lose hours of sleep if I got paid as much money as they did, who can say differently?

MaxTurmoil said...

As like greatamerican I am a huge fan. Sadly hes a browns fan and I forgive him for it. I am a Bengals fan and always have been. Its been rough for some years but things are looking up - minus the arrests. But on the topic of coaches working long days and not sleeping much at all especially in season. It is not a subject of how tough or how hard working you are but how you manage it. Spurrier's losses could be billed to inadequate personnel and or players. Not how hard he works. The topic of working 80+ hours a week for head coaches is not new. The league has been in discussion on about implementing maximal work hours. Its not about dedication its about every coach being afraid to being outworked and out game-planned by the next guy. With the dozens and dozens of plays that need to be analyzed from last weeks game and the months and tendencies it adds up. Noone wants to lose a game because of a stone unturned.. Its more of the unreal stress involved in NFL coaching. Unlike college where you are given a few years and colleges are generally committed to the coach the turnover in NFL coaching jobs is unreal. Its either produce or get fired. This is why coaches generally have years of expereince as a an assistant, or as a coordinator of some sort before they finally get a head coaching job. They are paid millions of money each year, given generous living arrangements and other conveniences. But I refuse to believe that someone analyzing film watching and recording tendencies and having hordes of assistants to meet your demands works harder than the cop on the beat working 60 hours a week or as blue collar worker in a factory making a few bucks more than minimal wage or a minimal wage waitress trying to support a kid. I do not think they work harder than these people. These head coaches are compensated for their skills as an organizer and motivator of those around them. It is unfair to say because they sit in an office for hours on end that they work “harder” than those putting in their 40 or 50 or 60 hour work weeks, day in and day out. If an NFL coach burns out after a year of making a few million dollars, they can retire and never work again. That is fine. But they are still not working harder than the average blue collar worker who will work until he is unable to and or is forced into retirement.

drware12 said...

JTBBC says, “The real problem is that too many people are estranged from their real purpose in the name of making money or getting recognition. The real value is your family and what you do for the Lord. That is what will last forever.” But, we in America are to materialistic. The coach has to do what he is doing for his family. At, the same time why not to do it for fame. Because, if he didn’t want fame he could easily not be a coach. He could have easily used his degree and gotten a job. For the millions they get paid they should work like this. They never put themselves in danger for there lives like firemen and police officers. Why should they go to sleep with that kind of money. I’d to see a professional Firefighters league where we pay them millions to fight fires and rescue people. That is only deserving. But, at the same rate football is all these guys know. Without football what most of the guys be. Some relied so much on football in there lives that they could never imagine being without it. Take Joe Paterno of Penn State the guy is old but he still has all that energy left. I think it is because of his love of the game of football. Take football away from him I think that might be it for his life. (I would never wish death on anyone.)

Mr. Moneybags said...

The head football coach in NFL must dissect every part of an opponent’s game. If, for, some reason the coach did not prepare his team for their future opponent then it is his fault. The NFL contains professional football players who do their jobs exceedingly well. They know how to play their position, they know their assignments. Therefore, it falls on the head coaches to find the error in another team’s game. Since the coach isn't staring at high school players over pursuing a reverse this takes enormous amounts of time. The duties of the coach are to predict the gameplan of another coach; to develop a counter while attempting to find weakness in professional players and do so in a week. The reason for their workaholic attitude is their desire to not let down their team, fans, or themselves.

Marx states:
"The realm of freedom begins only where labour which is determined by necessity and mundane considerations ceases; thus in the very nature of things it lies beyond the sphere of actual material production."

A coach’s material goods can cause grown men to breakdown to tears upon seeing their team win the Superbowl. They have anything but a mundane production, it is very real. However, their freedom maybe in question, but their legend upon fierce review will be their immorality in the city of which they have coached.

Marx goes on to say that "The shortening of the working day is its basic prerequisite"

If you interviewed any of these workaholic coaches all of them would state they don't regret how much time they work. In fact, many would like to see more hours in day so they could produce greater results. NFL coaches are providing a service to more people than some T.V. stations, that’s why they obsess, because their ratings can fall like a brick or fly like a jet depending on their success.