As we approach the end of the football season, fans of struggling teams like my beloved UNT Mean Green turn to our team's schedule and look at close losses for hints that our teams will be better next year.
A phrase that often comes up is "They played well enough to win that game!" This phrase has been bothering me lately.
Usually the team that plays well enough to win the game, wins.
In fact, that is the case the vast majority of the time.
Only once in a blue moon do you have a game like Superbowl XXV where a team drives down into somewhat safe FG range, lines up for the kick, executes it successfully, but the ball sails wide—and even in that game, that was a 47 yard field goal!
A missed chipshot FG is about the only time I think that you can say a losing team "played well enough to win."
Look at Super Bowl XXXIV— another game frequently pointed to as a game the losing team played well enough to win.
The Titans drove down the field at the end of the game, but the Rams stuffed Wide reciever Kevin Dyson at the 1 yard line on the last play of the game.
"Played well enough to win?" No, they didn't.
The game came down to that last play and the Rams outplayed them on that last play.
If the Titans scored that TD would have made the score 23-22. They would still have to successfully hit the extra point and even at that point they would have only "played well enough to tie."
Why am I dwelling on this? Because we fans of losing teams look at our teams from the wrong perspective and we need to stop doing that.
We need to stop having these overly optimistic views of the likely success levels of our teams. We need to stop setting ourselves up for heartbreak.
It isn't sound to look at a game and say, "Hey, our team rolled up twice as many yards as our opponents. We will probably beat them next year."
That is wrong line of thought.
Our team didn't play well enough to win. What really happened is they found a way to lose.
Bad teams do that. Bad teams find a lot of ways to lose.
We need to look at these games and say "How did our team find a way to lose that game? In what area were they so wretchedly bad that it cost them the game?"
Could they not block for a field goal? Did the coaching staff mismanage the game, giving up numerous scoring opportunities?
Did the coaching staff mismanage their personnel? Did the team lose a key player to injuries?
Does a leading receiver have butter fingers? Did the coaching staff make good halftime adjustments?
Did the coaching staff have the players ready to play? Did the coaching staff come up with a good game plan? Does the team lack players in key positions?
Once we have the answer to the question: "Why did our team lose?" We need to follow up with, "Is there any indication that something is being done to prevent that situation from happening next year?"
If the answer is no, then we should not give ourselves the false hope that our team will be great.
I wrote this in part for other long suffering fans, to save them from heartache.
But mostly, I wrote this for myself... I want to re-read it before next season.