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Silliness of coaches withholding info for “competitive advantage”

Florida Football Insiders

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Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

There is no disputing that coaches love to play games. Games with their opponents. Games with the public/media and even, games with themselves and their own staffs.

One of the biggest games that coaches like to play is withholding who might be starting for them at a key position all the way up until the last second. This is especially true with quarterback disputes or controversies. And, it’s in the name of “Competitive Advantage,” that they like to withhold information or updates.

And there has been no shortage of it in our state both at the pro and college level this season.

The most famous examples were once again this past weekend, when the Buccaneers had franchise quarterback Jameis Winston back off suspension and eligible to start the game with Chicago Sunday. Yet veteran backup Ryan Fitzpatrick had been playing “lights out” during most of his three previous starts.

Likewise, the Jaguars were dealing with Leonard Fournette’s hamstring injury and his status for Sunday’s game with the Jets was once again a competitive advantage mystery.

In the Bucs case, coach Dirk Koetter continued to stonewall the media and the public, all week, even after he admitted that he had told Fitzpatrick and Winston who was going to start against the Bears last Tuesday. In the name of competitive advantage, the coach went all the way through the weekend and up until game time before Fitzpatrick trotted out onto the field to start Sunday’s disastrous 48 – 10 loss.

Winston did start and play the entire second half, when the issue had long been decided. He threw two interceptions and a fourth-quarter touchdown in the loss. More on the Buccaneers QB situation in a second.

In the Jaguars case, we have written extensively about Coach Doug Marrone playing “cat-and-mouse” with Fournette’s health and whether he would be available to play the last couple of weeks.

For last weekend’s game with the Titans, Fournette was limited in practice and listed as “questionable” and again in the name of competitive advantage, the second-year Jaguars coach would not say definitively whether fournette was going to play or not. This went on all the way up until the inactives were released 90 minutes before the the Tennessee game, when Fournette’s name appeared on that list, and then everyone knew he was not playing.

The same thing held true this past weekend, when Marrone repeatedly refused to definitively say whether Fournette was going to give it a try. That’s despite the fact that he had practiced fully on Friday, and once again, was listed as questionable.

Fournette did play in the first half of the game, carrying the ball 10 times but re-aggravated the hamstring injury in the second half and did not return.

Now, in that case, Marrone is left to explain why they tried it this past week as opposed to waiting one more week. And, now, there’s a real possibility that the rookie of the year last season could miss at least another game or two with the hammy.

But don’t count on getting any straight answers, in the name of competitive advantage.

Interestingly, Koetter completely contradicted the whole competitive advantage thing, when he came right out of his Monday news conference and announced that Winston will start after the Bucs bye week against the Atlanta Falcons.

While this conveniently relieves the Bucs third year coach of having to answer the questions for the next two weeks about who his quarterback will be, that also held true this past week and weekend. And yet, in the name of….. you got it, competitive advantage, he refused to say.

So, it’s worth pointing out: that the competitive advantage gained by not telling the Bears for sure that Fitzpatrick will be the quarterback was bigger than telling the Falcons, 13 days in advance, that Winston will be the quarterback.

Got it.

And the Pro coaches are not alone, Hurricanes coach Mark Richt did the same thing with his quarterback switch for last Thursday night’s win over North Carolina. He repeatedly refused to announce to the media, fans or to the Tar Heels, whom his starter would be for the ACC showdown at Hard Rock stadium.

This again went all the way up until game time, when Richt told ESPN that Perry would be starting just before the kickoff of the game . As it turns out, senior Malik Rosier went to the bench and the red shirt freshman Perry played solidly, as the Hurricanes rolled to an easy victory.

And look, the preeminent college coach of this Century, Nick Saban did the same thing all offseason and all the way up until Alabama’s opening kickoff with Louisville in game one. That’s when Saban decided to start sophomore Tua Tagovailoa at quarterback over his previous starter from the last two seasons Jalen Hurts.

Again, no one can question Saban’s success, but still,  it’s silly that Louisville and other opponents wouldn’t be preparing for both Tagovailoa and Hurts to play against them.

So, as this goes on, media members roll their eyes and continue to try to find out on their own, who’s going to play or not play.

The bottom line is other teams are prepared for anything too, and it’s just as easy for you to go ahead and say who’s going to play, or not, as it is to play competitive advantage games

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