Assistant coaches coach; head coaches lead. My belief in that statement is absolute.
It's the reason I tend not to get overheated about bulky play-calling and or failed fourth-down decisions. I consider those coaching foibles to be of minor significance to the really big issue: Is the coach capable of leading his men?
Let's use the "Ice Bowl" as an example. At the most critical point of the game, the greatest coach the game has ever known allowed his quarterback to make the call. Vince Lombardi offered only this nugget of coaching genius: "Well, run it and let's get the hell out of here."
Lombardi's coaching genius was in his ability to lead his men to greatness. In Bart Starr, Lombardi was able to instill and extract the leadership qualities that caused Starr to step forward, not back, at crunch time. Lombardi gave the Packers their direction.
This is not meant to compare in any way shape or form what the 6-4 Jaguars have accomplished this season to what the Packers did on that field of ice on New Year's Eve, 1967, but if you look closely at how this team got from where it was when last season ended to where it is now, you'll see the signs of leadership and it has come from the team's coach.
Say what you want about Jack Del Rio, and you no doubt have said much, but you must acknowledge that he has provided the vision for this team and 10 games into the season his team is on course to realize that vision.
Tied with the Colts? A game ahead of the Titans? Two games ahead of the Texans? Think about it, folks. We're talking about Peyton Manning, Chris Johnson and Andre Johnson. We're talking about three teams with star players, three teams that were all picked to win the division by at least one national pundit.
The Jaguars? They were picked to finish last in the division by every pundit. They were completely dismissed from playoff talk.
Complain as you might about the play-calling, the fourth-down decisions, etc., and you no doubt have, but you must also acknowledge this: Del Rio boldly announced during one of those "Fan Forum" conference calls early last spring that the Jaguars' goal and expectation for 2010 was to win the division title, and 10 games into the season the Jaguars are in the AFC South lead. That's my idea of leadership.
Here are 10 things the Jaguars have to do to beat the Giants.
1. Stop the run—With the Giants' top receivers out, it would only make sense that coach Tom Coughlin is going to emphasize the running game.
2. Win up front—This game will be decided by the play of the two teams' lines.
3. Rush the passer—Eli Manning has always been a back-foot thrower.
4. Play better at QB—Last week's effort won't work against the Giants.
5. Protect the QB—This will be the best pass-rush the Jaguars will have faced since week three against the Eagles.
6. Run a little—The Giants are fourth in the league against the run, so don't expect a lot of rushing yardage, but the Jags won't win without some success on the ground.
7. Feel the season—A big game in a big place on Thanksgiving weekend. The Jaguars have arrived.
8. Play the cutback—Ahmad Bradshaw is a cutback runner. Do not overpursue.
9. Dominate special teams—The Giants special teams are troubled.
10. Beware of screens—Kevin Gilbride loves them.