Football coaches face an enormous challenge in preparing for a new season. And evaluating players is only part of it.
They also need to prepare for what could go wrong. Although they can’t always prevent mishaps, they can be prepared with an explanation when mishaps occur.
With preparation, coaches can avoid the kind of mistake former Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt made after a loss to 25-point underdog Georgia State in the 2019 season opener. He was as unprepared for the postgame as he was the game.
His greatest mistake: Stating the obvious.
Said Pruitt: "There were lots of times when we lined up in the game, how we lined up — based off the scheme they did — we didn’t have a chance. First thing we have to do is get lined up.”
He was supposed to be a defensive guru, yet his players couldn’t even line up correctly?
To his credit, Pruitt mentioned multiple times in the postgame interview session how young his defense was. That’s a key: Making excuses.
However, before making excuses, a coach always should say something like: “We don’t make excuses around here, but … ”
Here are some excuses — uh, explanations — you can expect to hear this season:
Early season upset loss
Coach: “No one is more upset about the loss than the players and coaches. However, it’s important to remember this was just one game. It wasn’t as though we were beaten physically. All our mistakes are correctable.
"And all our goals are still within reach.”
Coach: “When you look at the score, you might think we were overwhelmed. But that wasn’t the case. So many times, we had nine or 10 players do just what they were supposed to do. But one or two players failed to execute, and the play broke down.
“All our mistakes are correctable.”
Loss due to poor quarterback play
Coach: “A lot of people will point a finger at our quarterback play for those five interceptions. But that goes with the territory. A quarterback often gets too much blame for a loss and too much credit for a victory.
“But not all those interceptions were the quarterback’s fault. One time, a receiver cut off his route too soon, and another time our quarterback had to rush a throw because a lineman missed his block.
“All our mistakes are correctable.”
Coach: “Just because our starting quarterback was unable to go today because of injury is no excuse for the loss. As we always say around here: ‘Next man up.’
“We missed QB1’s leadership, too. But that’s not an excuse. Injuries are a part of the game, and you have to make do even when you lose your most important player.”
Injury to backup D-lineman
Coach: “Everybody knows how difficult it is to win a game without your starting quarterback. But most fans don't understand how much impact the loss of a backup defensive lineman can have.
“That’s not making an excuse. We don’t do that around here. It’s just an explanation for why our defense struggled in the fourth quarter of a very tough loss.
“Once we lost our backup tackle early in the game, all our interior linemen had to play more snaps. And that took a toll in the fourth quarter.
Bad performance in bowl loss
Coach: “A lot of people will say we lost because three of our best players sat out the game to begin preparing for the NFL draft.
“But football is all about the players you have, not the players you don’t have. The replacement players are on scholarship, too. And although they had to play more snaps and do more than we’ve ever asked them before, that’s no excuse for how the game turned out.
“This was a bitter loss, but we will learn from it. And we will use it for more motivation next season when we will return a much, much more experienced team.
John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at: twitter.com/johnadamskns.
This article originally appeared on Knoxville News Sentinel: Excuses you can expect to hear from college football coaches this year