PHILADELPHIA — Darryl Rogers woke up with his face in a textbook. His eyes were bloodshot. Empty coffee cups crowded his desk. The dorm room was half-buried in playbooks, film, and stacks of paper filled with little X’s and O’s.
He glanced over at the alarm clock. Friday, 7:30 a.m. Oh, Lord.
The pre-season study period was over.
The final exam was just minutes away.
He pulled on an NFL sweatshirt, and fixed the freshman beanie on his head.
“Gosh, I hope I crammed enough,” he thought. “This summer semester went by so darn fast.”
He ran to the cafeteria, poured a bowl of Wheaties — breakfast of Champions, just to be optimistic — and gulped down some Gatorade.
“Forty-five men on a roster,” he recited to himself, “16 games a season, six divisions . . . “
He dashed up the hill, and arrived at Gridiron Hall just in time to hear the proctor call his name.
“Rogers, Darryl,” he said, ” ‘Intro to NFL coaching?’ “
“Here, sir,” Darryl said. He took a seat, and pulled out three pencils, No. 2 weight, of course.
The proctor, a balding, thin-lipped gentleman — who looked a little like Tom Landry, come to think of it — handed Rogers an exam sheet.
“Don’t turn it over,” he warned, “until I say so.”
Rogers could feel his heart beat. Based on the evidence . . . ”Begin,” the proctor said.
Question 1. Who will start at quarterback for the Lions this year? Support your answer with references from case studies.
Rogers started to write:
“This is an interesting question. As we have learned in our readings, there are two excellent candidates, Eric Hipple and Joe Ferguson.
“I cite the first three pre-season case studies, in which Hipple completed 28 of 39 passes. Very impressive. I also cite case study #4, the Philadelphia Experiment, in which Ferguson moved the team but threw a stupid interception and overthrew a would-be touchdown.
“Based on this evidence, I would choose Hipple to start. Of course, NFL coaches have been known to change their minds, which is why this is such an interesting question.”
2. Explain the 3-4 defense and defend its use in an NFL season.
“This is an interesting question as well. I would defend the use of the 3-4 because it is an excellent defense that provides a fourth linebacker to combat the improved passing attacks of NFL clubs while not sacrificing the pressure on the offensive line.
“Also it is the only defense I know.”
3. What would you do if the 3-4 was obviously not working by the middle of the season?
“I cannot answer that question as it was not on the required reading list.”
4. The NFL allows 45 players. The Lions currently have 51. Where would you make the cuts?
“I would begin with the rookie linebackers, June James or James Johnson. Then, two running backs would have to go. Ken Jenkins would likely be expendable since he runs OK but he cannot block a snowflake.
“A defensive back might be axed, and a wide receiver would be cut, maybe Pete Mandley. And as much as the text suggests one should keep three quarterbacks, I might cut John Witkowski. He probably would not be picked up by another team, so we might be able to bring him back at a later date.
“I would consider cutting the water boy, but as the text clearly states, that doesn’t count.” Prayer would be good idea 5. If you were an NFL coach whose starting running back had not played a down, whose starting offensive line had not played more than 30 minutes together, whose defense was brand new, and whose prospects were rated dim by all the so-called experts, what would you do?
“Again, an interesting question. Let me say that if I were in such a hypothetical situation, I would try to prepare myself and my players with as much information, training and enthusiasm as possible.
“Also, prayer would not be a bad idea.”
Rogers walked to the front and handed his exam booklet to the proctor.
“When do I get my grade?” he asked.
“In about six weeks,” the proctor said. “We’ll mail it to you. Or you can look for it in the newspapers.”
Rogers nodded, and began to walk away.
“Wait a minute,” the proctor said. “Take off that freshman beanie. Wear this from now on.”
He handed over a helmet.
“But I am the coach,” Rogers said. “What do I need a helmet for?”
The proctor smiled and waved the exam booklet.
“You never can tell, son.”