was brewing around Valley Ranch.
Coach Parcells made it as clear as possible that it was time. Time to separate from the pack. He attempted to stress to all this was a "special" year and years like this don't come around too often. He got close to pleading to the players to not blow it.
There was a great opportunity laid out in front of them to take a shot at reaching the summit.
To get the team to perform at the level needed to reach that summit, playoff experience is crucial, as is Super Bowl experience.
Many formulas have been applied and implemented by coaches striving to get the players to the "next" level of play. That level is one that demands to have the player strive and get close to the perfect game.
How to guarantee that effort is the mystery. Approaching each game in the playoffs, the coach stresses preparation until he is blue in the face. Leave nothing to chance.
There is no tomorrow that you can fall back on or rationalize an inadequate performance.
Only two years over my 12-year career, I felt truly comfortable with myself at the end of a season. At ease. Satisfied. We won the Championship two times. The other 10 years left work to be done.
A sense of being incomplete haunts you. If you are driven and goal-oriented, it is hard to accept anything other than perfection. We all know there is no such thing (perfection), but striving for it is what the coach and conscientious player yearns and reaches for.
How many times did it take your Dad to tell you not put your hand in the fire, before you actually believed him? It took you sticking your hand in there and feeling the consequences for your actions to really understand. Rather than listening to your Dad (Coach), you got burned.
The playoffs warrant the coach to pound it over and over to the players to "not put their hand in the fire". Though, for them to really believe it, they have to experience it. Experience the disappointment. Experience the uncomfortable position of not preparing quite enough.
Coaches punish themselves unmercifully by thinking they could've done more to get the players prepared.
Sticking your hand in the fire is a simple, little analogy. But sometimes little coaching points speak volumes.