glare, which has grown exponentially with cable TV and satellite and the Internet, has grown blinding.
Once upon a time, a player could grow into his job. It might not be unusual 30 years ago for a prized college player to see the field only in practice for the first year or two of his career. Now, thanks to the salary cap, inexperienced players must play right away. It increases the pressure of finding them and coaching them.
And the same applies to coaches. There would be no Tom Landry in the 21st century, because the way Landry started with the expansion Cowboys, there would be no visionary owner like Clint Murchison willing to offer a 10-year contract to a coach he believed in just to shut up the critics. Today that coach gets three years, and then he gets the door.
Those who do last may frequently wonder why they want to. Parcells has groused any number of times that being a head coach "isn't always what it's cracked up to be. I tell these assistants that all the time."
The pressure to win has become so enormous that when a game is chalked up in the "W" column after a draining week of practice, meetings, film study and other preparation, coaches don't feel exhilaration. They feel relief. You went home after Sunday night and celebrated. Parcells went home and started planning on how to use the bye week to figure out how to make two kickers fit into one roster spot. (He wouldn't even address that question on Monday. "Please," he pleaded, "let me try to enjoy this one for just a little bit." (Which means he already wasn't.)
And should the game be lost, never mind trying to talk to the poor fellow, and that goes for everyone on his staff. The despair that follows a loss for a coach is almost palpable. They frequently seem inconsolable. As hard as they worked last week, they feel they must pour twice that into the next game's preparation, because after a loss they feel they'll never win again. Until they do, and then there's only relief again, and so the cycle goes.
When the league legislated against choreographed end zone celebrations several years ago, some players and critics complained that NFL stood for "No Fun League." Where head coaches are concerned, that's all too close to the truth.