By Ashley Dunkak
ALLEN PARK (CBS DETROIT) – Football obviously takes a toll on its participants, and recent events reminded everyone it can be just as rough on coaches as players, with two NFL head coaches hospitalized for health issues this past weekend.
Denver Broncos head coach John Fox felt dizzy and light-headed during a round of golf Saturday. Though a heart attack was ruled out, Fox is now scheduled for heart surgery to have an aortic valve replaced. Houston Texas head coach Gary Kubiak collapsed as his team headed for the locker room at halftime Sunday. He was also hospitalized.
Detroit Lions coach Jim Schwartz does not seem surprised by these incidents in the least.
“Honestly, from a coaching standpoint, you don’t have time to think about your own health,” Schwartz said. “It’s just the way it is. You’re conditioned to do it. I’ve been doing this for 20 years. It’s no different now than it was – I’m a little bit older, but it’s no different now than it was then. We have offseason to stay in shape, take care of ourselves.”
“Coaches don’t work 100 hours a week because that’s healthy,” Schwartz added. “They do it because the job requires it. That’s what it is. We’re worried about getting the job done, getting wins on Sunday.”
Not surprisingly, the time coaches put in compounded with the pressure to produce generates significant amounts of anxiety. Detroit wide receiver Nate Burleson said the amount of stress is not something he would want to take on.
“People often ask me if I’m going to get into coaching,” Burleson said. “One thing I say automatically every time is ‘too many hours.’ It’s one of the more stressful jobs I see out there. We’re here a ton, but then I go up and I talk to a coach about anything, and I’m sitting in his office and I peak down and glance underneath his desk, and there’s a pillow and a blanket.”
Certainly, all the hours make an impact on the team, but they also take away the individual. Head coaches get both the praise and the blame in public for all their efforts, but countless assistants and coordinators go unnoticed. Quarterbacks coach Todd Downing and offensive assistant Kyle Valero were among coaches Burleson spotted with pillows and blankets under their desks, prepared at any time to spend the night at work.
“They give a lot and sacrifice a lot of their time and health to this sport, and it goes unseen,” Burleson said, “but I’ve been in this business a long time to let people know that the game plans and the stuff that we do on game day is usually the result of strenuous long hours by the people in the front office.”
“If they have to they’ll stay a night,” Burleson added, “and that’s all just so they can be here in the morning to greet us and give us our paperwork and the script for the day.”
Fox and Kubiak are hardly the first to go down with heart-related health problems, and with the way NFL coaches have to work not destined to change any time soon, Fox and Kubiak surely will not be the last.