Is Football Coaching Creative?

from Creativity 101 by James C. Kaufman, PhD

Posted 6/1/09 | Updated 5/6/23

On November 3, 2003, the Patriots were losing 24–23 to the Broncos with 2 minutes and 49 seconds left to play, backed up to their own 1-yard line.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick called for a deliberate safety, a play in which his quarterback kneeled down in his own end zone, conceding two points to the other team.

This play put the Broncos up 26–23, and was an odd move to someone (like me) who doesn't know much about football. Instead of punting, the Patriots basically gave away two points. Why? What the move did was give the Patriots room to kick off. Instead of punting and getting the ball maybe 40 yards away from their own goal line, they were able to get the ball to the Broncos' 15-yard line (and further away from scoring).

The Patriots were able to stop the Broncos and then scored a touchdown due to their new, improved field position (and a gutsy move by the coach), winning the game 30–26. The strategy easily could have backfired, but Belichick knew that he had a good field goal kicker who could likely tie the game up 26–26, even if the touchdown run didn't work ("Brady leads Patriots," 2006). In this strategy, the two points lost because of the safety were not particularly meaningful, and well worth the investment and risk.

Is this creative football coaching? Would your opinion be different based on how much you know about football?

There are many, many other examples. In 2003, an odd phenomenon called "Flash Mobs" began, in which a large crowd of people would show up at a predetermined place and do a predetermined action (for example, gathering at a fancy hotel and then staring at a specific area).

With hundreds of teenagers (or other people with too much time on their hands) participating in these flash mobs, it made the news as yet another example of odd behavior by the masses. Eventually, it faded into oblivion. Is this creative or simply bizarre?

What if I were to tell you that the originator of flash mobs was an eager devotee of social psychology experiments and was testing his own ideas about group behavior with a live participant pool? Would that it make it creative? In fact, that's what happened, and the originator is now a senior editor at Harper's Magazine (Wasik, 2006).

©2009 James C. Kaufman. All rights reserved.

Creativity 101

This series is based on "Defining Creativity" from Creativity 101 by James C. Kaufman, PhD. Excerpts reprinted with permission of Springer Publishing Company www.springerpub.com.

James C. Kaufman is a Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Connecticut. ...