NFL Coaches Divisional Playoff tactics reinterpreted in the context of a Jeopardy! match

I wrote this during the week following the NFL’s Divisional Playoffs, but due to some extenuating circumstances (getting rejected by McSweeney’s), couldn’t get it up until now. From Mike McCarthy’s ‘close but no cigar’ game to Bruce Arians’ aggressive crunch time calls to Andy Reid’s perpetually inexplicable clock management failure, there was a lot of memorable coaching from the NFL’s Elite Eight weekend. Essentially, I thought it would be fun to illustrate what the equivalent of these coaching decisions would look like if they occurred in a Jeopardy! match.

New England Patriots vs. Kansas City Chiefs

The match is winding down. Three clues are left on the board in Double Jeopardy! Four-time returning champion Bill Belichick*, a notoriously discreet federal politician from Foxborough, Massachusetts, leads all contestants with $20,000. In second place with $8,000 is Andy Reid, a mustachioed police chief from Kansas City, Missouri. Bill O’Brien, a cattle rancher from Houston, Texas, sits distantly in third with no chance of coming back, at -$4,000.

*One of Belichick’s friends was caught secretly taping the video clues being made by writers at the New York Times for the category Pulitzer Prize Winning Articles. Belichick was fined half of his winnings from that episode and stripped of the right to choose subsequent clues after the next two clues he answered correctly. Jeopardy! is also currently investigating allegations of Belichick tampering with his buzzer so that it would chime in faster.

Alex Trebek: Okay Andy, pick again.

Andy: Let’s go with BBQ Sauces for $1200.

Alex: Answer…our second Daily Double, which gives Andy a fantastic opportunity to gain some major ground on Bill B. for Final Jeopardy! What’ll it be?

Andy: I’ll bet $1,000.

Alex: (Stares at him incredulously) Okay then, a conservative wager it is…Here’s the clue: This red North Carolina mixture is always seasoned with ketchup, vinegar, and pepper.

Andy: What is Lexington style? Or, as it goes by alternatively, Piedmont style.

Alex: Yes, both answers are acceptable. Well done Andy, keep going.

O’Brien gives him an appreciative clap while Belichick looks on coldly.

Andy: BBQ Sauces for $800.

Alex: The white mayonnaise-based sauce from this state sure makes for some “sweet home” cooking.

Andy: What is Alabama?

Alex: Correct, and that brings us now to our final clue. Here it is: You might find her face and name on a bottle of gourmet BBQ sauce.

Andy: Who is Diana?

Alex: That’s right, and momentous push brings you up to $10,200, which means that, amazingly enough, you still have a chance to surpass Bill B. in Final Jeopardy! And the category for that is Latin Legal Terms. Since Bill O. is in the red right now, he unfortunately will not be eligible to compete in that decisive round. We’ll be right back in a moment to see if Andy can dethrone our reigning champ.

Commercial break.

Alex: Although our returning champion Bill has maintained a steady lead all game, Andy still has a chance to usurp him here. Let’s see if he can do so. They’ll be working with the category Latin Legal Terms, and this is the clue: The guilty act. You have 30 seconds. Good luck.

Final Jeopardy! music plays. Belichick stares down at his podium in frustration. Reid writes something quickly, but then appears to be thinking hard and looks around the set aimlessly.

Alex: Time’s up. Andy, you were quick to begin writing. Did you come up with the correct response?

Graphic comes onscreen to reveal he had “actus re” written down.

Alex: The answer was actus reus, which means you were certainly on the right track. But unfortunately we cannot award any points for an incomplete response. Why exactly did you stop short?

Andy: Well Alex, I wasn’t sure if it was actus reus or actus rea, so I wanted to mull it over a bit, but I forgot to actually write one of them fully. I guess I just lost track of time at the end there.

Alex: Ah, if only your knowledge of our iconic Final Jeopardy! song could rival your knowledge of BBQ sauces. Well, let’s see what you wagered. Yes, you put everything on the line, which now brings you down to $0. Speaking of actus reus, we turn now to our champ Bill, who should be safe to finish on top here. What did you come up with and how much did you wager?

Graphic comes onscreen to reveal he had “On to Monday’s show” written down with a wager of $0.

Alex: (Sardonically) Congratulations, Bill. And with that $20,000 your five-day winnings total is now $66,600. That’s all for tonight, please do tune in again tomorrow.

Arizona Cardinals vs. Green Bay Packers

The match is winding down. Six clues are left on the board in Double Jeopardy! One-time returning champion Mike McCarthy, a packaging clerk from Green Bay, Wisconsin, leads all contestants with $9,400. In second place with $9,200 is Bruce Arians, a Kangol hat-sporting dignitary of the Roman Catholic Church from Phoenix, Arizona. Jay Gruden, a controversial Washington, D.C. comedian who has drawn widespread criticism for using racial slurs in his acts, sits distantly in third with no chance of coming back, at -$9,000.

Alex: Okay Mike, choose again.

Mike: I’ll go with Call the Plays for $1,200.

Alex: You might want to “Ease on Down” the Yellow Brick Road after seeing this Broadway show.

Mike: What is Wicked?

Alex: No, that’s incorrect.

Bruce: What is The Wiz?

Alex: Yes, a lucky break for you, Bruce, because The Wiz is indeed the correct play from Frank L. Baum’s fictional universe. That’s going to put you back in first. Go ahead and pick a clue.

Bruce: Call the Plays again for $1,600.

Alex: “If you’re good to mama, mama’s good to you” is one of the lessons Rob Marshall includes in his film adaptation of this play.

Mike: What is Into the Woods?

Alex: No.

Bruce: What is Chicago?

Alex: Another lucky break. Into the Woods is a Marshall film, but Chicago was the one in question.

Bruce: Call the Plays, $2,000.

Alex: “I’ve got the horse right here, his name is Paul Revere.”

Mike: What is Equus?

Alex: No, not quite.

Bruce: What is Guys and Dolls?

Alex: That’s it. What a turn of events. You’re now at $14,000, quite a ways ahead of Mike, who came very close to finding the correct responses but has suddenly dropped to $4,600. Pick again.

Bruce: Long Passes, $800.

Alex: Answer…Daily Double. It is our first of the round, which means there’s still another one out there. Would you like to risk anything from that commanding lead?

Bruce: $4,000.

Alex: Really?

Bruce: Damn straight, Trebek.

Alex: Watch your tone, young man. Okay, here’s your clue: This mountainous route will take you from Afghanistan to Pakistan.

Bruce: Hmmm, what is the Wakhjir Pass.

Alex: No, the correct answer was the Khyber Pass. You’ll drop now to $10,000, but you do get to pick again.

Bruce: Long Passes, $400.

Alex: It’s name doubles as one of Vermont’s most popular ski resorts.

Mike: What is Smuggler’s Notch?

Alex: Correct. Which leaves you with the only clue left on the board, Common Names for $200, and that will also be our second Daily Double. Thanks to Bruce’s, umm, ‘aggressive’ wager earlier, you’ll now improbably have a chance to be tied with him heading into Final Jeopardy!

Bruce: (Muttering under his breath) When they’re patting you on the back, they’re looking for a soft spot to stick the knife.

Alex: What was that, Bruce?

Bruce: Don’t worry about it.

Alex: Alright Mike, can I count on you to make it a true Daily Double?

Mike: Let’s do it, Alex.

Alex: Wonderful, this is the clue: She’s a classic rock musician who shares her surname with the ragtime composer, Scott.

Mike: Who is Janis Joplin?

Alex: You must have said your Hail Marys today because you are absolutely right and you’ll add $5,000 to your total, making it anyone’s game heading into Final Jeopardy!—except Jay’s of course, because he’s in the red, and thus ineligible. When we return, the category will be American Literature. Don’t go away, folks.

Commercial Break.

Alex: We’re back, and our two remaining contestants have made their wagers. Here’s their clue: Charlie Wales is the central character in this writer’s 1930 short story. Okay, 30 seconds now. Best of luck, contestants.

Bruce seems perplexed for a second but then starts grinning widely and writing. Mike appears to be struggling, but he scribbles something down just before time expires.

Alex: Since you’re both tied, let’s start with our challenger, Bruce. What did you write?

Graphic comes on screen to reveal he had “Fitzgerald” written down.

Bruce: When in doubt, always go to Fitz.

Alex: Well, not always, but in this case, that is indeed correct. F. Scott Fitzgerald. And the work in question is “Babylon Revisited.” Did you wager everything? Yes you did, no surprise there. We turn now to Mike, our returning champion, did you also come up with the correct response?

Graphic comes on screen to reveal he had “Hemingway” written down.

Alex: No you did not, so Mike’s impressive comeback bid falls just short and Bruce becomes our new champion with $20,000. Thanks for watching tonight’s episode, we hope to have you back tomorrow.


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