An Interesting Thought on the Bears OLine Struggles..........
Although this came from an article about the replacement refs and their performance actually eroding each week rather than improving it dawned on me that it could apply just as well to the Bears offensive line and to J'Marcus Webb in particular.
I've wondered aloud before how that kid could forget a snap count so often during the few seconds and 20-30 feet it takes to get from the huddle to his position on the line. He's improved some this year but how many times last year was he flagged for illegal procedure because he moved before the snap?
What this college professor offers in the way of an explanation makes perfect sense. Some peoples performance tends to decline in certain "high stress" situations more than others performing the same task. It depends upon the source of the stress and how well they believe they can cope with it.
If there's already a prior expectation of poor performance at that task it does add another layer of stress to that individual as they go about it. This may be one reason why certain football players may do fairly well in lower stress practices where their job isn't in jeopardy yet still play poorly in games when their job is in jeopardy.
The solution Stroessner offers may also explain why it takes certain players at certain positions longer to adapt to the level of play in the NFL compared to what they were accustomed to in college. After hundreds of successful repetitions of the same plays in practice and with added game experience and increasing success the stress decreases and a players memory capacity and cognitive skills improves as does his play.
One of the biggest surprises of the replacement ref saga was how the new guys seemed to get worse and worse with each game. While the regulars might have some preseason rust, the replacements corroded by the week. There may be a psychological reason for that. It's called "stereotype threat," which is defined by Barnard College professor Steven Stroessner as "when performance is harmed by an awareness of an expectation of poor performance." Stroessner explains that when a group is widely expected to fare poorly at a task, the pressure of that negative perception takes up crucial brain space needed for a job well done. And then the members of that group – in this case the replacement refs – screw up.
"We know when there's an expectation of poor performance, and that can have a few predictable consequences," Stroessner says. "It does reduce working memory capacity. There are fewer cognitive resources. When you're in a high-stakes situation, dealing with a lot of information, you've also got additional worries about the situation: 'I hope I don't blow this. Everyone's expecting me to get this wrong.' "
The antidote to this? Stroessner has a simple answer: "Lots of practice."
This tends to explain a lot about what we observed with the replacement refs and it also makes sense as it relates to a player like Webb who seems to have tremendous physical tools but often plays like he's a mental midget. It also provides some logic as to why the continue to stick with the guy hoping that with enough reps he'll finally begin to "get it".
The theory makes some sense to me. I can remember a lot of situations that I've been in where initially I worried about performing a piece of music well enough to not embarrass myself but as I practiced it and performed it more often those worries disappeared and so did the stress. I think most of us have deals like this that have happened in our lives.
So maybe by mid season this offensive line, and Webb himself, finally do get to looking like we've been wishing they would. Experienced observers claim there's enough talent there to do it so maybe they just need to build on some success week after week until they "get it". Just something to ponder.