Friday Night Lights may have largely revolved around high school football, but its main appeal didn’t have to do with sports at all. The critically acclaimed show, which ran from 2006 to 2011, drew audiences in through the candid and displays of emotion it so expertly portrayed. When the Dillon Panthers or the East Dillon lions won games, we weren’t filled with joy because we got to see a great game of football, but because these victories represented the magnetism of dedication, teamwork, trust, and perseverance.
We rooted for these high school students off the field as they chugged through their personal battles— some with more grace than others—and felt the joy of their triumphs and the heartbreak of their setbacks. None of the emotion that Friday Night Lights accomplishes would be possible without the show’s main source of inspiration and wisdom: Coach Taylor (Kyle Chandler).
In addition to his daughters Julie and Gracie, Coach Taylor serves as a father figure to several players on his team, inspiring them to overcome their shortcomings and inch closer to their dreams. He smacks sense into Smash Williams when he finds out he’s been doping, steers a misguided Vince Howard away from his destined future of violence, and makes a leader out of Luke Cafferty when his team is falling apart. His priorities may fall out of order once in a while, but he is a fallible human after all. Like the cliché answer in a job interview, Coach Taylor’s only downfall is that he cares too much.
While Coach Taylor’s advice is a cornerstone of Friday Night Light’s emotional appeal, his advice would be of great use to some imprudent characters in other TV shows. Now that I’ve watched Friday Night Lights, I find myself craving Coach Taylor’s presence when I’m watching male characters in other shows continue down the wrong path. Here’s a list of characters who could truly benefit from some of that Coach Taylor wisdom.
This post contains spoilers!
Jesse Pinkman, Breaking Bad
As Walter White’s beleaguered meth-making assistant, Jesse Pinkman could learn a lesson or two in sticking up for himself from Coach Taylor. Although Pinkman comes to regard Mr. White as a father figure at a certain point in the show, Walter never provides the tenderness that Pinkman needs. When Mr. White catches Jesse using meth, he violently berates him rather than providing the moral support Jesse needs to get clean.
Later on when Mr. White has descended into a full-fledged drug lord maniac, he coerces Jesse into continuing to make meth even though he longs to leave the meth business behind him. Jesse eventually musters the courage to tell Mr. White off, but it takes him a really long time to get to that point. Using the word “son” plenty of times, Coach Taylor could have definitely been a guiding light in Jesse’s life throughout the cluster fuck that was Breaking Bad.
Don Draper, Mad Men
Talk about men who could use a steady father figure! Don Draper (Jon Hamm) watched his dad get kicked in the face by a horse at the age of 10, and it was pretty much downhill from there. Draper is a powerful, impossibly handsome, and suave business man who fills the emotional void left by his upsetting past with booze, women, and money.
The open communication between Coach Taylor and his wife Tami could serve as a shining example of what it means to be faithful to your spouse, for starters. Draper also lacks the ability to express affection toward his children, which would make Coach Taylor’s investment in his daughters’ lives another positive force in Draper’s life. Draper may boast strong conviction and success, but his general disenchantment causes him to coast through life glazed over, not truly participating. Coach Taylor, then, could inspire him to engage, to feel his feelings genuinely, and confront the adversities holding him back.
Chandler Bing, Friends
Although Chandler’s (Matthew Perry) dad (Kathleen Turner) provides plenty of comic relief (which may be problematic, but it was the ‘90s/early 2000’s) in Friends, the cynical and sarcastic Chandler could have learned something about softness from Coach Taylor. Friends is definitely not the kind of show that warrants deep critical analysis, but Chandler uses sarcasm and his quick wit as a defense mechanism to cover up his troubled past.
A recurring joke is that he lacks the capacity to cry (in reference to Bambi: Yes, it was so sad when the guy stopped drawing the deer) and all of his family memories are tainted by arguments between his mother and father (“More turkey Mr. Chandler”). I definitely don’t mean to imply that all children should have a father figure growing up (Chandler is actually homophobic toward his dad), but he could have learned to be truer to himself and access his deeper emotions from Coach Taylor.
Tony Soprano, The Sopranos
The lessons that Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) could learn from Coach Taylor are abundant. First and foremost, Tony has a tendency to murder people, which Coach Taylor would definitely condemn if he were to hang around Tony for a bit. Also, Tony is a serial adulterer who repeatedly lies to his wife Carmela (Edie Falco) throughout the show’s six seasons, a bad habit that could potentially be rectified if Coach Taylor were to intervene.
Tony sees a therapist, Dr. Jennifer Melfi (Lorraine Bracco), to deal with his severe depression, but the job of a therapist is not as much to dish out advice as it is to listen and help patients discover their own answers. It’s safe to say that Tony could have benefited from someone’s straightforward help, although his hubris would stand in the way. Tony has a lot of pride in his criminal business, but he doesn’t do much to prevent it from seeping into his family life. Coach Taylor, then, could help him to prioritize and put his family first. Tony also wouldn’t have been tempted to hit on Coach Taylor, as he was repeatedly with Dr. Melfi.
John Rayburn, Bloodline
John Rayburn (Kyle Chandler) could have used Coach Taylor (again, Kyle Chandler) as the angel on his shoulder at the very end of Bloodline Season 1. When John’s older brother Danny (Ben Mendelsohn), the outcast of the family, returns to Key West to celebrate his parents’ 45th year running their beachside hotel, a slew of problems from the family’s dark past arise.
As a local deputy with the Monroe Sheriff’s department and second oldest of the four Rayburn siblings, John is the most noble of his siblings and is inclined to repeatedly give Danny chances to reintegrate into the family despite the turmoil he causes. At the end of the first season, though, Danny’s nefarious ways reach an apex and John drowns him in the ocean, fueled by an insurmountable fit of rage. Up until that point, John had channeled Coach Taylor’s morality thoroughly, but “Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose” could have been to some use to John before he murdered his brother.