Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Wrapping up - almost!

Sorry I missed last week – I was on vacation. I fully planned on writing something anyway, but when Tuesday night rolled around and I had nothing….well, that’s what you got! Heads up, it’ll happen again in the middle of February when I head back to Cleveland for a little while, and then to Vegas for the Glazier clinic.

We saw an epic football game between the Packers and Seahawks a couple of weekends ago. Shawn Slocum, the Green Bay ST coach, is an old acquaintance, from back in ’96 when I visited Texas A&M for the first time. Then, he was maybe into his second year as a full time coach. He was a good guy, and I certainly feel for him now. Pat Ruel, with the Seahawks, has helped me out even longer – since 1993, when he was at Kansas. He is one of the nicest, classiest guys in the business and I count myself lucky to have been taught by him early in my career, and then on occasion whenever I had an issue. Pat has always been gracious with his time. So…..go Seahawks!

The other thing that came to mind is “situational football”. Similar to the ‘Bama-Auburn game of a year ago, with the failed FG being returned for a TD, there were situations in that game that could have been handled better by the players involved. I bet the Packer player that intercepted the ball late wishes now he would have run for the 20-30 more yards he easily could have. At the time, no one probably thought too much about him downing himself, thinking, “OK, he didn’t want to take a chance on fumbling the ball.” However, unlike the Chargers/Patriots playoff game in 2007 (or whenever, it is a painful memory) when a Chargers player was returning an INT late, got into traffic and then fumbled, this Green Bay player had LOTS of open field in front of him. The lesson? Take the free yardage! There was what – about 5:00 left? That’s too much time to be thinking that you’re in the clear and can afford to give up yards. The real reminder here, to you coaches out there, is that you need to at least cover these things with your players! They may not remember, they may brain fart, but trust me – it’s going to come back to you – did you cover that situation or not?

The other situation was the onside kick return that failed for the Packers. I haven’t gone back and looked at the film to confirm yet, but from what I understand, Jordy Nelson was in position to field the ball that was dropped by a player who was supposed to be blocking. Now, the player in question had an 80 number….but if there’s a play on, then do your job! I’m not sure how he was coached in that case, but if he didn’t do what he was coached to do, there’s a problem. Who knows “what if” but generally speaking, plays work out better when everyone does their own jobs instead of trying to do someone else’s.

Last Friday night, I presented the offensive changes I’ve been working on since September to the Bears (my men’s team) offensive staff. The defensive staff was there as well, and had some questions and “what ifs” and it was a good give ‘n take. You know, when you make these types of changes, you (at least I do) go through that first presentation in your head countless times, trying to smooth out the kinks. After all, as the OC, it is your job to sell the rest of the staff. At this point, I wasn’t looking for input as far as possible changes are concerned. I’d already gone over any possible question in my head. Once we get things installed, then I’m open to tweaks of course, but first things first: Get the basics down and installed, get everyone comfortable with the new terminology, and then we can look at things that can be streamlined or tweaked.

I got a little pushback from my QB. He’s a good guy and we work well together. He’s concerned about how the guys will react to new terminology. I can understand that – I’m a little concerned also. But for big picture thinking, what we had was too confining. He (and the rest of the team) are going to have to trust me when I say that everything will be installed in a flow. The first couple of practices, the defense may get after us a little, because we’ll be limited in what we run. But that’s OK….I don’t think I’m going to get fired if our defense kicks our butt a couple of practices. But I may if the Hollywood Stars or Inglewood Blackhawks do! Again, it is my job as the OC to sell the team just like I did the staff.

Sunday was spent meeting with the Surge offensive staff. We’re going to a new communication system there. I’m excited to see how it works out. I’m also excited to be back down on the sidelines. When I call plays, I prefer being up top, detached from the chaos that sometimes a sideline can be. But when we do something well, I sure miss the emotion down there! I’ll have some new people on my OL for the Surge, so it’ll be nice to be able to talk to them as a unit more than I have the past couple of years.

See you next week! Remember, I’m always open to answer questions or talk about topics that you want to see.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

One Season Ends, Another Begins

Well, Monday night ended the collegiate football season, and what a display by Ohio State! I was rooting for Oregon, not out of any particular fan reason, and not for any particular dislike of Ohio State (unlike if, say, Texas or Notre Dame were playing, but fat chance of that!), but just because I like Oregon’s up-tempo fast-break style of play. I like the stress it puts on defenses…..well, most defenses. Hats off to Urban Meyer, who although I’ve stolen my share of concepts from him over the years (as far back as when he was at Bowling Green), I suppose I just didn’t realize how good he was. I got a pretty good idea when his 3rd string QB helped beat Alabama, but last night cemented it.

OSU’s willingness to run the counter over and over again was admirable. And you might say, well it was working, so why not? Well, that brings up another related, interesting point…one of my good friends and fellow coaches, Winston Martin remarked to me the other day, that at the high school level, he (as a DC) pretty much figures that offensive coaches get bored easily, that we want to run through our playbook. And I’ll admit that there may be some validity to that. I know that I “get bored” easily sometimes and want to run some things just to show them. So last night got me wondering if I would be as willing to run the same play over and over again, even if it was working. I don’t know for sure, and I suspect that many of you playcallers out there assume that you would, but you might want to go back and check your old call sheets to verify that. But I do know that now it is in the forefront of my mind.

As far as those counters were concerned, another one of the coaches I used to work for, way back in the day was Fred Valko, and his comment was spot on, “The counter trey hasn’t been run that well since Riggins and Co.” I saw two different ones last night from OSU. The one they ran the most was what I call a “Skinny” – the guard and H-back pull. That H back/TE /FB type player did a great job all night long. The other one they ran (I only saw it once) was what many call a “Dart” where only the tackle pulls. I didn’t see the classic version of the counter, where both the guard and tackle pull, but I may have missed it.

We’ve had great success with the counter over the years. I’ve been blessed with very athletic tackles at many of my stops, and it really, really opens things up when you have the ability to pull them on plays. If you don’t have access to an athletic tackle, then you might run the “Skinny” variation. I don’t think that was OSU’s concern, I think they were more worried about Oregon’s big DEs crashing down in a hurry. So that would be another reason to run a Skinny. You might run the Dart if you were going to package the counter with a backside read, like you would with a zone read. I don’t remember if OSU did it that way or not, but that is a possibility. You can also package the “classic” version with the backside read as well, to help keep those DL at home a bit.

Once again, hats off to Coach Meyer and the Buckeyes. We very well may be seeing them again next year!

Now that college is over, that can only mean that the women’s season is starting! I talked about the two teams that folded last week – the Las Vegas Showgirlz and the Boston Militia. I’ve very pleased to report that it looks like both teams will continue in some form or fashion, Las Vegas as the Sin City Sundevils and Boston as….well, we don’t know yet, but they will have a team.

Both teams coming back do have questions. For any of his shortcomings, Coach Dion Lee of the Showgirlz had a pretty imaginative offensive mind and did an overall good job of using his personnel I thought. As I mentioned last week, he did a great job of getting his team hyped and convinced that they could beat the world. So I’ll be very interested to see how the new coach implements the offense and what kind of mindset he brings. I’ll just say this….please, please, whatever you do Coach, don’t become another one of those mind-numbingly boring double wing teams. Please remember that you’re in the entertainment capital of the world, and that football is supposed to be entertaining to fans. That is all……

The Boston team has an entirely different question. I’m sure the players and coaches will answer this in their minds right now, but I’ll be interested more by their actions come July, and that is, “what happens now that the money is gone?” And hey, I’ll freely admit that I have no clue as to who the new owner(s) is/are and what their personal wealth situation is. But I find it hard to believe that another owner will come in with the same resources available that their old one had (and if they do, count me as being extremely jealous). If that is the case, that the players/coaches may have to come up with more out of pocket than they did before, I just wonder how it will affect them. That’s not meant as a dig at them at all – they’ve kicked my butt two too many times on the field for me to be anything less than respectful to them – but that’s just another question going through my mind.

The Surge has put together some pretty good numbers this year from an athlete standpoint. If the veterans can regain their hunger after losing to Boston, similar to how they did in 2012, and the rookie class shows up ready to work and follows through, we could be pretty good. It’ll be very nice to get back to a two-platoon system. The last two years we haven’t had the numbers to do that. Not only did we have half the athletes, but also in effect half the coaching time. We’ll see how serious everyone is in just a couple of weeks!

NFL Conference Championships this weekend – who ya got?

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

New Year, New Changes

Hello and Happy New Year to everyone! Hope you all had a great holiday season, whichever ones you celebrate.

OK, so quite a bit has been going on since I last wrote….for me personally, I added on the role of Offensive Coordinator for the National City Bears, a men’s team that I was previously (2011-2013) either the OL coach, offensive coordinator or head coach of. It seems like a good time to get back into the creative side of things on offense. I may have mentioned in previous posts that I was tweaking my playbook to better streamline my terminology and system, and taking on this role will allow me to run with it and see what happens. I’m excited to implement some of the advances in the zone-read game that I’ve seen over the last couple of seasons, such as second-level defender reads and interior DL reads, rather than simply reading the backside DE (or frontside, if running pistol). There are also quite a few wrinkles in blocking by both fullbacks and H-back type players.

Of course, there is one downside to coaching men, and that is they use NFL rules, so the screen game (which I also wrote about recently) is going to need some timing work. But overall, being able to install pretty much a new playbook from the ground up is exciting!

On the women’s front, the news isn’t so good. Over the holidays, we’ve learned of two solid teams who aren’t coming back for 2015. The first, the Las Vegas Showgirlz, is a definite loss to us out west. They were a division opponent and always a good, physical game to play in. While it is true they never beat us, it was almost always a challenge. Coach Dion Lee usually had something up his sleeve for us that we had to be aware of. And even if he didn’t, he did a good job of making us think he did! Many of the players on that team are my friends, and there is always the possibility that someone will be able to resurrect the team, so I hope that happens. I mean, who doesn’t love a road trip to Vegas?

Not having a competitive team in Vegas means either 1) a very long and expensive road trip to Utah during the regular season (and a return one from them) or 2) playing a team that doesn’t really make much sense from a competitive standpoint. There are a few teams out there that would fit that bill, and I don’t think they want to play us any more than we want to play them. It doesn’t benefit either of us. However, we also know that it is still relatively early, so maybe a team that we don’t know about yet will come over to the WFA.

The other team was quite a shock, which I just heard about just Monday: our old nemesis, the Boston Militia. I never, ever thought that they would close up. It is akin to the Dallas Diamonds folding a couple of years ago – you just don’t think teams like that will ever go away. 

Let me be perfectly clear – I want teams like the Militia around. Even though we were 0-2 against them (2011 & 2014 national championships), they brought a standard of athleticism, coaching and organization unmatched by any other team. They became the team that everyone else in the country shot for. I never got to know any of their coaches – they always seemed sort of aloof. They were always cordial, but definitely business-like and distant. Having said that, I couldn’t help but respect them. One of their players sent out a Tweet regarding keeping a team going in Boston. I sincerely hope that is the case.

That’s about it for now…..let’s see how the NFL playoffs and the collegiate championship play out!