Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Clinic and Practice Season

OK, so I’m back from Cleveland (where I did very little football-related) and Las Vegas (where 90% WAS football-related). I got to spend 6 hours in Las Vegas listening to Jim McNally, who is the Godfather of modern NFL technique. What is very interesting now is that he’s come to realize some things that he brought into The League are now obsolete…..and these are things that were considered current until maybe two years ago, that 90% of us offensive line coaches (including me) are still teaching! Well, now I definitely have to re-do practice planning and drill prep. If any of you (and I know there are a ton of copies floating around) have my offensive line manual, it is now obsolete. I don’t know when I’m going to have a chance to update it, but it needs it. 

One of the great things about coaching adults is that I’ve had some of them for upwards of ten years….the downside is that some of them could effectively do my drills in their sleep. Now none of them can. I saw it happen a bit last week at practice, when I started introducing some of the new stuff, and now that I’ve had it all reinforced and cemented in my mind, it’ll only get better. We did have one play in a limited Oklahoma drill where one of my OL got a nice flatback using the new techniques, and you could see a little bit of a light go off in her head, so that was nice. One of my players was in Vegas at the clinic, and when she saw what I’d been talking about on film and explained by Coach McNally, her light went off a little too. So I’m really excited to get back to work!
I see where the “pre season WFA rankings” are out. I put them in quotes because they are most definitely not an official thing. The only official rankings that matter are the Massey ones, after some games have been played, and only for seeding in the playoffs. Those are the ones I’ll pay any attention to, as they did affect our travel last year in July. These rankings are put together by a guy named John Spatz. John isn’t a bad pure data guy. Once he gets some game data to work with, they might be fairly accurate. Right now, his guess is worse than anyone else’s, because he knows little about team dynamics and who may or may not have joined or left teams.

He has us ranked #1 overall, which is pretty funny considering that we lost the championship game to Boston, who he has ranked 5 or 6, by what felt like a bazillion points. Then he ranks Utah, who, although I love them as players and coaches very much, #2. Why they are ranked above established, veteran teams like Chicago, DC or Boston, I have no idea. Of course, those teams know as well as everyone else that these things don’t matter a bit. 

In my opinion, Chicago is LOADED with talent this year, and Boston is still Boston until proven otherwise. I did see that some of the Boston players have set up donation pages to help fund their season, which is something that we’ve never seen before. The fallout of having to pay for things like the rest of us might be interesting. Also, in the West are the Dallas Elite, who are a reincarnation of the legendary Dallas Diamonds who were in the national championship game as late as 2013. Because those players have proven themselves already in the WFA, I might rank them higher than Utah as well.

Anyway, it’s all well and good, and I suppose it provided a spark of discussion. I saw where many posted it on their timelines as a type of trophy, and others posted it as a form of inspiration to make it on there later. Most of us did neither.
On another note, have any of you seen the new series, “Coaching Bad”, hosted by Ray Lewis on Spike TV? Holy crap, there sure are some jerks out there! Of the eight coaches on the show, I think three or four of them are in football, which in itself is a rather sad commentary on our sport. To be sure, I do believe there is a huge difference in being demanding and just being a jerk (in lieu of using a more descriptive term). I would like to think that I am a demanding coach – lapses in effort especially irritate me, as do repeated mistakes. But when I’m raising my voice, I can honestly say that you won’t find a player who believes it is personal to them. They understand that I’m not yelling at Karen or Michelle or whoever – I’m getting after the right guard or running back.

I think a coach has to realize that mistakes will be made, no matter how well we think we’ve explained something. If a player is making the same mistake over and over, at some point you have to look at the way you’re teaching it. After all, as I’ve quoted Homer Smith before, “It isn’t what you know, it’s what your players know.” Effort of course, is a different matter – it is the one thing that a player can control. If it is a running drill, for example, I don’t care how inherently slow someone is. But what I definitely do NOT want to see is that player not giving 100% or stopping before the finish line. Doing that will get my attention in a hurry.

But getting back to the show, it is abundantly clear that some people should never be in charge of young, impressionable players. I can promise you that if some of the coaches on the show coached my men’s team, they would be beaten up, without a doubt. Don’t be “that guy” as a coach!

Have a great week of practice!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

NFL 2014 officially over...now the Fun Begins!

Remember how I said last week that I felt bad for Shawn Slocum, the ST coach for the Packers? Yeah, he got fired Friday. Such is the business of football. You produce, or you’re out, simple as that. I’ve been fired once. Well, demoted really. I was the OC for a team in 2004. We lost in Week One, 45-7. We gave up 350 yards on the ground, and I got demoted from OC to TE coach. We ended up averaging 6.7 points per game that year, going 1-9. So even if you know in your heart that it wasn’t you, sometimes someone has to take the fall. Since the HC for that team was also the DC, he wasn’t about to fire himself, you know? I’m sure that Coach Slocum will land on his feet somewhere – it just may not be in the NFL. Only 32 jobs like that in the world, you know?

The Super Bowl was Sunday, in case you didn’t notice…..it was a great game. Of course, everyone has been talking about “the call”. My take is that I sure hope I would’ve called a run in that situation. Maybe line up in a slightly different formation than the previous play, but motion a lead blocker back to the same spot and run to the same gap. The OL there had confidence, the DL perhaps not so much. Maybe show a read option look to the same side so that not everyone could gang up on Lynch. If we don’t get in, you call time out. You now have about 15 seconds left. 3rd down becomes a down where people assume you will pass, so that you can stop the clock. Maybe, maybe not, but two plays are called in the huddle and the 4th down play can be anything….but most likely one more chance to batter the ball into the end zone. With smart formationing, that last play probably gets snapped at 1 or 2 seconds left (if 3rd down was a run and no receivers had to change sides or anything else time-consuming). That’s my take….as in many situations I can only hope that I make a call that not everyone in the country will criticize. And yeah, I did criticize it. The rationale of “9 in the box” doesn’t entirely work for me, since you don’t need to block the back 2, 3 or even 4 guys. Not for 1 yard. On the frontside, if you give an option look, then you eliminate 1 other. So yes – I’d still run it.

One thing I admired is Pete Carroll’s willingness to cover for his OC. One thing I didn’t admire is the OC not covering for his guy. You think he didn’t go strong enough to the ball then? Do you think your comments will make him want to fight for you now or in the future? I think the OC just lost that kid. Take a note from your HC – he didn’t throw you under the bus, and you shouldn’t have done that to your player.

I also mentioned last week how I got a little pushback from my men’s QB about the pending terminology changes I’m implementing. Funny how you can work things out over a plate of BBQ! He and one of my WR met for dinner last week and I’m happy that I was able to outline things a little better and in more detail. I think everyone is excited about the possibilities these changes can bring.

First Surge practice of the year coming up this Sunday! Can’t wait…..I’ve got some rookies to get coached up. I always have at least one on the OL, but this year there are four I think. Not all will start, but I’ve got to get them all ready. Also, based on what I’ve been looking at this off season, I may be making my first major technique revisions in quite some time in the run game. I used to teach a 3-step progression off the ball, but switched to a 2-step a couple of years ago (once I realized I was out of touch and behind the times). Now it looks like I’m going to go with the “double under” approach. After looking at film, it appears that we end up that way anyway, so might as well get the most out of it! I’ll explain more after I get into it, but for those OL coaches out there that already teach it, I would look forward to your comments.

OK, as I mentioned, you may not hear from me again until February 25. Next Wednesday I’m out to Cleveland, and I don’t get back until the 18th, and then I’m out again to Vegas for the Glazer clinic. One of the highlights this year at the clinic is Jim McNally, the godfather of the zone run game. He started teaching it back in 1978, and I’m looking forward to learning from the source himself. So I hope everyone has a great couple of weeks of practice!