Wednesday, June 17, 2015


Apparently, our game last week against the Central Cal War Angels is now part of WFA history. I heard today that it was “the biggest upset in the history of the WFA.” OK, yes…#10 Central Cal beat us (#2) 23-14, at Central Cal’s place. But hey, you play enough good teams (#10 is still Top Ten last I checked), and that’ll happen. That’s the thing about the WFA, especially this year – there are very few dominant teams. The DC Divas are probably the closest to a “sure thing” that I’ve seen so far. Everyone else can be beaten by any other Top 10 team.

Hats off to the War Angels, they played very well indeed. It was ungodly hot out there (104 at kickoff), but they had to play in it also, and I’m sure it was zero fun for everyone. I know I was miserable the entire time. That bus ride home was probably the longest ever. I left my house at 7:50 Saturday morning and walked back in the door at 2:00 Sunday morning. Bleh……

I’m sure everyone wants to hear about how we got handed our second regular season loss since 2011, but that’s gonna have to wait – we play the War Angels again at our place on the 27th. Breaking down what happened and analyzing it here wouldn’t be too prudent right now, but I promise a more in-depth look win, lose or draw after the 27th.

The playoffs have been set, and overall, I think the league did a better job this year with travel in the first round. The one team that got messed over a little bit is the Pacific Warriors. They ended up at #9 (Central Cal climbed to 8, while we dropped to 4) and Tacoma got in at #16 instead. Honestly though, in the women’s game, expenses play so much a part of things. If Pacific got in, they’d have first round travel to Seattle. We had to do that last year, and although Seattle is a fine team, a classy organization and all, it was a costly trip in terms of funds. Let’s say they won that game, and then beat the winner between us and Central Cal. They would then face the winner from the Midwest (very likely the Dallas Elite) in Dallas. Asking a team to pay twice for air fare is beastly. Again, we had to do it last year and it was very, very tough financially.

So now Tacoma gets to go to Seattle (like, down the block or what?) and Central Cal comes to us. Now that I think about it, Seattle could very well face the same issue…..if they win their first round game, they’ll be rooting for Central Cal for sure. If we win, Seattle would have to come to us. If Seattle were to win that, then guess what….they get to go to Dallas. And if they win there, holy moly….it’s back down to LA for the championship! Wow…..better get to fundraising!

The other thing that the league got right was in the Mid Atlantic / Southern regions. Always before, for some reason, whoever won down in the Florida area got to travel up to Chicago for the first round. Never made sense to me. Now, Miami (I think?) will go to DC for the first round. Much more manageable, if not more winnable. Those southern teams still have to learn to beat someone north of the Mason-Dixon Line.

I don’t have a whole lot else this week….have some serious game planning to do for the 27th, and still getting my men’s team up to speed. Their first game will be on July 18, and right now I’m working with 3/5 of an OL. That’s always fun……said no offensive coach ever. 

Considering all that, there may not be a post next week (the 24th). I think next week will be a pretty slow news week, you know? If something comes up that is noteworthy, then I’ll talk about it. Or, if someone has a certain subject they want me to talk about, OK. Otherwise, I’ll see y’all on July 01!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Pure Class

I’ve had the fortune of meeting quite a few classy coaches over the years. Guys like Mike Barry (retired, Detroit), Pat Ruel (Seattle), Mike Riley (Nebraska), Brent Myers (Weber State), Mike Sanford (Indiana State) and Homer Smith (UCLA, Alabama) all, at one time or another went out of their way to help me out. They did things they didn’t need to – some allowed me to monopolize their time; some gave me access to practices; some replied in detail, with handwritten diagrams, to questions I had. Guys like that are a big reason why I write this blog, so that if the opportunity arises, maybe I can help out a coach who is just starting out.

One coach though, went above and beyond, and that’s who I want to recognize now. Mike Sherman, former Green Bay head coach, Texas A&M head coach and Miami offensive coordinator, is the epitome of class. Here’s the story:

In the spring of 1996, I was coaching at Fountain Valley High, and finally learning what being a good coach was all about. I saw Coach Sherman at a coaches’ clinic in Orange County and was blown away by his meticulous attention to detail and the way he laid out his practice plans and taught in general. At the time, he was the OL coach at Texas A&M.
I went up to him after about the fourth presentation, and said, “Hey coach – I really like the way you present.” His immediate reply was, “Why don’t you come out and visit us during spring ball?” Fortunately for me, Fountain Valley had an active booster club, and they were willing to spend funds on coaches’ education, including travel to schools. Two days later I had a plane ticket, rental car and hotel in College Station.

I had the Aggies’ spring schedule, and purposely came out a week before their big coaches’ clinic, because I knew there would be a few hundred other coaches around. I walked into Coach’s office and after some small talk he set me up with a GA, Jason. He told Jason to give me any film I wanted, and then he and I would meet for lunch to go over it. So I was led down to the team meeting room in Kyle Field, given a tray full of film and a remote. Just me, in a room that seated 100. I started taking notes, figuring out their schemes and adjustments.

When lunchtime rolled around, Jason came and got me and I joined Coach at Cain Hall (then the athletic dining center) where he promptly apologized for not being able to comp my meal due to NCAA regulations. It was $2 for breakfast, $3 for lunch and $5 for dinner – all you could eat. We sat for the next hour and went over my notes… detail. He shared with me exactly why they did certain things against one defense and not the other – even if it was the same base look. He went into game planning and play calling. He went into technique. Any and all questions I had, he answered.

After lunch, we went over to the OL meeting room for their pre-practice meeting, and I sat through that. Then we went to practice, and again, I was basically Coach’s shadow the entire time. A few times I felt bad for Jason who was scrambling to set up drills, so I helped him out.

After practice was over, it was dinner with the entire staff (I would also be remiss if I didn’t recognize Coach RC Slocum, who is the very picture of Texas hospitality and grace, along with his son, Shawn [now with Arizona State], who was just starting out himself back then) and then I was on my own for the rest of the night.

That routine carried on for the five days I was there. I can’t begin to tell you how much that solo time with Coach Sherman helped me out. One of the days, the OL coach from the Tennessee Vols came down to visit with Coach, and the three of us spent some time hashing out some ideas… was incredible to me to be treated as an equal in that situation (whether or not I really was, I doubt, but they treated me as one). On another day, the entire staff of Sam Houston State was there – they too were very gracious. Also when I was watching film, scouts from the Broncos and Giants were in, and I got a chance to talk to them about what they looked for.

All in all, that experience was a defining moment for my growth as a coach. The time that Coach Sherman took out of that week to help me out was incredible.

My point in writing this now is that Coach Sherman, after coaching in the NFL and collegiate ranks for 33 years, has taken a high school job in a small town near his home in Massachusetts. Here’s a link to the article: Football Scoop article. Also, you’ll notice at the end of the article is a link to the letter Coach wrote to every high school coach in Texas upon his leaving Texas A&M. You should read it. That letter is the reason for the title of this blog post…..pure class. I wish Coach the best for as long as he wants to continue coaching. I hope the high school kids realize how lucky they are.

We played the Pacific Warriors last week, up at their place. I knew it would be a tough, physical game as they would be looking to perhaps get a tie for first place in our division. Our HC, Mike Suggett, put together an outstanding defensive game plan, and outside of their first play of the game, our defense executed it well. Holding a team like that (#8 in the country) to 8 points is a job well done.

Offensively, I was very proud of my OL. We started a rookie center, and displaced a couple of vets to new positions. The result? Our second highest graded game this year. Our effort was outstanding. All 48 points we scored were offensive, and we had over 600 yards of total offense.

This week, we travel to #10 Central Cal. There is no doubt they’d love to take a bit of our shine. However, we understand how tenuous our hold on home field advantage through the playoffs is. We definitely need to handle business and leave no doubt.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

I Want a New Drug

For those old enough to remember that Huey Lewis and the News tune…..

I’ve come to realize one thing this year, between the women’s season in which games started in April, and the start of the men’s season, in which practices started two weeks ago: I really love being an offensive coordinator. I’ve never really had the burning desire to be a head coach, although I did it once. I mean, it is fun to have influence on not only all three phases of the game (although I pretty much stayed out of my DC’s way), but also on a team’s culture. But overall, I’ve known for a long time that I don’t have the patience to deal with all the admin stuff and disciplinary items that come across a HC’s desk. That just isn’t my gig. Perhaps if I were a high school head coach, where it was my only job, then it would be OK.

I want to be like Ernie Zampese (another old time reference for you youngsters), the long-time OC for the Chargers during Air Coryell and the Rams after that (also the Cowboys and Patriots). He was happiest while simply creating – never wanted to be a HC, although he did interview for a couple of gigs just because he felt he should because of courtesy to those that asked. Kind of like Norm Chow, another career-long OC, who yes, he is now a HC, but I bet he wishes he was still “just” a coordinator. I don’t know, maybe Coach Chow actually wanted to be a HC when he took the job or interviewed, but I’m not sure how much fun he’s having now…..and I think that is important.

What I’ve noticed this year with the Surge is that only coaching the OL has left me feeling sort of empty on game days. There’s no knot in my stomach wondering if I’ve done everything I could do to get the offense ready; no tossing and turning the night before wondering if I’ve made the right adjustments against this defense, and wondering whether my Plan B (or C and D) were going to be enough. No adrenaline rush when your first series results in a four play TD drive, and then you come back on the second series and do it again. No watching your First 15 play script work to perfection, or get trashed after Play 8, searching for alternatives.

Certainly, the Central Cal game a few weeks ago came close to the “old high”, their DL giving us some physical issues up front and making me stay really on top of things for most of the game. Even when the final outcome was in hand we had the continuous responsibility to protect our QB and backs, so there was little time to relax. But overall, I know how talented my OL is and I’ve seen most of them in enough plays that I know what the end result of any play is likely to be – 25 years of coaching the OL will do that for you.

Contrast that to our first Bears practice two weeks ago….it was just a practice, and we were only going to run one run play (with variations), a few pass route combinations, one protection, but all of our base formations, motions and two cadences. However, this was the “unveiling” of the offense that I tore down and rebuilt from a terminology standpoint last winter. I wasn’t sure how it would take from a comprehension and rep tempo standpoint. It went better than I hoped, and we caught the defense more than a couple of times. We probably hit on 70% of our passes. Granted, it was Day One for them as well, and they have a new coordinator also. So we were both trotting out new systems. But doing what we did is a heckuva lot better than being on the short end, you know? But at the end, and during it, that same high was in effect – the feeling that something I created was alive, and I felt more “alive” as well.

Please don’t take ANY of this to mean that coaching the OL isn’t still a challenge. It is, especially this year when dealing with multiple rookies and injuries. It’s just that on game day, my work is largely done. On game day, I turn to being an encourager, an adjuster and an occasional ass-kicker.  :-)

A couple of big games last week. Boston went into Chicago and beat the Force. I didn’t see that happening. I thought Boston might be done after losing to DC (in Boston) and then beating Cleveland (who, although very solid, hadn’t come that close to Boston recently) by only four points. Thanks a lot Renegades, for keeping our East Coast scouting complicated!

Pacific beating Central Cal….honestly didn’t see that one happening either, although I did expect a close game. Pacific is certainly flying high right now, and this week’s game against them in their place should be a great one. If you’re anywhere close to Carson, you should come out to see it!

One of my favorite sites for info (not necessarily scheme or technique, just program/coach/job info) is Football Scoop. The other day, one of their staff members asked an anonymous (too bad, because I’d like to give him credit) FBS defensive coordinator what the toughest offense for him to defend was. The answer? “The one who isn’t bored with gaining 4 yards a play.” That’s a definite weakness for me as an OC, but I don’t think I’m alone (otherwise that Coach wouldn’t have made the comment he did). We get bored with plays that simply “work” – we forget that 4 yards a play will win you an awful lot of games.

Certainly, I think everyone looks for or expects a home run from time to time – maybe you’ve been setting up a reverse or double pass, or just a double-move pass or a simple counter. I remember one of my favorite calls from last year was after running a certain toss sweep with motion three or four times against a pretty active defense. We got down to their 30, and I called for the same motion and toss action, except we ran the counter. Result = TD. A couple of years ago it was a reverse on the opponent’s 5 yard line…..I know, pretty much not done, but when paired with known formations and motions, the back walked in.

One of my goals this year is to enjoy the heck out of those four yard gains, and feel the high of that new drug (again)……