Sunday, January 31, 2016

Social Media / the Internet the Serial Killer of Coaches

Just starting to get up and around, so I thought I'd start of with a non- X and O column and what I think is a big problem today and growing,

Back in the early 2000's I wrote a couple of columns for a newspaper down in Virginia. The first one I did was entitled "Coaches face faceless scrutiny." Basically is was about the sudden growth of forums in which anonymous writers could post anything about a coach and not have to face up to examination for there actions. At that time forums were just begging to grow, not everybody had website or a Facebook page, and twitter was still eating pablum as the baby of social media. Since that time there has been a boon in this area. There are forums to voice you opinion on everything. Everybody has their own site or Facebook page claiming expertise and giving opinions on everything. Twitter, well you can't go anyplace without twitter slapping you in the face with some bit of info that either has no credence or is totally useless. (Really! Do I wanna see a selfie of somebody's new hairdo that I DON'T EVEN KNOW!) All of this is because of our basic needs to be wanted and to be special. (Where else can you declare yourself an expert without any experience.)

With this explosion comes a greater threat to coaches then ever before. Never in the history of coaching can  ONE PERSON do so much damage.  Never before can it be so sharp and quick. And never before can it be so harming to one's career. Winston Churchill once said that " a lie is half way around the world before the truth has a chance to be its pants on." If that was true in 1945, then today, with social media, a lie is to mars and back twice before the belt is buckled

In my original column I talked about Dick Tomey, then head coach at Arizona. When he resigned he stated that he had no choice. He couldn't change the opinion of his players as to what they increasingly heard on the websites. Therein lies problem number one: You can't disprove something that isn't true and is founded in rumor and myth. Courts don't let lawyers prove there wasn't any knife. The onus is to prove there was a knife. They can only prove or disprove the facts. People hiding behind false screen names take no accountable and therefore no investment into their statement. When naivety raises its head in the form of an uneducated reader, the opinion becomes fact and is spread as such. Soon you have a full fledge virus threatening the life of your career, all coming from one innocuous insect bite on some meaningless forum.

The second problem with this is boundaries. There are none. Paul Pasqualoni and George Deleone are good friends of mine. Very good friends. They are as classy and respectable people as I know. They will literally give you the shirt of there back. (And to this day have the best record and most bowl appearances and wins at Syracuse.) When they were at Syracuse, there was a group that didn't like them. I use to go on's forum to read how the program was doing. I couldn't continue because of the vile remarks by these posters. You can have your opinion but attacking the man and his family is just.... off limits. Once when Paul's father died, a calmer mind stepped in asked for a down time to respect Paul as a person. That only served as ammunition. Comments like "#@*# Paul's Dad,"  "Maybe he and George will die next." and "I hope his whole #*%$ing family dies then maybe he'll leave." And these were the ones I could print! I truly believe that Paul and George's dismissal from Syracuse was one of the very first social media death tolls.

The bigger point is that as I traveled and moved ,I talked to people about Paul and George. Fought with people who had heard comments about them from the internet that were nowhere close to the people they are. I knew them very well yet the voice of some hideous hiding wart of a man was taken as fact over my word.

There is a saying "A lie left unanswered becomes the truth." Problem is with the internet you can never answer and convince everybody who has read the comments. (remember the old line "you never get a second chance  at a first impression." Well to many people out there these comments are their first impressions of you. This is all they know about you. You are a name in the sports page till they read the forums.)

To illustrate this take a famous sex harassment case in the nineties brought on a teacher in Maryland by three students. Criminal charges were pressed. The teacher were persecuted in the papers. Given no chance of winning. He was built up to be the worst person on earth since satan offered the apple. Due to the vigilance of one police officer who fought through reprimands for being too tough on the kids, the case finally broke. It was a Hoax. The kids claimed this because of receiving bad grades. Now here's the catch. Once vindicated the teacher, who said all he ever wanted to do was teach, said he was giving up teaching. Not because he didn't want to but because of the millions that read the initial articles there were those out there that would look at him with suspicion. There were those out there who read all the beginning accounts but did not read the the final acquittal.There are those out there left with doubt.

The same is true on the internet. Some no name who doesn't even know you puts out a falsehood. Doesn't have to back up his info. Yet even though you dispel these through your actions in your program, there are thousands who didn't get the good guy memo.

Finally, people use to say "you can't argue with an idiot." It's even harder to argue with an anonymous idiot. I left a job one time and rumors swirled. (Every one ludicrous! One harder to believe then the last.) I'm old fashion. I didn't air my laundry. I actually left because they wanted me to fire good adjunct assistants and hire the guys inside who I already fired and didn't even show for meetings or practice. Anyway I got killed on the forums ( I found out who many of the writers were through their slips in messages and saw them often in town. Boy, face to face they'd smile and act like my friend.) Anyway, one of my assistants got disgusted and got on the board to tell the truth. It only served as gas on the fire. Many accused him of being me. Yeah right - I was on to my next job. Even with an assistant telling them the truth more people rallied to the anonymous poster.

Why are these posters even worth the ink on this paper. Think of this. A friend of mine left a job and even with his stellar record had trouble getting another one. After one interview, an administrator asked if he saw a certain forum that the interviewing parents brought it up after searching his name.  When he looked he was amazed - post after post degrading him as the scum of the earth. All with different names. He continued to monitor the site because when he called, the moderator told him there was nothing he could do. To his surprise about a month later a poster noted that a certain other poster was banned because he was posting under multiple pen names. All these post disappeared but the damage had been done by one poster.

I've heard it said that the internet is new wild west with all the unlawlessness and all the possible good tied together. In coaching it's certainly true but I'm beginning to see the bad outweigh the good. Sites from "Coaches on the Hot Seat" to "Fire Paul Johnson" and the thousands more are springing up, giving voice to people who have no clue. (I wonder if that person would be upset if we started a sight "Fire Joe the Plummer.") With people's basic need to be a part of something bigger they join these sites with really no interest in the person, program, or outcome. (Come on, do you think the 875000 on Facebook are really your friends and care about your causes.) Twitter gives even quicker access. On an account that post score updates a person posted "this guy has got to go. All my buddies join in" Well by the end of the night his entire class had a reunion at the coaches expense.

The main problem lies in the anonymity of the author. He hides like some common thief in the darkness.  (I once asked a moderator why they don't make poster use their real name or email. His answer - nobody would post and we would lose our sponsors! Money!) Just this week I was offered an interview, On a local forum my name came up. A poster who I don't know and wasn't even around when I was at Truman preceded to kill me. All false - even my record. But its there.

Some posters are just nasty people, some look for a bond, a group to put their shoes under the bed with, and some have an agenda. They may be former players who didn't play enough or their parents. They may be somebody who wants the job. (I've actually seen a coach have somebody post about his job competition on a forum. Afterwards he was even proud and boasting what he did.) Whatever it is they have a cherry to pick and if means chopping down the tree - you - to get it they will.

It's not going away and will probably get worse. So I advise coaches to do the following to help themselves.

1. google yourself often. You'd be amazed what you'd find. Especially if you are going for a job. In can assure you that the parents at the new school are.

2. Monitor your local forum. I knew a coach who assigned this to an assistant and once known by all he never had a bad post. Believe me your players are reading them do this. Because posters are not brave to begin with, if they know you monitor sites, they usually won't post for fear you'll figure it out.

3. If something is particularly nasty or defamatory send it to the moderator (there is usually a link on the post page) Many are starting to take it off if it's harmful. (Not the "he sucks as a coach") There have been lawsuits against forum owners

4. If you really really want to get the name - hire a PI. A coach I just coached against did this. There is a way / process  to do this

5. Talk to your players parents about these sites. Let them know your thoughts

When I wrote my newspaper article the social media was in its infancy. It has boomed now as have the problems with it. Be proactive or you might become the next Dick Toomey.

PS I don't allow cellphones or camera film either at practice. They can be doctored and cut to fit. There's a halftime talk by a PA hall of fame coach on the internet. Nothing bad but he does come across as crazy. He hasn't been a head coach since.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Sorry for the lapse

Hang in there. Tore achilles, then had family situation. Surgery tomorrow so hopefully it'll be only a few days

Monday, November 23, 2015

Eleven Reasons for Double Options

When I do my consulting I often get the question "Why do you run double options when you can read your way out of all defenses?" So I'll address that here. For the sake of this article we will only include straight double options and not include counter options or fullback pitch speed options.

  1. To get to the perimeter when the defense is dictating you will not. If you read out you are at the mercy of the  defense as to who gets the ball. You are also at the mercy of the defense as to where it is run. If the defense (in this case a reduced front designates a give read every time, it's not a bad play. However, if they can control you inside and, if their defense knows where the ball is going (We're assuming they are well prepared.) This is not a bad play but we need to make the defense defend the full width of the field. In fig 1 below, the ball is getting to the perimeter despite the defense's attempt to keep it inside.This is especially important when you have a speed or blocking leverage advantage at the perimeter and are running to the wide wide side of the field.
  2. To get the ball in a great halfbacks hand. Although theory is the basis of this offense, there are times you just have to get your best players the ball. In the above example, the defense can keep the ball away from a good halfback. In fig. 1 though, the ball is now in that halfback's hand. (we are not counting the rocket here as that is a totally different concept.)
  3. To get the ball in a great quarterbacks hands. Same theory as above, but different runner. Take a 5-2. If it constantly gets the ball out of the quarterback's hands with the outside linebacker, your great runner may spend much of the game watching his pitchman get tracked down. The answer comes in a double option. (see fig.2 run from flex) This is commonly run by Navy to keep the ball in Reynold's hands. A smart move.
  4. To add a blocker when the defense has absorbed all the blockers and outnumbers the offense after the snap. Take a look at fig. 3, where, if the offense was running triple. The end (#1) would take the dive, the scrape linebacker would absorb the halfbacks block, the strong safety would play the pitch and the free safety, reading the halfback's block would be free to play the quarterback. However, by running the double option, shown in fig. 3,you have added an extra blocker (the fullback) and now can account for everybody.
  5. To add and extra blocker to seal the box vs a six man side. This allows you to run into frontal over shifts that, in turn ,lets you dictate the flank. This is important, as a simple triple defensive strategy is to give you a six-man side pre snap and then run to balance up with motion. (Even more prevalent in high school where teams use a six-man side to field and force pure triple teams to the short boundary.) In fig. 4, a six -man side, if you ran the triple, you need to arc the HB to account for numbers on the perimeter. This would allow for the defense to squeeze the DE on the fullback and scrape the linebacker on the quarterback, essentially outnumbering the offense. (You must veer due to the overshifted nose.)Since the double option adds one blocker (the fullback) you can now account for everybody and run to the flank you want to.
  6. To handle the echo stunt when your quarterback can't. I've run this offense for a long time and I can safely say, as much as you practice the "echo" stunt, there will be quarterbacks, days, quarters, seasons, that you have trouble with it. (If you don't believe this break down Georgia Tech's offensive production this year.) Give your quarterback a hand in those situations and block his way out. Fig.5 gives you one simple way to accomplish this. Not only will it save a game but it gives the quarterback confidence knowing he doesn't have to be perfect with the reads as you have the answers he doesn't.
  7. To handle the back-to-back stunt when your quarterback can't. I once had a quarterback that, whether due to poor judgment, slow hands, narrow vision, or my poor coaching, would have trouble at times with the back to back read. Running double (fig.6) takes one read away from him. In essence, you as a coach has read his way out for him
  8. To change option responsibilities. You've heard me preach many times on this site to make defenses change their option responsibilities, tempo of pace to the perimeter, and entry point for the free safety inserting. Double options do that. Never let the defense get into a rhythm: Dive...QB..Pitch. It always them to play as fast as you.
  9. To set up a particular play action pass. Many times the triple doesn't set up the play-action pass we want but the double option can. As an example, the reduced front doesn't usually have a problem with the wheel because the halfback is sealing on the triple, if he arcs the Strong safety will run with him or the Free Safety / corner will combo the post / wheel. However, if you run the double option in fig. 1, you now stress the strong safety with the wheel. To take matters further, if you take a the double option in fig.3 and "switch the receiver, fullback, and halfback assignments you now have a situation where the wheel is running by the strong safety on the run play. When we throw it, there is usually nobody to cover it. (fig. 7)
  10. Force the defense to defend and practice against multiple looks.  I once played against a team that only ran midline tuck to a three technique and the triple to the A-gap player. Needless to say we got very good at defending the triple to the A-gap and the midline tuck to the three. By running multiple options you force the defense to defend multiple looks. That alone takes time away from the triple / midline preparation. They can't defend it as well if they can't pigeon hole you.
  11. Allows you to run out the clock without making reads. Double options are a much safer way to run out the clock late in the game. Loaded options become, basically, quarterback sweeps. One person handles the ball. (Check out Navy videos this year. You get a big dose of zone dive, double option at game's end.)

This are eleven solid reasons to run the double option in your offense. Don't get me wrong, we are a triple option team. Sometimes though I think that is misunderstood. Because your offense comes off the triple, it means exactly that - it COMES OFF the triple. The specific examples do that matter as long as they answer the need. There are many double options that fit all these situations.

Happy Thanksgiving to all. Enjoy

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Scores per possession the most important stat when you control the clock

As I watched Navy totally dominate Memphis last weekend I was brought back to an "Old" clinic I went to years ago where a coach outlined a plan for winning, irregardless of style. It was definitely a win for old school football.

Many announcers and coaches disparage the stat of time of possession with all the fast tech football that runs 100 plays per game. However, if you combine it with points per possession it becomes

In the Clinic, a long time ago, the college coach elaborated on the seven most important aspects of winning a game. We've all heard these before but Navy brought them to a new level. Navy did them all. In addition, many are considered "old school" and not necessary for victory.

1. No foolish penalties -Navy had none that would fit into this category. In a world today that emphasizes athlete over team, Navy emphasizes discipline over freedom. Although there is a lot of decision making in the offense, the flexbone system requires that every one is disciplined and stay with the system. It also requires that you stay on rhythm, down and distance wise. You can win with inferior personnel on offense is you stay on rhythm. The lack of penalties allow this to happen. Except for one pitch, the pass, and the "Fullback on the "down" play. you cannot consider Navy's offense explosive. However, how many third's and short did we see.

2. Win the turnover battle - Yes, we hear that often today. However, the meaning of that has changed over the year. In today's world, turnovers are tolerable as long as you have less then the other team and have more explosive plays. (I actually heard a major college coach say "turnovers in today's high octane offenses are inevitable. You have to learn to, not accept them but tolerate them." Hogwash! When this statement was originally made NO turnovers were the only thing acceptable. When you have zero turnovers you always win (or at worst tie) the turnover battle. It was obvious Navy was the most secure with the ball leading to two costly Memphis turnovers in the second half.

3. Don't give up more then 5 plays over 20 yards - While I think this stat has slightly changed do to the new "open" style of play and use of great athletes on the field (the acceptable number may be slightly higher today), I truly believe it is very important. What's more telling is how Navy did this. ALL ZONE DEFENSE and keeping the ball in front. Sure there were numerous catches underneath - tons of them, but they were limited gains by the fact zone defense allows you to have eyes on and break to the ball. Many defensive "guru's" today say you can't play zone consistently versus today's offense. However, this is the way I learned to play and coach. It doesn't count till it's in the end zone!!! Again you can play with lesser athletes if you keep the ball in front and inside and then have great pursuit and great tackling. (by the way I thought Navy's tackling was as good as I've seen this year.

4. Be able to run the football - The stats speak for this but the way they did it is even more of the reason they won. Their efficiency! It just wore down the defense; physically AND mentally. People today can't run the ball with any hardness. Because of that they have a hard time installing any hardness in their defense and have a hard time stopping the run. Like Bobby Sutton once said to me when he was at Army "These defensive tackles today are use to pass rushing for 30-40 snaps. They are not use to people coming out and pounding it in the face for 70 to 90 snaps. It just gets to them mentally and physically."

I once visited a college getting prepared for the flexbone. As they were coming off the field I heard their star defensive end say "Man, I didn't sign up for this! I just want to rush the passer." You think he was mentally into it.

5. Limit the opponents rushing game - I really don't remember Memphis being consistently able to run the ball. Why? My take had to do with the zone defense Navy played behind. They were able to play 5 1/2 men in the box with a fudge player. (He'd have to leave the box in man free.) That allows you to have 6 man run gap fits. That's how you stop the inside run. The addition of the run support brought by zone limited the the outside run and took away many of today's run pass conflicts.

6. Play great goalline offense and defense - Every time Navy got to the red zone they got TDS. While Memphis moved the ball, they had to settle for some field goals or got stopped

7. Control time of possession - That was obvious but what did that accomplish. Less possessions. In the first quarter there were only three possessions! There were only 6 real ones in the first half. (3 each) Think about that. Even if you never score and the opponents score at a 66% rate (above today's average.) you are only down 14-0 at half! Two scores and that's with you NOT SCORING AT ALL! Plus, in the second half,once Memphis fumbles and goes down two scores, they are thinking they have to be perfect. That they'll only have two more possessions. (In today's football yards don't mean anything but efficiency per possession in regard to scoring is the highest stat. Whether it be the Navy - Memphis game with limited possessions or the Oklahoma State - TCU game that TCU amassed 660 yards but scored at a 1.7 pts per possession. And what better way to limit this possessions if you are inferior then to control time of possession.

Therefore, and the point of this article is time of possession as a solo stat is useless. Unless you combine it with a high percentage of scores per possession as Navy did, you are limiting your chances to score also.

8. Win the kicking game. This one is highly subjective as there are so many factors to put into one category. So, I'm gonna call this a

(The final topping on the cake was when Keenan Reynolds checked out of a play that would have given him an all-time record at the end to let another player score. I grew up the BO idea of "the team...the team...and the team!" That has kind of been lost today with all the individual stats, Sabermetrics, and self indulgences. Nice to see it again. Refreshing!)

Take a look at the biggest game of the same week: Alabama vs LSU. The key to that Alabama win
1 Alabama won the turnover battle. Alabama had one (and I'm sure that Saban was upset about that )
2 Alabama had 0 foolish penalties
3 I believe Alabama had no runs or passes against them over 20 yards. (Might have been 1 late) Saban is famous for his match up ZONE coverages
4 Alabama ran the ball
5 Alabama stopped the run. (As good of gap soundness as I've seen in recent years.
6 Alabama controlled the clock - which limited the times Leonard Fourquette had to break a big one. Trust me, if you've seen him run, if he had more touches he would have eventually broke one. He's that good. (Not only did Alabama control the clock but they were highly efferent in their points per drive. LSU was not.)
7. They also won the kicking game here.

So what does this give us. Even in today's high tech, no huddle, fast then faster offenses that throw the ball 40 times and run 100+ plays, you still must run the ball to win. Additionally, controlling the clock is still a valuable stat if, and only if, YOU are highly efficient in points per possession. If you run off 3/4 of the clock and are one for 6 in possessions and scoring, they only have to be 2 out of 6. Remember, when you limit possessions in a game, you are also limiting your possessions and each possession is more valuable to you. If you score 3 tds in 4 possessions, that's 75% A team must be pretty efficient to beat you. But you only have 4 possessions to score those three times. One less limits you to 50%.

Never rely on you getting more possessions then them. Even in an ideal world (omitting onsides) you can only have two more possessions then them and that rarely happens.

I've heard coaches say they ran off 3/4 of the clock and lost 21-3. There are no moral victories. Everything fits together. The more you control the clock, the more your goal line efficiency is important, the more your penalties hurt (off rhythm), the more fumbles hurt, and the more giving up big plays are killers. (If you run off 8 minutes and scored and then they take two plays to score, you have defeated the goal. They have accelerated the number of positions.). Since each possession becomes more valuable, each lost possession becomes more critical.