Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Pet peeves with the game #4

One size fits all

I think the growth of the spread offense is great. I love it and have studied it. I am intrigued by the concepts I have seen over the last couple of years. Why wouldn't I be enamored by it, given its roots in the option game. What I can't stand though is the constant labeling of everybody who runs the "spread" a genius and anybody who doesn't as a dope, antiquated and a bad coach. Last I checked there are still 11 people on each side and any sound scheme, no matter how old or "boring" (by announcer's standards)is still sound. There are some great coaches that run the spread but not everyone who does it is a genius (or even average for that matter) There are also great coaches who still get under center and run the I, flexbone, wing-t and other things. Coaching is not about what you run but how you run it! (By the way, last I saw, Alabama was still under center 70% of the time)

(The same thing happened when Bill Walsh ran his West Coast offense. Everybody who then ran the "west coast" was considered a genius and everybody who didn't was considered behind the times. Only after much hiring and firing did people figure out that the genius was in Bill Walsh not in the playbook. And by the way, the term "west coast" came from Bill Parcels and it wasn't used in a complimentary matter! In fact Walsh said he didn't know what're term meant. Can anybody generically define the term "Spread?")

It's not really the coronation of the spread coaches that gets me. After all, everybody has a opinion. That's basically what this column is! It's the three offshoots I see from it.

First, good coaches are getting fired because they are not in the spread. Perhaps the first was Bobby Sutton in the eighties at West Point. Competitive as he was, the athletic director stepped in, declaring that he was going to take Army football "out of the dark ages!" The results were a disaster. When the light went on, Army football went through it's worst downswing ever.

I've seen this mistake done over and over again. High school, college, pro (see "West coast offense" mentioned above.) So coaches, rather then using their minds to win, use them to keep their jobs. They are scared to be different. Not be the flavor of the month.

Secondly, this has influenced hiring. Particularly on the high school level. (You really have NO chance today on the college level if you're different! You won't get to the interview.) I don't know how many times I've heard administrators who never played the game say "we really need somebody to come in to run the spread and get people excited." Winning is exciting and the object of the game last I read. I and fellow experienced coaches, who I consider friends, talk about this often. We can't count the times a school bypassed a veteran coach (us or others) to hire some young whipper-snapper who proclaimed himself the guru of the spread and would get the place into the twenty first century!

As I said there's nothing wrong with the spread if the guy really knows it buts let 's look deeper into the issue. Most schools are open because they are losing. Most administrators admire the spread because they see teams running it properly against them. In most of the interviews the administrators will tell you they are not as good as the other teams. So you want to do the exact same thing as the other team? That's like me making milk chocolate kisses with inferior chocolate and selling it in Hershey! Why would you want to roll out the same product with inferior parts.

(Two years ago Georgia Southern put up over 500 yards rushing against Alabama and its #1 ranked defense. They were in the game to the end.  What do you think the results would have been if Georgia Southern was forced to run Alabama's offensive?)

I will tell you an interesting scenario that fit this bill. I was offered a interview this past year. I did my research into the school and its football program. Apparently, they had moderate success a couple of years ago running the flexbone. Nothing great 6-4 7-3 5-5. This was about 4-5 straight years. The head coach was fired for not being exciting and up to date. They brought a spread guy in. Result 0-10. He was fired and replaced with assistant (I think) of former coach. He ran flexbone again and was 7-3. He was immediately let go and replaced with a new spread guy who went subpar again. The point is not that the other guy ran the flexbone, it's that the other guy had success.

The third reason this has become a pet peeve of mine is probably the most menacing to coaches that don't run the spread. With all the hoopla out there, players (and parents) feel they can't make it if they don't run a spread offense in high school and college. Brett Farve ran the Wishbone! So did Steve Young! Dan Marino was in the wing-t! As was Joe Thiesman! More recently Demetrius Thomas came out of a flexbone college. But announcers keep preaching it. Result is kids transfer. Parents complain to schools. Alumni complain to schools. (see reason number two above) Coaches, to keep their jobs, change to something they don't know as well.

Truth is - if you're good enough; you're good enough. College coaches also get paid to teach you. They get paid a lot more then me. If you have the ability you should be able to be taught and progress. To make this statement is ludicrous. It's like saying if you've run the 100 meters in high school then you can never learn to run the 200 meters in college. (By the way didn't Antonio Gates and Jimmy Graham not even play college football? So it's better not to play then to play in a different offense?)

I have been fortunate to meet many great coaches. So who I consider geniuses I their own right. Truth is, in today's culture some would have never had the chance.

Again, just my opinion. I am sure there are many who will disagree.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Comboing the three tech with the tackle or shade with the guard. Part I: the basics

When we run the triple to a three technique our base way of blocking is to combo off the three with the guard and the tackle. If we run it to a shade we will combo the guard and center. (Fig 1 and fig 2)

There are a couple of points to make here as I explain each block in detail.

  1. We do not make line calls. On the contrary we tell the guard he has the three by himself and the center he has the shade. We want the to attempt to block the player themselves. When you get into line calls, you are basically creating a crutch in the base blockers mind. You are telling him he is going to get help! 
  2. The base blocker is exactly that. He must square up on the defender and get a good base. Although he will get help, he has the defender wherever he goes. So he must get a base.
  3. The player who will bump is running a train track through the gap. He is not blocking a man but moving an area. If you tell him by men on defense he will always block the three or shade even if not needed.
  4. The most important aspect of the block is vertical movement. It is ok to not block the linebacker if you get a push into his lap. (A lil tougher in today's word with a 3-4 lber so deep.
  5. It is the base blockers initial responsibility to stop penetration and the combo blockers responsibility to get vertical movement or allow the base blocker to take over the block.
  6. Both players should keep their shoulders square to the line of scrimmage throughout the block. A big mistake is for the combo player to turn (point his toe at 45 degrees) at the defensive player. Once you turn your body, it will appear as if the defensive player is always in the gap. If you remain square and look through the gap, the defensive player will only appear if he has worked play side. This gives the combo blocker a better chance to adjust his technique to the defensive movement. (we take a lateral step first to stay square.) It also allows him a chance to come off to the backer.
  7. Blockers must understand that the ball is right off their tail. They must secure the first level (defensive linemen) If they never get to the linebacker we still have 4 yards at least. If the back learns to soft shoulder the scrape backer we have more. (When I first learned the triple at Army they didn't even combo. They Doubled the three and did a great job of teaching the fullback to cut. They were very successful doing this)
  8. Linemen, especially the combo blocker must be taught who they are blocking for. In this case it's the fullback. Therefore the combo blocker can stay on longer vs. a running linebacker.
  9. The combo blocker should not come off until he reaches the linebacker level of the linebacker fills hard. Once at the linebacker level he will base the linebacker taking him anywhere he wants to go as the fullback is right behind him and can cut off his block. (only if he stays square is this possible.
  10. The combo blocker should know where the backside linebacker / safety is. If the play side linebacker runs out - he can come off at a wide angle to capture these, keeping numbers on his side.
PART II Will deal with the specific technique including footwork and hand placement
PART III Will deal with coaching the block to get maximum reps fast
PART IV Will deal with common mistakes in the combo block

Monday, June 8, 2015

Top Ten Peeves with the game #5

5. The continual use of the term: "Players Coach" It's not the term itself. It's the perception of the term. Bill Parcel once said that if he was called that he would take it as an insult. He hated it. Yet, all the players said they loved him. He was tough demanding - his players cursed him but loved him. The term has taken on a life of itself insinuating a coach who allows his player a lot of leeway or coach who runs a "loose" ship in order to keep the players happy! (I really don't think that was what it was meant to be but it has morphed into that.) It has also taken on a reverse meaning also for those who believe that if you are not labeled as a "player's coach" you must be some mean SOB who just doesn't care about the players. (Sometimes the one who tells the player his problems man to man, who demands the player grow up to be a man, the one who is the hardest is the one who cares the most.) This is furthest from the truth. Style doesn't mean if you care. Caring and meeting needs mean if you care.

I think when the term first came out it wasn't meant as it is taken now. I first heard the term used with Bo Schembechler based on the fact his players played their ass off for him. I am sure it was used before that, however, I never had heard it. Yet "Bo" was one of the most demanding ornery (at times) hard-ass coaches there ever was. But over the years the term has been skewed.

The problem comes when people classify with such a broad stroke and when media perpetuates an image. I was recently asked in an interview if I was a player's coach? It was a question that was impossible to answer for it depended on the authors meaning. The term in itself has become ambiguous.

The point here is one size doesn't fit all. There are the loosey - goosey types who win, There are demanding types who win. The key is to be yourself. The players will see if you are sincere. They don't care if you are a hard-ass or a softee. They just want to know you care. In an educational setting (High school or college) if he coach succeeds in getting the young man to grow as a person, student, player. If the coach gets his player to reach his goals of championships and college entrance and being a productive member of society - he should be classified as a players coach. For what else can a player ask for!

My real pet peeve with this is because it has become so familiar in society and so present in everyday sports media, many coaches think they should coach to this style. Schools think they need to hire to this style. Without defining what it means thats a dangerous precedent. (If you went around an interview panel they would all define it differently.) Players want you to be you. They want you to be knowledgeable - an expert. They want you to sincerely care not just put on an image of caring. They want you to be able to get them where they want to go. Coaching to a style no matter how demanded by media and administrations is dangerous and usually a losing proposition.

Nothing wrong with a term - just define it then I can decide if I fit in it.

Friday, June 5, 2015

The top ten traits to look for when picking an option quarterback

Here are the top ten things to look for when I pick an option quarterback

10. ARM STRENGTH: Not as important as others but more important then accuracy. Strength and the ability to throw the ball over the top of the defense keeps the defensive structure sound. It keeps the top of the defense as the TOP OF THE DEFENSE. How many times have you seen an incomplete pass fly harmlessly over the head of a receiver only to here the opposing head coach yell at the other player to "get back"  Coaches fear the quick strike and will be sound because of this. This keeps the numbers on your side.

9. QUICK HANDS: Everybody talks about "quick feet" in an option quarterback but quick hands are equally important. (Maybe more so) Quick hands allow a quarterback to get the ball out of a mess. They allow the quarterback to handle the back-to-back and echo reads easier and later in their thought process. They allow the quarterback to hold the pitch just to the right time and keep the pitch key from being a two assignment player. They smooth the mesh. Show me a lot of fumbles and I'll usually show you a slow handed quarterback.

8. QUICK FEET: Great speed is nice but quick feet are more important. The option quarterback is going to find himself working in tight quarters. He will have to change direction on a dime. Speed is great but a long leg loper will usually not make is out of the backfield unless you get a play that is exactly as it's been drawn. This is the reason why most great option quarterbacks are usually shorter. Take foot quickness over speed anyway. There are a lot of option cuts 90 degrees and greater.

7. INTELLIGENCE: While I would like to put this higher - you as a coach can overcome this deficiency by adapting your system and taking on more responsibility. Ideally, I would like the quarterback to handle everything from the line. I would like him to understand football theory and what we are trying to do. This doesn't happen as often as it sounds though. I have continually tweaked and adjusted our play calling communication to handle the wide variance at this level. We gone from leaving him out there alone to sideline cards to sideline calling depending on the quarterback. Once it was so bad that we had the tackle make a call and the slot then make a perimeter blocking call. The only thing the quarterback needed to know was when the two calls met a certain criteria to check "opposite." He was doing this by rote! Was it the ideal way - no! But it goes with my philosophy that it is the coach's job to find a way to win  However, if you can get a intelligent one.

6. A DESIRE TO RUN: We've had a number of quarterbacks with limited running ability and were still successful. We went to the state quarterfinals with a 5.1 40 QB and this year went to the state finals with probably the least athletic quarterback I've ever coached. I can design and tweak the offense to get the balls out of his hands but when the opportunity presents itself he must take advantage of it. Even it's only 5 yards, it's a success. I tell the quarterbacks - if you get me 4 every time we will win. The defense will have to respect you as a runner or we'll score 4 yards at a clip. You have no chance with even an athletic quarterback who doesn't want a part of running.

5. SPATIAL VISION: The ability to see space while focusing on one key is essential to the option quarterback. He cannot be successful without it. It allows him to handle back-to-back and echo stunts. It allows him to leverage pitch. It creates the big play for the quarterback with a second cut. Most of all it prevents fumbles caused by plays that are already in duress as he can see the problem before it occurs.. (I.e. pitching into a pitch man with a support player up and through to him.)

4. GOOD DECISION MAKING: This goes without saying as to the nature of the offense but once again - you can tweak it with a player who has the other characteristics. Run more double option, etc. So it's important and the more you have the better but it's not in the top three. (NOTE: while some quarterbacks have come out and read well immediately, this is a learned skill. Mistakes usually take place in the teaching process. That is why in some other list I've listed this as low as 8th.)

3. LOYALTY: By the very nature of this offense it takes care of itself. It compensates for lack of ability (aka the academies) and takes advantage of an abundance of it (aka Oklahoma's and Georgia Southern's heyday.) But it is different. It is outside the norm. It is not the offense of the week. Because of this there are a lot of naysayers (As I found out recently - even when you're winning!) A quarterback who hasn't bought into the offense will destroy it. Just the slightest hesitation will cause doubt and lose the execution which is the reason for its success in the first place. (I ran into the problem this year with a quarterback who thought we should throw the ball more to fit his skills. We were the worse executing offense I have ever had as the quarterback was indifferent to its necessity.)

2. A WINNER: This is strange and hard to define but when you see it - you know it. It's that swagger that permeates to the team. It's the confidence that radiates. It's the ability to make something out of nothing. It's the unflappable demeanor in hard times. It's not brash and baudacious. It comes across in different forms.You are putting the ball in this person's hands every play. It is the most valuable piece of equipment in the game. If he is not a winner - you will have a hard time winning with the ball in his hands and all the decisions in his control. period. Simple stated I'll paraphrase the judge who defined pornography: "I can't define it but I know it when I see it."

1. SELFLESSNESS: I have lost two playoff games where I thought we would win state titles because of this very trait. By the simple nature of the offense the ball must be distributed as the defense dictates. It is a decision driven offense and by that nature a post-snap offense. The offense if executed takes care of that. Any pre snap or predetermined decisions will kill it. As with the quarterback who won't run, the quarterback who keeps too often destroys your chances of success. Maybe it's a pet peeve because I've lost state titles through this (one last year that was a perpetual problem and the other years ago where the quarterback was insistent that he would break the 1000 yard mark like the fullback.) but this is a team breaker. I always tell them there are games they will gain 100 and games they will have 2 carries - live with it. The object is to win. (think of a point guard who shots every time he crosses halve court. Why is he a point guard? And what has he done to team morale?)

I know there are others but I consider these the most important. One I left out that people probably wonder why is physical toughness. I believe this is overrated. If you teach a quarterback right he should not be exposed to undue hit and punishment. He does not take extra hits. So he only has to be as physically tough as any other player on the team.

Finally, I believe there is a huge separation from the top 3 and the rest. The three intangible ones. If you have those three and you are expert enough to tweak the offense as to the plusses and minuses of the other 7 - I believe you can be a constant winner. However, without those 3 no amount of the other 7 will suffice.

Hope it helps - looking forward to your replies.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

10 Pet Peeves and Rants about the state of the game today

or "Where has the game I love gone!"

Part I

Over the last forty years there have been a lot of changes in the game of football in general and high school football in particular. Many of them are great for the game. Some questionable, depending your viewpoint and fit in the game itself. (i.e. coach, player, fan, parent, etc.)

The following are ten pet peeves of mine that have arisen in the game. Mind you, I'm not approaching this as some old foggy, lost in the single wing and leather helmets. As I said, many changes have been great for the game. These just.....well let's say they chaff a certain part of my anatomy! I'm sure everybody will have their own opinions.

  1. The proliferation of individuality in the greatest team sport known. Don't get me wrong, we had our superstars when I grew up too. We had our idols. Today, though, the individual is bigger then the sport and the team. Just look at the forums - 90% is about individual players. Where a player is going is more important then what his team is accomplishing. On the NFL level I understand this as it is a business. They sell the individual. However, it's all the way down to high school and even little league. (I went to visit a friend's son's game and was asked if I was there to see their best player because everybody came to just watch him.) This individuality extents to celebrations, pre game dances, tirades, uniform adornments, etc.  Pretty soon the teams will be named for their best players instead of their schools. (How about "Tim Tebow's Angels")
  2. Combines, Combines, 7 on 7 camps, camps, skill days, more combines, etc. Enough! None of these have anything to do with the game of football. (7 on 7 can be good to a point but that "season" has taken on a life of itself. In some ways it's grown bigger then the regular season with all the traveling, trophies, etc.) Doesn't anybody see this as what it is? A moneymaking factory by the runners of these camps and combines - including - shame on them - the college programs. They already know who they are recruiting! The rest of the guys are wasting their money and given false dreams. And the independent combines and camps - well - college coaches don't even trust high school coaches' watches - do you think they're going to trust a part-time timer! How many times do they have to see these kids. I keep telling kids - if you're a 4.7 in one camp - you're probably a 4.7 in another but they want to try again and again. (I once had a kid that three schools told they never recruit anybody who doesn't go to their camps. He couldn't afford them so he didn't go. He was pretty good. Got 1A offers - these were 1AA they missed out! Foolish. And what families really have the money to be spent on all these camps because of foolish hopes transmitted by these camps and combines)
  3. The Quantification of the football player to pure numbers: This kid of goes with the above but since when did a half inch make or break a football player. If you can't watch film and tell if a kid can play you shouldn't be coaching. Some kids are just combine freaks! But they are not football players. Yet, they get scholarships over players. The NFL Hall of Fame is full of guys who are too short, too slow, or had some other negative. (Do the names Emerson Walls, Darrell Green, and Nick Bouniconti ring a bell!) Don't get me wrong the clocks and measurements are a nice second source to justify your choice. (Too stories on this: One is that Bill Belichek once said that more players make the NFL from the third round down because that's where you draft purely off of film. The second involves Bear Bryant in his last couple of years when asked about the speed of his recruiting class. His answer was coarse and stated he didn't care as he wasn't recruiting a track team. If you looked at the film, he said, they were fast enough to get to the ball carrier and arrive there in an angry mood!) Any number or statistic can be made to lie! My personal feeling here is that coaches rely on these to justify to alumni and press their failure. I also sincerely believe that this is the reason that there are so many major upsets in college football today - players - not stats fall through the cracks.
  4. This whole concussion issue! Before everybody gets on my case here - understand I believe everything possible should be done to make the game as safe as possible. Everything and continuously! Right till we stop playing this game! Right till the very last play! It's just that I'm tired of hearing it. There is inherent risk in everything. Cops put their lives on the line everyday - should we have no cops. Of course not - that's stupid. Try and make their lives safer. As safe as possible. My two biggest complaints here are the former pros who use the very podium they got from playing this game to say they wouldn't let their sons play it. Newsflash:YOU WOULDN'T HAVE ANYBODY LISTENING IF YOU DIDN'T PLAY IT! The second is Espn running this shows with "experts" on the dangers of playing and if football should be banned and inter-splicing it with commercials for their NFL today show. You can't have it both ways! And not all situations are the same. Somehow the NFL problem of not releasing the study has been blended into the actual concussion problem. They are two distinctly different situations. Address the problem. Make the game safer and safer every day but let's stop with the debate. The problem is there. It will be. Stop scaring the people. They are bright enough to read the facts and make educated choices. (As with most of these issues - somebody's making money behind this. Isn't strange that the helmet companies come out with new improved and MORE expensive helmets EVERY YEAR. Parents demand them! Yet the experts tell us there is no helmet that can prevent concussion due to secondary movement of the brain inside the skull! And those "experts" - read the credits. They are also paid well for their appearance. In most cases an appearance where they are told what side to take to balance the debate.)
  5. Recruiting at the high school level: This is out of control across the country. When I first started coaching (and it was a Catholic School) there was a saying to qualify a head coach "He could take his and beat yours then turn around a takes yours and beat him." Today its all about recruiting. And it's not just the parochial the publics are just as bad. One school in south jersey brags about 10-12 transfers all scholarship kids and then never wins a championship. It's ridiculous! At Spirit I had to recruit and I felt dirty doing it. I kept it selling the school but I ran into others who would make home visits, give jerseys with names on the back, and fawn over an eight grader. We are suppose to be educators. What do you think we've taught a kid when, in 8th grade, he's been told he's the greatest and he's already accomplished everything in life. And then we complain when that same kid puts himself above the team or is a prima donna. Along with this goes athletic transferring. It's totally out of control. Again it's the individual being bigger then the team. I have no respect for coaches who win this way. Get better as a coach. Grow as a coach. Find a way. Recruiting (at the high school level) is not coaching my mind. (Strange from a guy that just left a parochial but while I understand the need in these type of schools to sell the school to families this issue is gotten way out of control. Incidentally it was one of the issues brought up about me at the school - my inability to sell my soul!)

Tomorrow six to ten. Let me know what you think!