Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Triple Option Volume 16

Well, the flexbone posts are rolling to a close over at Football is Life.  I plan on adding a post with some cutups and coaching comments later.  For those of you defensive minded dudes, hang in there, I promise offense will take a back seat here shortly!  On to the Triple Option!

The Give
Well Chris Borland has called it quits due to the threat of concussions in his workplace.  Damn, I wonder how many coal miners are quitting their jobs due to black lung?  Not all of us have the luxury of just walking away from something as Borland has, but I have to say this, when there is so much unknown and you stand to make such a substantial amount of money doing something you love, why not stay?  My thought here is that Borland doesn't "love" the game.  Let's be honest to do what those guys do, even for the money, has to have some love for the game.  NFL players, especially linebackers, get the shit kicked out them weekly.  It's not an easy position, with only running back probably taking harder, more consistent hits.  Anyhow, the thing that Borland's decision has done is to fan the ever growing flame the media has started over the concussion issue.  As if little Johnnie's mom wasn't already fearing for her son's life, now she reads these headlines about an NFL linebacker quitting the game due to the threat of concussions.  We all know how rational mothers are right...right.  Not once does the media report on the fact that there are countless instances where former NFL players are living to ripe old ages and having "normal" deaths.  Where is this data?  You're not going to find it, because just like everything else in this country nowadays, the media is hiding it.  For some reason, the media in America, feels the need to attack things, rather than report things.  I have no clue where this came about, but as usual, I call bullshit.

I've seen several posts on message boards questioning Borland's decision, and listen, if he wants to walk away, I'm fine with it.  However, just say you don't love it anymore.  Don't list "concussions" as  the reason you're leaving.  Concussions aren't the reason he's leaving the game, it's the fact that his love for the game does not outweigh the risks associated with playing.  My love for having things, such as a home, a boat, food on the table, and so forth outweighs the fact that I sometimes have to work out in the  middle of vehicular traffic at my job.  I don't always care for it, but I know if I want to get paid, this is what must happen.  For Borland, that love isn't there, so he called it quits.  Again, I'm fine with that, but he should have said, "I no longer love the game enough to play with the associated risks involved".  No need to mention the "c" word.  Now, for those of us who aren't afraid of it, or are trying to keep passing along the skills and techniques of the greatest game known to man, you really have put a chink in our chain there Mr. Borland.

So what are we, as football coaches, to do?  Educate.  Quite simply, do what most of us do for a living anyways.  Preseason meetings with parents need to address this issue.  Don't just bring it up as casual conversation in your meeting either.  Plan to talk about it.  Support yourself with data and then have a plan for dealing with athletes when they get a concussion (if you don't already have this, please come out of the Stone Ages and join the rest of us).  I think parents will respect you for it, as will the players and your administration.  You may still have little Johnny's mom take him out of football, but she could have done that for fear of knee injuries too.  Some parents you just can't reach.  Like they say, "You can't save them all".  Anyhow, don't be afraid to talk about the "c" word, but DO be ready to field questions on concussions.  Like I said, support your answers with data and then have a comprehensive plan for dealing with concussions.  Here is a link to the NFHS concussion course, which is free to take.  Show this link and share this link with your parents.  All you need to know about concussions and concussion protocol is in there.  I know my state of Florida, requires that all coaches take this course, which is free of charge, in order to be certified to coach there.  If your state doesn't require it, take it anyways to avoid negligence in the event you are faced with dealing with an athlete with a concussion.

In summation, don't let the Borland decision put fear in you about a drop in numbers on your football team.  Promote your team, and when the concept of concussions arises, talk about in knowledgeably and with facts supported by data and you shouldn't have any problems.

The Keep
Politics has always been in coaching.  Fortunately for me, I've been shaded from them for most of my career.  Here lately though, it seems that nobody is exempt from having to deal with politics in the coaching arena.  I was on a coaching site the other day and noticed where there were over 90 coaching changes that had happened in the state of Florida since the end of the 2014 season.  Last season, there was over 100 coaching moves made in the offseason.  With this much movement, one has to wonder, what the hell is going on in the sunshine state?  I'm not sure how this compares to other places, but damn it sure seems high?  On our schedule from 2013 to 2014 there were 4 out of 10 teams, we faced in the regular season, that saw a coaching change.  This year, that number is also 4.  40 percent seems a bit high to me, but maybe I'm being naive.  Upon digging further, many coaches were let go, fired, not retained, whatever you want to call it.  I find this somewhat humorous that the landscape of coaching high school football has now taken on the look of college football, where after 3 seasons if Coach Joe ain't winning we fire his ass.  Let's look at some differences in high school and college football that make this thought process by administrators a complete farce.
I smell bullshit...

  1. College coaches can recruit the athletes of their choice: In high school you have to "run what you brung" and in some cases (as is mine), this ain't much.  How can you judge a guy on wins/losses when you are asking him to make chicken salad out of chicken shit.  When your offensive guard is 5'9" tall and 175 pounds and you are blocking a 3 technique that's 6'3" 280 pounds, um...what do I do with that?!  Even the great Bill Parcells said: "They want you to cook the dinner, they should at least let you shop for the groceries".  This is true, however in high school football you can't "shop".  Many administrators need a "reality check" in this department.
  2. Budget.  Geesh, this is an obvious difference.  College football programs have HUGE budgets and can provide lavish amenities to their players, whereas some high schools are doing good just to have uniforms!  Even within the high school ranks the disparities are evident.  A private school, generally has better athletic facilities than public schools.  This makes said private school more attractive than the public school.  In Florida, cities along the coast, generally have more money circulating through them due to higher population, AND higher population of retired people (who have saved well in their lives, hell, they moved to Florida, that ain't cheap) who are willing to donate to the local high school.  Inland, the rural schools struggle just to have new uniforms every 5 to 6 seasons.  Add in school of choice areas and you have a recipe for disaster.  When a coach can promise little Johnny new gloves and cleats every year, that's kind of hard to compete with 5 year old helmets and shoulder pads that were in style when Walter Payton was in college.
  3. Staff Size.  Another "geesh" one here too (thanks Captain Obvious).  Collegiate coaching staffs can number well over 20 members at an average institution.  This may not even include such positions as director of player personnel and strength and conditioning coordinator.  I've coached with as many as 8 and as few as 4 coaches on a Friday night.  The more staff members you have, the easier it is to coach positions, because some coaches can be assigned to do remedial work on players who are struggling to get a particular skill.  I can't really run Chip Kelly's Oregon offense tempo in practice with 4 coaches.  That shit just doesn't cut it.  This also goes for support staff too.  Hell, I'd be willing to bet there's double digit managerial staff at many universities.  I played for a small NAIA school and we had 4.  We are lucky to get 2 where I'm at now, and usually they are one of our player's girlfriends.  Rarely are they worth a damn, so most of this work falls back on the coaches.  This includes filling water bottles, filling coolers, making sure medical supplies are on hand, setting up the field for practice etc.  I wonder if Nick Saban ever worries about if his coolers are going to have ice in them at the start of practice?  I think not.  Hard to ask Coach Joe to fill water coolers, make sure field is set up AND coach defensive backs JUST like Saban does.
These are just some "off the cuff" differences, there are more, but what the real issue is that why are high school coaches being judged based on the college coaching model?  The prime example is here in Florida where football coaches make a very minimal stipend.  The usual take is 10% of a starting teacher's salary.  That's probably about $3500...a year.  I did the math one time for my stipend, as an assistant, and it worked out to less than a penny an hour!  Sure, we do it not for the money, but then why are we judged just like those that are earning millions of dollars to win?  Not sure why, but I have some ideas.

For starters, most admins, don't want to be troubled with athletics.  With state testing and all the myriad of problems associated with "big brother" dipping his hand into the local education system, the last thing Mr. Principal wants to hear about is how bad the football team is.  To some admins, athletics is a "necessary evil", that trifles them, and gets their panties in a bunch when they have to talk about it.  Most of these types never played sports, so they don't understand their true value when it comes to developing young people into productive citizens in our society.  Try to avoid administrators such as these, they rarely can be convinced on the importance of athletics.

Many admins care very little about this

Next, is politics.  Although principals aren't elected officials, in some school districts they work for elected officials.  When little Johnny's mom is pissed he isn't playing much, or that her son has only won 3 games in his high school career, she doesn't do see you, she doesn't go see the A.D. either.  If your lucky she sees the principal, however more times than not, she goes an bitches to her elected official.  School board members have a wonderful way of "squeezing" principals, much like a mob boss would, to do things that the principal might otherwise not do.  Too many phone calls about your 3-7 season, and you're out, plain and simple.  Even if you are trying to do it the "right way", and the deck is simply stacked against you, you may find yourself looking in the "help wanted" ads.  Doesn't make sense to me, and is a poor system for evaluating job performance.  I work in the private sector, owning my own business, and I damn near vomit every time I see this model used for performance evaluation.  Quite simply, the way things are done in the education system would fly like a lead brick in the business world, but that's because of how the political side of the education system is set up.  If you are fortunate enough to work in a system where the officials are appointed instead of elected you aren't exempt from the politics, but they do generally effect you in a lesser way.

Lastly, is unrealistic expectations.  A few years back I was trying to help a parent understand that we just didn't have the Jimmie's and Joe's to hang with some of the opponent's in our district.  I even had rosters and film up in front of us, and a former coach along with me talking to this individual about how only 2 kids on our roster would even see playing time on our opponent's roster if they were to transfer.  AFTER an hour, this guy looked both of us in the eye and said we needed to do a better job of "creating playmakers".  That's ESPN talk bro.  At the high school level you can make kids better, but this whole idea of developing "playmakers" is a farce.  A kid either has it or doesn't.  Jerry Rice wasn't made by his coaches, he made himself.  Sure, his coaches helped along the way, and I'm sure Jerry wouldn't have been quite the player he was without the aid of his coaches, but he was pretty damn good all by himself!  Little Johnny, at 5'6" and 130 pound running all of 5.0 40 yard dash, probably isn't going to be Jerry Rice, no matter if he was coached by me, or Bear Bryant.  Again, you can't make chicken salad out of chicken crap.

You want me to coach who...and do what???

The Pitch
The Keep section has led me up to this, I think the politics in coaching have eroded at my love for the game.  I feel much like Chris Borland in that I'm now weighing the thought of "Do I want to continue to do this?".  Sure Borland's was health related, but 10 years ago if you asked me if I was going to coach next season, I'd have cut you off with a "HELL YES!".  Not so much anymore though.  My plans are to give it one more year and then evaluate things on a year to year basis.  I have not done all I want to do in football, that is for sure, but I have approached a glass ceiling I'm afraid, mired in the facts that the situation in high school football doesn't appear to be getting any better, I don't appear to be getting any younger, and I can be this less appreciated at home for a hell of a lot less effort.  I never thought I'd write those lines, but after the past few months, I'm beginning to see the bedrock eroding below my foundation.  I'd take a year off, but I'm afraid of getting left behind.  Coaching seems to be moving so fast these days that I'm afraid I couldn't keep up if I wasn't right in the thick of it.  I also am not a half-ass person.  I'm going to go balls out or not at all, I only think that's fair to the kids, since we ask them to do the same.  That's hard to do when the profession of coaching is being bombarded daily by politics both national and local.  

This ain't no sob story either, it's just an actual account of how I feel.  For those of you that feel the need to "boo hoo" on this post, you can stick it where the good Lord split you.  I write to cope, it helps me lay out the issues and put my thoughts out there on paper.  I share them with you, because that's what I do, I write and write about football.  If you don't like it, don't read it.  If you do like it, then good, use it.

Pretty much...

As for me, we'll see, I'm going to give it at least this season, then I'll see where to go from there.  If I'm not "all in" though, I may go ahead and take some time off, or simply retire.  Every dog has his day, so we'll see where this goes from here.  As for the blogs, I'll probably keep writing.  It's good for me and I enjoy it, so I'll keep at it.

Later dudes...


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Triple Option Volume 15

Well, my clinic season is finished, and so I figured time to blog about my experience, and what I think is an ever-growing poor trend among clinics.  Hopefully the boys over at Nike and Glazier will take notice.

The Give
First off, I've been going to clinics, on a regular basis, for over a decade.  I"m going to be honest, they are getting worse.  The content is stale, and it's the same crap just spun another way at each session.  It's the same rhetoric at each one of these things and to be quite honest, I may be done with clinics for awhile.  At least the generic ones put on by Nike and Glazier.  I think I'd rather just schedule visits with college or high school staffs.  I think it would be time better spent.

My issue is this, it's 500 dudes all in windbreakers talking the same shit.  Have you ever stepped back and noticed this?  Maybe I'm being cynical, but damn, it's like 10 years ago they hit record on a Nike clinic and then have just kept replaying it year after year.  Lord Jesus, get some new material, displays, something.  The topics are pretty stale too, especially defensively.  This is what almost epitomizes the state of defensive football right now.  You can go to the offensive clinics and probably get some good stuff (hell I even sat in on a few to see what those boys were thinking when attacking a defense).  I mean, there's stuff out there on belly read, zone read, no-huddle, power read, fling-t, power run game out of pro sets, and the dreaded double wing.  What did the defense have?  Quarters coverage, quarters coverage from the 4-3, from the 4-2, from the 3-4, adaptations in quarters coverage to defend the spread offense, fronts, stunts from the 3-4, 4-3, 4-2, coverages from the yadda, yadda, yadda.  Shit man, I can sit home in my pajamas and research every single thing you just wasted your money on driving to a location, staying in a shitty hotel, and wading through 400 douchebags to sit in on!  Holy fuck, I actually wasted my money for this shit!

When did guys looking like this become football coaches?!

Now I digress.  I used to go to these things and come away with some solid foundations of things I wanted to do and wanted to change.  Maybe I was just a young, hungry coach.  I now only come out of these things with one or two items that I would like to add to what we do.  Most of it is now drills and things that are done in practice, which is good, but it's an awful lot of money to spend, when you can easily get the stuff from the Internet.  I had a coaching buddy of mine Tweet me yesterday "clinics are dead".  The dude, as usual was spot on.  I'm done with them.  I'm going to clinic with staffs now, schedule visits etc.  I may still go to one "generic" clinic just to network, but after that, I'm not wasting my money, and neither should you.

The Keep
I actually heard a guy speak on transitioning from the 4-2 back to the 4-3.  I heard guys talking about why the 3-4 was better than the 4-3 and vice-versa.  I cannot believe, as we sit here in 2015, that dudes are really spitting this game.  Are you serious?!  If one defense was better than the other, then why in the hell isn't everyone running it?  We all saw it with the TCU craze back around 2009 or so, when everyone jumped ship and had to run Gary Patterson's vaunted TCU defense.  Shit, who am I kidding, I got on that bandwagon too.  Now don't get me wrong, I love that defense, but since that period, I've grown to learning this one important thing.  Defense isn't a front, it isn't numbers, it's a philosophical means of stopping offensive football.  You can choose to be one front, or label yourself as a "4-3 guy", but at the end of the day, the good ones do whatever it takes to stop the offense.  That may mean running a 3-4, 4-3 and 4-2 all out of 4-3 personnel.  Who knows.  Just look at any college or pro defense right now and there are times they have anywhere from 2 to 5 down lineman at any given snap.  DC's have found ways to be multiple without being overly complicated.

Clinics suck...

I'll actually give Will Muschamp some props here (yeah, yeah, don't fall out of your chair) as he's a guy that regularly would go between a 3-4 and a 4-3 with a hybrid player called the "Buck".  Charlie Strong goes between 4-3 and 3-3 quite regularly.  The reason, it creates confusion for the offense.  Fronts are, to the defense, what formations are to the offense.  The only inherent problem with this is that some fronts require players to play a different technique than they would in, say their base defense.  Keeping this technique change to a minimum is what makes the good DC's great.

Going back to the first point I made about the head coach that spoke on his defense going from a 4-3 to the 4-2 I was actually shocked at the way they played their 4-2.  All 3 safeties were expected to know all 3 positions (Strong Safety, Weak Safety and Free Safety).  I cannot believe that a Division II coach, would actually be that thick-headed.  Are you serious.  The guru of all gurus, Gary Patterson, doesn't even do that.  In recent months it has come to my attention that many coaches are doing this.  I hate to again, sound cynical, but that ain't right guys.  The SS is taught nothing but how to play in the low position.  The WS and the FS can be cross-trained (as they are in many defenses), but you cannot ask the SS to be a deep post player like this guy was.  Then he went on to bash the 4-2, saying it was complicated because of having to train all three safeties like this.  He said it left them with little time to cover fundamentals.  This guy is a Division II head frigging coach?!  Sign me up!  I could not believe my ears when I heard this rubbish.  Now don't get me wrong, I do think there's a tiny bit of merit when it comes to the fact that the 4-3 is less complicated than the 4-2, but I think it's minute to be honest.  Anyhow, I thought I'd just share that with you guys, just to remind you that because a guy is a "college guy" doesn't mean he knows Jack Dick about football.  Watch who you listen to would be the point of this post.

The Pitch
One thing I cannot stand is when a guy gets up there and starts talking about his scheme, and then starts talking about his 6'3" 290 lb noseguard that's going to Boston College, or his 6'2" 190 lb corner that just signed with Miami.  For Christ sake, if I had those guys, I probably wouldn't be at your clinic to begin with.  Sure long sticking with that 6'5" 250 lb DE you have isn't a problem.  My 6'1 175 lb Johnny's gonna have a bit of a time doing it though.  That shit gets under my skin worse than anything at clinics.  What I cannot stand is it's like Nike and Glazier go and get the guy with the most accolades.  This guys won 4 state titles in the last 7 years.  Yeah, he's also had over 30 FBS signees come from his high school as well.  HE SHOULD BE WINNING STATE TITLES!!!  News flash!  I want the guy that is a perennial contender, that does more with less.  I want to talk to the Paul Johnson's of the world.  The guys that do with less.  Some of the guys I've sat in on that are good with this are:

  • Paul Johnson
  • Ken Niumatalolo
  • Kirk Ferentz
  • Gene Chizik (when he was at Iowa State, don't shoot me here)
  • Any member of the USF staff when Leavitt was there

How many of these guys do you have on your roster?

I've heard all these guys talk, and taken TONS of information away from them because, for the most part, they are in the same boat I'm in.  I don't get 4 star and 5 star athletes.  We've only EVER had 1 FBS player in the 57 year existence of the high school I currently coach at...yes, you heard me ONE.  So I don't need to hear about how your noseguard can hit the center so hard his girlfriend dies and then run cover #2 on a seam route down the field (ok, ok, I'm embellishing, but you get my drift).  These guys, although they don't always get the cream of the crop, they are competitive and they find ways to win.  That's all I'm looking for.  These guys utilize schemes that work for the type of athlete they have.  

The worst is the high school coaches they find.  I mean, yes I tip my hat to a guy who's willing to travel to go speak at one of these things, but let's be honest, most of these guys have some cats that can play.  If they just won the state championship with 7 FBS players, I don't want to hear them talk, as I actually doubt their ability to coach.  I believe it was Dean Smith that said "I'm a much better coach when I have talent".  Yeah, that pretty much sums it up.  I want to talk to the guy that just won the state championship with 7 Division III players.  I'll talk to that guy, especially if he beat teams with FBS and FCS players on it.  That's the dude I want to sit in on.  

For some reason, probably because it's easy, and requires little research, the folks at Nike and Glazier simply go through the state champions from your area and start making phone calls.  The reason, they know the "sheep" (us coaches stupid enough to pay for this shit), will flock there by the hundreds to listen to some guy, with great players, talk about what they did that was so "revolutionary" that it won them a state championship.  No it wasn't the DE going to Notre Dame, or the safety headed to Florida State, or the two OLB's, one going to Texas, the other to Georgia Southern that won them the game.  It was the fact that they played the 4-3 with Quarters Coverage and their way was what got them there.  Bullshit.  The old saying "Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard" is a good one, but is become ever more cliche' in that every one's working hard now, not everyone has talent though.  Most coaches now, understand you can't sit on your laurels and win a championship anymore.  Coaches are working year round now to develop their players, to develop and work their talent.  Never more has the game been JUST about talent than it is today.  So please don't preach to me about how in your Quarters scheme you just "lock up" your corners cause "Das what we do".  

As for Nike and Glazier, I think I'm done with you until you can prove to me that your willing to do a little homework, instead of perusing the state championship winners and making phone calls.  When you start giving me the Navy's, Virginia Tech's, and Boise State's of the high school world, I'll come back.  Until then, I'll keep my money, and start traveling to these places, in search of what we all want in the off season, the edge to get better.

The Two Point Conversion
Now I know this has been a negative post, but I'm really, really disappointed in the clinics I went to this year, especially Glazier.  The speakers were unprepared, the technology was for shit, and quite frankly most of the speakers acted like they didn't want to be there.  You got to do better than that if you're going to offer what you're offering.  Don't get me wrong, they have a great deal where you pay once and can go to several clinics, but damn, man, get some quality speakers.

Not this guy...

I did take a few things away from the clinics.  I got a little better feel for press quarters, and the fact that I don't think we have the guys at corner to do it.  I got some decent tackling and turnover circuit drills, as well as some special teams stuff.  In all though, I could have just spent a Saturday browsing the Internet, and found everything I found, for a lot less money.