Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

“Be Realllllllly Good at ‘Something!'”

Posted by admin January - 22 - 2021 - Friday

As I was writing my memoirs for my latest book, The Best Is (STILL) Yet To Come, it became apparent to me that a lot of my coaching philosophy came from my high school coach when I played. He, and our assistant coaches, had a tremendous impact on me… personally and professionally. I was honored to have been invited to speak at our Head Coach’s retirement banquet. I closed with this: “My dad was a great man and I loved him a lot.” I then turned and faced my coaches. “But you guys were my heroes!”

One of the things that my high school coach imparted to me was my overall philosophy of Offense and Defense. Our high school Defensive Coordinator taught me that defense is primarily putting the 11 toughest guys on the field and then turning them loose! My teams were always very aggressive on defense. We were not a “bend but don’t break” defense. I wanted a DC who was aggressive and liked to attack offenses. In that sense, we wanted to put pressure on the opposing offense. Oftentimes this led to the opponent’s offense cracking under the pressure.

Offense, though, was where my heart and mind always focused. I enjoyed the game planning and play-calling on Friday night. With the Delaware Wing T offensive system, I felt like I was always one step ahead of the DC during a game. But…. I digress.

I have heard from 5 or 6 coaches in the last 2 weeks. They are all looking for some “answers” on how to develop an effective offensive attack. Too often I find that offensive-minded coaches see themselves as innovators and “creative geniuses.” “The more offense we have, the better!” is something I hear a lot. My counter is: there is NO correlation between how thick your playbook is and how successful your offense is!!! In fact, in my mind, it’s often exactly the opposite. “Be reallllllllllllly good at a few things!” ha always been my mantra.

This leads to a key point that my high school coach shared with me early in my career. He was also a mentor to me once I got a HC job. I remember him saying that “there are only 3 types of offenses: 1- Power Running Game; 2- Option Running Game or 3- Pass-oriented Game. Lew, you can only get good at 2 of them (due to the limited amount of time you have to work on things in high school) and you can only get realllllllllllly good at 1 thing. Choose carefully which one that is going to be. Because the majority of your practice time will have to be devoted to that 1 thing!” I applied that to our offense for years and we were successful on offense throughout my career!

Now…. that doesn’t mean that you don’t (or can’t) change your focus depending on your personnel. In fact, you need to tailor which of the 3 types of offenses you want to focus on based on your personnel. For example, there were only 2 seasons out of 30 that I was a HC that our focus was: Option Run Game. Our QB dictated that we focus on Option. It was never my favorite! For the other 28 seasons, 3 of them were “Pass 1st-Run 2nd!” Our run game was limited, yet effective, because we spent so much time perfecting our pass game. That leaves 25 years that we were “Power Run” oriented. However, as Coach Tubby Raymond says in his book on the Delaware Wing T, “the run game is dependent upon an effective play-action passing game.” We loved to throw the ball. More importantly, we loved to catch the ball! When we threw, there was a good chance that it was going to go for a big gain. Why? Because we threw (play-action) when people expected us to run! During those 25 years, we had 1000 yard passers in 15 of those seasons.

Choose wisely. Look at your personnel (obviously you start with your QB) and decide where you need to focus your energy and your time. Whichever of the 3 “types” of offensive attacks you choose to make your primary attack, don’t forget to spend time on the “other” one too.

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