Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

“Square Peg In a Round Hole??!!!”

Posted by admin May - 22 - 2018 - Tuesday

I was having a discussion with a young assistant coach the other day. He was being a bit critical of the system that his head coach was installing on defense. He didn’t like this. He didn’t like that. I’m thinking, “I sure am glad that you weren’t on MY staff when I coached. We’d have to have an “attitude adjustment” session if you were going to stay on with me!”

This could easily be a post about the importance of loyalty… but I won’t go there today. It was his next statement that gave me pause and helped me come up with a new topic to discuss here. He continued, “When I’m a head coach, I’m going to match the system with the personnel I have.” This sounds like a good philosophy to have. I’ve heard it before over the years. But, now that I’m on the backside of my coaching career, I can afford to step back and analyze things from a different perspective. I would have to say that if his philosophy is your philosophy, it it a recipe for mediocrity for your program. Why?

When we had things rolling at my high school during my head coaching days, people saw us as a “monster” program. We beat many teams on “Monday!” What? Yep…. our opponent would walk in the locker room on Monday; look and see who they’re playing that week; see that it was us; and… groan… “Oh no! We can’t beat those guys?!” Mentally, they’d already lost the game — on Monday!!!! From things that we saw on game night, I think some coaches felt the same way. Let me explain:

We’d always scout our opponents in detail. I’d get as many game videos as I could. We’d work up a great scouting report and game plan based on what we’d seen. We were ready to go! Then the game would start and our opponent had completely changed (or tried to change) what they’d been doing previously. I knew right then that we had them! This is why the philosophy of “changing to fit our personnel” is so problematic.

What I believe every head coach needs is a system of offense and defense. It needs to provide some flexibility so that, if you have an outstanding passing QB coming up in your program, you can adjust to that player’s talents. But, to wholesale scrap your offense or defense is going to hurt in the long run.

Not only do you have to teach your players a new offense or defense but, more significantly, you have to teach your assistant coaches a brand new package. That’s fine if you have veteran coaches who’ve coached in different systems. But, that is rare. You have young coaches, more than likely, who are still learning. If you keep changing the system every season or two, those young coaches are going to be as confused as your players.

What I’m suggesting is to find an offense and defense that you and your staff can study and grow together over the years. For example, you may decide that the double slot/double SE package is what you like to attack defenses with. This can be a Flexbone offense (run the option!) or it can be a Run ‘n Shoot package or it can be a Spread Air Raid offense. The formation is the base; what you emphasize is your flexibility factor.

On defense, do you run an even or an odd front? I think you need to decide if you’re going to play defense one way or the other… or have a really good staff that can switch from odd to even and still teach it effectively. Are you going to be a 3 deep or a 4 deep secondary? Are your linemen going to be 1 gap players or 2? Again, you need a system and then you can adjust if you have a really talented player or two.

What this does is help you not to “drink the koolaid!” You say, “Everyone’s running the Spread so I guess we need to run the Spread!” Why? If you and your staff don’t know the Spread, look at the pro’s and con’s before you jump into it… or any new concept. It gets back to my philosophy of: Do a FEW things reallllllllllly well. Do you know that Vince Lombardi used to lecture on his Green Bay Sweep for 8 hours???!!! Do you know your “bread ‘n butter” play well enough to be able to talk on it for even 1 hour??!!! Be a “student of the game!”

Leave a Reply