November 15, 2011

Random Motivation: Bruce Lee

It's pretty easy to see why this man was such a tremendous bad-ass. I'm a big Bruce Lee fan. More brilliance:

November 13, 2011

3-4 Defensive Line Play: Having A Plan

This Is Going To Be Brief...
My intention here isn't so much to detail technique or scheme, but to advocate for planning out your philosophy of what you are going to have your defensive line do. People do any number of crazy things with their schemes and I really do believe that whatever works well for you is what you should be doing, but at the end of the day you'd better fall into one of these categories: Slanting defense who also plays shades, shade defense who also slants, or a two gapping defense who also slants. My intention is to explain why these are the primary philosophies you should be employing and what benefit I think these give you.

Slanting With Shades
Slanting is a popular base technique for the defensive line because of two main reasons: 1-It's easy to teach the technique and 2-Slanting will allow you to play a different kind of athlete on the defensive line than you might normally do. You can put a third string full back on the defensive line and slant him and give him a chance to not only play, but to succeed. Slanting is also something that you can take a kid who's slow to coaching and let him rep it and figure it out to a greater degree than he might be able to in comparison to shade or two gapping (although I think two gapping does have a certain simplicity to it).
Pairing slanting with shade technique is important for the same reasons that a junkball pitcher needs to throw his fastball, lousy though it may be. If you're constantly slanting and moving on the defensive line, the offensive linemen will get used to the idea soon enough and will start expecting the man in front of them to be slanting left or right. When you change that to coming off the ball and playing a shade, it's like a fastball that coming unexpected when all you've been looking at are change ups and curve balls. That 89 mph fastball isn't much, but it's much more effective when the batter isn't looking for it. This lets you make a sub-par player better by giving him the advantage the offense normally has: HE knows where he's going.

Shade With Slants
I like playing shade techniques, I think if you're going to base in a reading front, you should be playing shades most've the time. Playing a shade is a great thing because your kids only need to control half of a man, which is a winnable battle most of the time. The specific technique used is up to individual coaches, I'm of the Pete Jenkins philosophy of defensive line play that declares the most important thing is the hips and hands, followed by the feet, but to each his own.
Continuing the baseball analogy, if slanting is throwing junk balls, then shade with slants is throwing fastballs with an occasional slider. You're turning the game from a guessing game or battle of smarts into a bit more of a execution based match up, where you can get it done or you can't. I'm not saying that shade technique is a boom or bust approach, but I do think that it is more execution based than slanting.
What I like about pairing shades with slanting is that, much like throwing a killer slider takes advantage of your great fastball, by slanting on important downs or unexpected moments you can get a whiff of sorts, where the OL misses his block because it's not happening where it has been the last four or five times.

Two Gapping With Slants
Two gapping is an interesting technique. It is very polarizing amongst the coaching community, most folks will say that you require some kind of Vince Wolfork or Casey Hampton type in order to make it work. I disagree. I think you can get it done with an athlete who can be quick off the ball and play with great leverage, hips and hands. I didn't say much about size or strength there because, from what I've learned of the technique, it's secondary to their get off and their technical ability. Mike Patterson of the Philadelphia Eagles is not a giant of a man, nor is he a weight room savage, however he executes a two gap technique regularly because of his get off and his hands.
Now, as far as pairing two gapping with slants: two gapping is a very aggressive, competitive, downright imposing style. Slanting is the yin to that yang. You go from hitting the offensive linemen in the chest and beating them in the direction they want to go to hauling off and going straight to a gap, which is drastically different in approach, attitude, and responsibility. Switching my analogy to boxing, two gapping is working the body and then slanting to occasionally go for the head. You can soften them up and then choose your moments when you've got them leaning, using that to score big points.

But We Do Something Different!
Good on you! I've never said this is how everyone should be, I'm just advocating my person thoughts. But I think you'd be hard pressed to find better complements within your defensive line play than the three outlined here.

November 7, 2011

My Favorite Safety Blitz

I like to blitz. I like to blitz a lot. When I call blitzes, I like it when they get results. One blitz that I've consistently gotten results with has been a Safety/ILB blitz that I call "Sabre". I like to run Sabre to the wide side of the field and to the closed side of the formation and I'll do it on just about any down. I'll also run it from the short side of the field on passing downs, but at those moments I'm more likely to run something else instead.

Below: Sabre X (ILB to B, Safety to A)

The rules for Sabre are as follows:

DEs—Slant to C gap
NT—Slant to A gap away from blitz side. I.e. Sabre Field = Slant to short side of field
OLBs—Follow usual alignment rules, play SCF.
ILBs—Blitz side LB = A gap, Off side LB = 3rd Receiver Hook
Safeties—Blitz side Safety = B Gap on the move, Off side Safety = Middle 1/3rd
Corners—Deep 1/3rd.

Additional Tag for Sabre:

X—Crosses the ILB and Safety's blitz.

I got locked out of my team's HUDL accout upon being dismissed, but I'll try to go back and post film of this blitz when I can.

November 1, 2011

On Coaching Your Assistants

Very recently I was fired from my position as Defensive Coordinator/DB coach, which has led to me reflecting a great deal on the various things that happened this season that I either didn't like or could have done better. One of the big things was that I needed to coach and manage my assistants much better than I had previously. At my prior gig, just about every one that I was coaching with were people that I had known for a long time and were a great support system for me in a lot of ways. This job was a patchwork group of guys coming together for the first time and it definitely showed at times.

Support Them, Don't Enable Them

Something that I did a great job of was support my assistants and give them a great deal of autonomy within their individual time and their coaching styles. Everyone has to be their own person and has to coach in their given style. One of the reasons why I left my previous position was because the head coach wanted me to coach in a way that I wasn't comfortable with. You have to coach to your personality or you're going to miss on making a genuine relationship with your athletes.

Another thing that you will see repeatedly in management books, classes, etc, is that you need to train or provide the opportunity for advancement within your team/organization. Not everyone needs to be learning to be a DC some day and, frankly, if everyone thinks that they should be wearing your hat, you've got some bigger issues. But you should be preparing someone as if they will replace you or as if they are moving on to another job at some point.

I think this is a healthy practice for a number of reasons. 1-It gives motivated assistants a reason to work hard and to immerse themselves in improvement. 2-It shows that you are a long term thinker. 3-It spreads coaching families, which benefits everyone greatly in a profession that is very transient by nature. 4-It attracts talent in the way that ambitious young coaches will want to be a part of your program if you consistently produce coaches who move on to success.

However, you must avoid a mistake I made this season: I enabled my assistants too much. I was so gun shy about being demanding and harsh with them that I allowed things to happen that I wasn't OK with. I got run down by my last boss like I was a player and I didn't want to do that to those that I was responsible for guiding/directing. I let too many bad habits, bad coaching practices go without addressing it head on. I was passive and not direct with them.

Listen to Them, HEAR Them

I was accused on multiple occasions of ignoring the input of my assistants. In my defense, I wasn't ignoring their input, I simply wasn't acting on it. It is one thing to offer suggestions, tweaks, etc, to what you're doing. I was getting input like "Switch to a slanting 4-4 and tell the LBs just to fill a gap". While this was horrible advice for our situation, the bigger issue is the feeling that input is being ignored.

The best organizations make assistants feel wanted, necessary, and a part of the decision making process. This is true from Disney to Taylor's Hot Dog Stand (Real place, great chili dogs!) and everywhere in between. The people who are not in charge need to feel as though they matter. It may be only a question of degree, but without that feeling of meaning, of purpose, assistants will burn out or lose interest. Help them to feel a part of what is going on.

But Be Yourself…

At the end of the day, you have to be yourself and do what you think is best. I did my best to coach our boys to the best of my ability and in the best way that I know how. I changed a bit too much for my own liking, but I did it all my way. I was, for the most part, true to what I believe in and what I stand for. Because of that fact, I sleep well at night and with a clean conscience.

However, I had assistants doing things that I did not approve of, coaching in a way that I did not care for, and offering input that was not solicited. I needed to be more firm, to be more strict with my expectations, to be more clear with what their roles were in things. My staff was not a good reflection of myself, my philosophies, and my defense. It was a bad situation, but I did not handle it was I should have or needed to. As funny as it is to say, I basically needed to throw around more "Because I F***ing want it that way" and a lot more "STFU and be as assistant" because I was so focused on being a positive leader. Just like with players, it's always a question of can't or won't. If they can't, help them get there. If they won't, find someone who will. I needed more can't, I had too much won't.