The Trent Richardson Play Is Why I Hate Talking About Football In Public

I hate talking about football in public.

There is literally nothing worse.

Every armchair quarterback who won a Super Bowl on Madden loves to talk about the play they would’ve called in any given situation, why the Colts should’ve held onto Peyton Manning for another three years, and why, if they were defensive coordinator, they would blitz everybody all the time.

Matt Brophy likes to call it the Buffalo Wild Wings demographic, also known as the reason Matt Millen is still allowed to call football games. » Read more

Want To Get Better? Start Looking For Shortcuts

I remember when I was to be a whole lot smarter than I am now. I already had a good idea of what the opponent defense had in store for us that Friday night, and (this is how good I was) I didn’t even have to watch more than five minutes of film to be able to do it.

I already knew everything I needed to know having already completed my football education after playing hours and hours of Madden football during my teenage years (and leading the Raiders to seven Super Bowls)

Only, that’s not how it really works, and I wasted a lot of time thinking I already had it all figured it out.

As much as I loved football (and I did, I really, really did), I absolutely hated sitting down for extended periods of time and putting in the effort necessary to really learn about the game.

So the end result was that I didn’t learn nearly as much as I should have, and I knew it. I spent so much time avoiding the necessary work that I put myself at a disadvantage when it came time to reach out for more responsibility. I didn’t have the knowledge or the habits in place that might have allowed me to go even further than I already was.

There’s a great quote from John Wooden that sums up this point nice and succinctly:

“If you don’t have time to do it right the first time, when will you have time to do it over?”

In other words, by looking for new and creative ways to avoid doing your job, you’re just giving yourself an extra job, costing yourself extra time, and at the end of the day those items on your to-do list still won’t get done.

The sooner you memorize and internalize this mindset the better. After all, if you were really interested in minimizing the amount of time spent working on repetitive tasks or any other kind work, you’d find a way to get them done swiftly but properly the first time around.

So if all this is true, then why am I telling you to go against everything we just talked about and look for “shortcuts” or other ways to do less work?

Well, the natural inclination of a lot of people is to be lazy and want to do as little as possible, even when they’ve got a huge to-do list staring them in the face. In the same way a lot of people need to touch that bench with the “Wet Paint” sign on it just to be sure, you might never understand how much time you’re wasting by looking for shortcuts until you make it your business to do just that.

Set aside a specific period of time looking for as many shortcuts as possible, because you’ll soon find out that doing so will cost you a lot more time and energy in the long run than putting in time and doing things right the first time.

One of two things can happen when you take this approach.

Either you’ll discover that you’re a lazy person who enjoys putting off work until the last possible moment (in which case you should do the head coach and everyone else a favor and resign immediately), or you’ll have proven to yourself that being lazy actually costs you more stress, energy, and time in the long run.

Hopefully, the next time the word “shortcut” pops into your head, you’ll associate it with the unpleasant experience of stress, wasted time, and getting nothing done.


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Five Reasons Why an NFL Spring League is a Great Idea

SB Nation ran an intriguing article earlier today about the prospect of having an NFL spring league that would serve as a way to evaluate unproven talent.

They pointed to a radio interview with Jim Fassel, who said there is a possibility that we could see “a very good spring league opening next year in the NFL”

My immediate thoughts on the subject basically come down to: why not?

Every other major sport in this country has some kind of minor league feeder system, and in the case of the NBA, a Summer League that attracts a lot of attention from hardcore fans of the sport, and serves as another event on the league’s calendar to promote and sell to advertisers.

There are obviously a lot of questions that need to be answered and logistical challenges to be overcome before something like this becomes a reality, but if there’s one thing Roger Goodell is good at, it’s finding a way to make money and create extra revenue for the league.

Without getting into too complex of a discussion on all the challenges that stand in the way of something like this, here are all the reasons I think it would be a great idea.

1. Allow veterans to showcase their talents

The league is always looking for new content to sell, and one of the ideas which has been floated recently was a Veteran Combine, similar to the one held every year in Indianapolis. It’s a win-win, with teams getting to evaluate experienced NFL players in a vacuum, and the league being able to sell several hours of fresh, extra content to advertisers.

After all, if people will tune into the combine, they’ll tune into just about anything football-related.

What if that idea was taken to the next level, where veterans and younger players were put on teams and evaluated based on their performance against players of similar talent? Think the Senior Bowl or other all-star games but with multiple games instead of one.

What you gave a receiver a chance to work with a different quarterback or scheme instead of the one he’s been playing with unsuccessfully the past few seasons? What about a similar situation on the defensive side of the ball? Such a league would be a great way to introduce some different variables into the equation, and experiment with what works best for each player.

The only real roadblock would seem to be the league schedule, since in order to create a period of evaluation where players in the spring league would be able to sign with any NFL team, there would have to be enough time for a reasonably-lengthy minor league schedule, say eight games for example, as well as presumably a championship game of some kind.

We’ve seen the league make adjustments to the calendar before, for example when they moved the draft back several weeks this year to a more favorable date, so this doesn’t necessarily seem like a huge hurdle, but there would definitely need to be a few dates moved around.

2. Allow young and undrafted prospects time to be evaluated in a professional setting

One of the toughest parts of evaluating a potential prospect is watching him play in a “college” system, at least that’s what they tell me. Picking up a receiver in the fifth-round draft and placing him in a developmental league where he’d be acclimated to the expectations and the schedule of a professional team would give teams a better idea of how he would respond to such an atmosphere, to say nothing of having to learn a professional playbook and how the game is played on the next level.

A large part of the evaluation process is spent trying to figure out if the player you’re interested in has the psychological fortitude and emotional intelligence to succeed at the professional level, as well as whether or not they would make a positive contribution to the kind of locker room culture you’re trying to create. Having professional coaches, whether they’re affiliated with a particular team or not, working up close and personal with the players would be a huge advantage for teams when it comes to determining whether they’re ready for the big stage on Sundays.

3. Find and develop coaching talent

A lot of this would depend on the team affiliations for the minor league squads, for example whether the Patriots would have a minor league affiliate that they could send players to, just like baseball, but either way, if you’ve got a whole league full of players, they’re going to need coaches, and I just don’t see Bill Belichick roaming the sidelines in March coaching a bunch of second-tier players.

Sure, you’d have the Jim Fassels and Dennis Greens of the football world getting hired in some spots, but a league like this would also create more opportunity for up and coming coaches who would like to break into the professional ranks, or would like experience anywhere. Who knows where the next great coaches will come from, but one thing is certain, the more opportunities you create for such people to succeed, the more talent you’ll find and cultivate.

Which brings me to my next point…

4. Allow for more innovation in the game

This might be the most underrated but consistent part of setting up a second professional football league in this country. It’s an almost ironclad rule that when you open up another major professional league, even if that league dies out, it will still have made an impact on the world of football that will live on for some time.

  • In 1946 the “All American Football Conference” (AAFC) gave previously successful high school and college coach Paul Brown an opportunity to make an impact on the pro level. It goes without saying that a man like Brown was crucial to the development of many of the things we take for granted in today’s NFL.
  • In 1960, another large-scale effort to offer an alternative to the NFL was put together by Lamar Hunt, the son of an oilman who, when he was unable to buy an existing professional team, decided that he’d call a few of his friends and put together a league of his own. The American Football League gave innovators like Sid Gillman, Al Davis, and Hank Stram a platform to work with, and between the three of them, and through the contributions of many more, they helped change the modern game forever.
  • In the 1980’s, the USFL emerged as a spring league at first, before Donald Trump, owner of the New Jersey Generals, pushed for the league to move to a fall schedule to compete directly with the NFL. Besides giving us big names like Herschel Walker and Jim Kelly, the USFL gave teams like the Houston Gamblers a chance to develop their aggressive run-and-shoot passing attack at the professional level. (Noted Run and Shoot advocate June Jones got his first professional coaching job with the Gamblers, and his influence can be felt across the professional and college landscape as well)

Putting aside the schematic innovations that have come about from competing leagues, a minor league would also give the NFL a chance to test out different rule changes and study their effects, such as what to do about the point after touchdown, and how best to incentivize teams to go for two, which is where the league is heading anyway.

5. Break the stranglehold the NCAA has on Young Talent

This one is, I admit, a bit far fetched, but in a perfect world, there would be a real alternative to going to school for four years and being forbidden to make any real money off of your talents as an athlete. At the very least, the threat of losing major talent to a competing professional league would force the NCAA and their member institutions to bring about real reforms when it comes to the rights of college athletes, how they’re compensated, and what their time commitment would be.

The argument from the establishment of college football has always been, if you don’t like it, play football somewhere else. Providing young players with more options can only be a good thing.


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Check Out My Conversation With Chris Brooks of WingT-Coach.com

Chris Brooks runs a great site over at WingT-Coach.com and is very active on Twitter as well.

As you know, I’m a big fan of studying as many schemes as possible, even if you never have any intention of running the scheme with your own team, so it’s great to have an expert talking about the Wing-T on a regular basis.

When I was coaching at the high school level, one of our most dangerous opponents every year ran the Wing-T to near perfection, and it was always a huge challenge to prepare for them, so I’ve seen firsthand what this scheme could do.

(I also subscribe to his newsletter, which you can do here)

Coach Brooks and I had a conversation about my latest book Every Play Revealed Volume II: New England vs Seattle, as well as the process I went through to study both teams and put together the final product.

Read the whole thing here.

Figure It Out

Let me ask you a question:

What do you think holds back more young coaches just entering the business? Is it failure to memorize every detail of the playbook, or is it when the head coach doesn’t feel like he can trust them to get something done on time?

If you’re brand new to coaching and want to find a way to break into the business, guess what? You’re gonna have to figure a lot out on your own.

Want to know how you can help right away, and more importantly, create a position for yourself? Be the guy they call when they need a powerpoint presentation put together at the last minute, or they need 100 copies made of this week’s scouting report, or the projector just went out and they need a new bulb.

I’ve written before about how when you’re starting out, you’ve got to find ways to make yourself useful, and these are some great ways to do it.

A lot of guys don’t believe me when I tell them that one of the most valuable skills you can have these days is to be able to use Microsoft Office well, or whatever program your team uses to draw up schemes for your scouting reports and playbook.

Jon Gruden used to practice drawing circles for hours, so that when it came time to draw up plays on the board, or put together the scouting report, he was the guy the coaches would put in charge of it.

Don’t know how to use a copier? Figure it out.

Don’t know how to change a projector bulb? Figure it out.

Don’t know how to put together an opponent tendency report? Figure it out.

I can’t tell you how many times I saw coaches give other young guys a job, and then watched those same guys go back to the coach 4-5 times to ask more questions about the tiniest, most insignificant details.

Figure. It. Out.

The coach is giving you that job so that he doesn’t have to spend his own time dealing with it. If you make a habit of bothering him about a job he just gave you, you’re not saving him any time at all, and you may as well wear a sign on your back that reads, “I CAN’T BE TRUSTED WITH ANYTHING MORE COMPLICATED THAN THIS.” That’s exactly the kind of thing you don’t want to become known for.

Understand that when you’re starting out, your job is to save time for everyone else. If I can’t trust you with that, how can I trust you to coach a position or call plays?

Put in extra time doing the things others won’t, or at the very least, know how to use Google, YouTube, and other sources of information online to find the answers you need in a hurry, because you’re going to have to get good at a little bit of everything. Believe it or not, that will set you apart from the majority of people in this world.

It’s not about the specific knowledge involved in changing a projector bulb, it’s about developing the ability to think for yourself and realize that once the head coach gives you an assignment, he doesn’t want to hear back from you until it’s finished.

If you become known as the reliable guy, the guy who doesn’t ask 50 million questions and just goes and figures it out for himself, you’ll have a reputation that will serve you well when it’s time to look for references for your next job.

Ultimately it comes down to the same “boring” stuff you hear repeated over and over again. Work hard, put in the time, and do everything you can to be an asset to the organization.


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What’s your favorite trick play?

It’s Monday, which means it’s time for another question of the week.

A lot of people really seemed to like last week’s topic, where I asked coaches what their best play on the call sheet is for 4th and goal from the 1.  For that reason, I decided to ask another X’s and O’s question this week:

What’s your favorite trick play?”

It could be a play you’ve called in a game, one you’ve seen run on TV or in person, or maybe it’s one you’ve got hidden away in the playbook that you just haven’t decided to pull the trigger on (As always, you can choose to remain anonymous when answering this question so you don’t tip off opponents on your schedule and give them extra information).

If you’re already a subscriber, check your inbox and reply to the email to submit your answer.

If you’re not, you can sign up below for free. Just enter your information, confirm your email address, and you’ll be able to enter to win a free copy of any of my books, including my latest Ebook, which breaks down the National Championship Game between Oregon and Ohio State.

I can’t wait to see what you guys come up with!

Check out the Winning Answer to the Question of the Week

I’ve started a new segment here at Life After Football, and it’s something you can get involved with. Each Monday I’ll be sending out an email to subscribers that will be asking them a football-related question and look for their response. The best answer will win a prize, but all the top responses will be sent out the following Friday so that everyone can have a chance to learn something new.

This past Monday, I asked subscribers what some of their favorite drills are, and why. The winning answer came from Coach Ben Osborne.

For submitting the winning answer this week, Ben won a free copy of my latest book, Every Play Revealed: Breaking Down Oregon and Ohio State in College Football’s Biggest Game.

If you want to be eligible to receive the weekly question and win, you can sign up by clicking here.

Ben Osborne

Assistant Head Coach, Offensive Coordinator, Offensive Line Coach

New Richmond HS

New Richmond, OH

@CoachOz79

My favorite drill to do with my offensive linemen is one that focuses on combo-blocks, calling the combo, eyes and hands placement, how to communicate who is coming off, and when it is ok to come off to the next level. We are a heavy zone concept team which translates to a lot of combo blocks. The number one killer of a good combo block is penetration. In order to prevent the potential for play-killing penetration, we have to work combo blocks each and every day.

We work this drill in a few different ways. When I first teach the drill, I do it on air. My main focus is identifying the combo call, who they would be working to and keeping hips tightly together. In order to emphasis the hips together piece, I use a blocking shield. I put the shield between the two players and have them squeeze the shield between their hips. We work low, heads and hands up, and duck walk straight ahead. Really get on them about that inside leg being up and driving off back leg. The focus is staying square and not letting the shield slip. In order to do this it’s like Forrest Gump stuff: “I’m gonna lean up against you, you just lean right back against me. This way, we don’t have to sleep with our heads in the mud.”

The next step is to add in who is coming off to the LB. Again, for this early part, there are no defensive players across for the linemen. They will still have the blocking shield between their hips and make the combo call. A coach will stand about 5 yards in front of them and give the direction to start the drill. After about 3 yards or working together, the coach will point to a direction to come off (I usually yell “Climb.” This will help with the next drill). The direction given is the guy that climbs to the LB. The guy that is still on the down man will swing his hips hard in the direction of the guy that came off. If he does it right, the shield will follow the guy that came off to the LB. The communication piece is up to your discretion. I’ve used a “You/Me” call. I’ve used an “Off” call. My guys will mix and match. Biggest thing is the communication! Never assume your partner sees the same thing you are.

The 3rd part of this drill is to add a wave to the mix. They will still have the blocking shield between their hips and make the combo call. A coach will stand in the same spot as the come off drill, but will point one direction, then the opposite, and then back to the original direction. This simulates the guy that is moving all over the place to get off the combo, but the LB is not filling right away. To finish this drill, I will give them a direction and yell “Climb” like the previous drill. Same expectations for the finish carry over to this drill as all the others.

The 4th part of this drill is when you add a defensive lineman to the mix. Just like other 3, they will still have the blocking shield between their hips and make the combo call. They will work from the locked-in, fit position on the down lineman. The coach will stand at 5 yards and give the command to start the drill. The d-lineman is asked to give some resistance, but not attempt to get off of block. Just like part 2, a “Climb” command will be given, but this time the guy staying on has an actual person to turn. Really stress not to hold, keep hands inside the chest plate, etc.

The 5th part is to add a LB to the mix. They will still have the blocking shield between their hips and make the combo call. This time I will stand behind the offensive linemen so I can give a direction that I want to LB to go after about 3 yards. The coach will give the start command and that is it. I leave it up to the guys working the combo on when they should come off. I will ask them why they came off when they did and if the guy left blocking felt he had a good handle on the down man when his guy came off. I want to hear the communication and see the shield chase.

The 6th and final piece that I work is to have them complete drill #5 without the shield between them. All the same coaching points need to be in place, and after a few times through, you can have the d-lineman attempt to split the combo.


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Come Up With a List of Stupid Questions (And Start Asking Them)

Let me tell you about one of the shortest jobs I ever had.

A while back I was hired to work in a warehouse stacked to the ceiling with boxes, and the company had a very inefficient way of counting inventory and making sure everything was in the right spot. I quickly found out that it wasn’t uncommon for employees to work six days a week to get orders filled, and all because they wasted so much time counting everything by hand. By the third day I was making a habit of asking a stupid question that got on the nerves of my boss.

“Why?”

I was asked not to come back for a fourth day.

Thankfully the coaching business is exactly the opposite. Every offseason coaches spends lots of time and money asking and answering questions on all kinds of topics. Often times however, consciously or unconsciously, we hold back from asking basic, foundational questions about the game out of a fear of looking like an amateur.

Want to be a successful coach? You first have to identify your strengths, but more importantly, your weaknesses.

The quickest way to do that is to ask “stupid” questions. » Read more

What I’m Reading This Week: Stiff-Arming Football Myths

The past week I’ve been going over some of the new football books on my bookshelf, and I wanted to start with this one. Stiff-Arming Football Myths.

If you’re looking for something fun to read and that makes you think about football a little beyond the kind of analysis you hear on the major networks, this is a pretty good read. Emory Hunt and the rest of the guys working on this compilation together do a great job of looking at some of the most common misconceptions about the game.

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Click the picture to buy the book.

 

In case you’re not familiar with his work, Emory is the head of FootballGameplan.com, where he and his group of guys put out a lot of great content, including videos on football schemes and breaking down draft prospects.

The book is available here in paperback and PDF versions, so you can get a copy right away in your inbox.

Without giving too much away, I wanted to go over a few of my favorite things from the book. Below are three of the most interesting football myths in the book

Myth #22 – “Wonderlic Scores Determine Performance”

With as much talk about the Wonderlic test we usually hear this time of year, it’s important to remember that it’s completely hit or miss with this statistic. Every year we hear of some QB prospect scoring high on the test, which is supposed to translate well to the football field. The latest example is Jameis Winston, who is said to have scored just below Peyton Manning on the scale (For some reason people are surprised that a very successful college QB has a good amount of intelligence). The book makes a successful case that the Wonderlic is nothing more than another empty talking point used to fill up time on ESPN in between highlights. » Read more

Two Words That Will Get You Where You Want To Go In Football And Life

With all the talk of what the economy will or won’t do in the next year, it doesn’t seem like the best of times to be working or looking for a job. This is especially true for football coaches and those who aspire to enter the profession.

This is aimed more at the younger and aspiring coaches out there, but anyone can benefit from what we’re going to talk about. It may sound like I’m being pessimistic or negative in this post, but stay with me, I promise there’s a point to all this.

Coaching is an extremely competitive field, and like every other industry out there, it’s filled with good bosses and bad bosses, good coworkers and bad coworkers, good-paying jobs and (more often) poorly-paid jobs. There’s long hours, rampant nepotism, and everyone in the stands thinks they can do your job better than you.

If that’s not bad enough, for every coaching job out there, there are a hundred guys waiting to fill it. So how does a young coach with little to no experience or connections stand a chance, and not only stand a chance, but thrive and advance in a field that’s as competitive as any other?

What if I told you there are just two words you need to know to put yourself ahead of 95% of the job candidates out there? Would you believe me?

Are you ready? Have a pen and paper handy, because the two words I’m going to give you here will absolutely blow your mind. » Read more

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