26. My Middle School Head Coach just turned in his resignation. His reason was that he could not coach in a system that he did not believe in. The real problem is that he was told that I was going to be fired this season and he was assured he was going to get the job. He even went to the point of trying to assemble a staff while I still had the job. He doesn't know that I know this, and I feel it is better that I keep it under my hat. At any rate there are more positives than negatives to come out of this. First, if he was being disruptive then it is for the better. Second, the Junior High staff was here before me and now, with them all gone, I get to assemble my whole staff, by my choosing, not by having to keep people that were already here. I didn't know that high school coaching jobs were that desirable, but they must be when you hear some of the stunts people will try in order to get one. You've just learned an important lesson about assistants - loyalty is to be prized above every other qualification. Staff disloyalty has got to rank right up near the top of reasons why good men get fired. An incompetent assistant might cost you your job, but a disloyal one almost certainly will. You can always work on making a coach more competent, but you will never make a disloyal coach loyal.
He's the one that the AD feels he can sidle over to, unbeknowst to you, and ask, "What do the kids think about Coach ________?" The one who tells the president of the Booster Club, "It's not my call, but - personally, I'd have kicked the extra point." The one who tells the quarterback's dad, "I'd like to see us open it up and throw the ball a little more." The one who stands in the background whispering to a couple of the other assistants while you're trying to coach. The one who can't wait to tell his buddies down at the local pub about the way you got on the kids today. Sometimes, even, the one who's out to get your job.
In view of what you've discovered, I would agree with you that the resignation of your junior high coach is a very positive thing for your program. If he is good enough to go after your job, why didn't he go after it two years ago, when you did? I know what he's done the past two years - if he wasn't qualified then, how can he be now?
You walked into a tough spot - one lone outsider going into a town with lots of local yokels already solidly entrenched in the program. And based on what you've heard, it would have been a lot tougher if you hadn't turned it around this year. One bit of advice a good coaching friend of mine once gave me was this: when you arrive in a new town, clean every single townie - every local, non-teaching coach, paid or volunteer - out of your program. Their first loyalty isn't to you - they figure they'll be there long after you're gone. So the whole time they're on your staff, they're just going to be a pipeline to the outside. Clean house, he told me. You'll catch some heat for doing it, but isn't it wiser to undergo a painful treatment than die of the disease? "Beware of the guy on your staff who has less to lose than you do if things go bad."
You're wise to keep this under your hat, but based on what you've told me in the past, it sure sounds as if your AD is involved in this treachery, and you might consider firing a warning shot across his bow. Let him find out indirectly - let the word get back to him - that you are wise to what has gone on, and you are not unarmed yourself. You might consider talking with your supporters on the school board and certain influential parents and community members - do you get along with the superintendent? - and "asking their advice" (that's the key phrase). Let them know what you heard, and ask what they suggest you do. They will be flattered that you asked their advice - everybody is - and, because they know better than you how things are done in their community, they will have a better idea of how to handle this situation. Maybe you'll be able to sit back and let the medicine do its job. "Don't make enemies; but if you do, don't treat them gently."
Then go out and hire some guys - loyal guys - who owe their jobs to you, and train them in the way you want things done!
27. What can I do during the off-season to keep my kids and their parents informed about what's going on, and keep them thinking about football? This can be a real problem if you teach at a big school and rarely see some of your kids, or if you coach at a school but don't teach there, or if you coach a youth team and just plain never see your kids between seasons. I know of at least two coaches who are doing things worth considering. Mike Glodowski, successful head coach at Richmond Heights, Ohio High School, teaches math, and so he doesn't have the sort of situation where he sees all his kids in weight training classes every day. So Mike publishes a monthly newsletter for his players and their parents - and the Richmond Heights faculty! - covering anything that might pertain to the football program. The faculty, Mike tells me, takes special interest in his reports of players' academic accomplishments. It takes a lot of effort, but from the feedback he gets, Mike is sure that it's worth it. Jack Reed, noted publisher of books on youth football - and also of a recent book called Football Clock Management - has found a great way to use the Web in maintaining communications. Jack is fortunate in having his own web site to begin with, and on it he has constructed a "blind" page, known only to his team and their parents, on which he posts all sorts of useful information throughout the year. Jack says that it has been a tremendous asset to him in dealing with parents. You might consider looking into a web site of your own, just for your team. Naturally, if you were to go as far as Jack does and actually include game - and player - evaluations, you would need to guard the confidentiality of your page. Jack let me peek at his, but only after swearing me to secrecy.
28. What is the single most important thing in coaching offense? I think it's being able to visualize how the finished product - the correctly-run play - should look. Not all coaches can do this. I don't know much about music, but I do know that good conductors can look at a sheet of music they've never heard before, and know how they want the piece to sound. I think that's a great advantage of having tapes to look at and show your players. Right behind that, running a close second, comes making certain that your players know that you know what the correctly-run play should look like; that you believe they're capable of running it that way; and that you're not going to accept less than that from them. I think the third most important thing is being able to diagnose, sometimes with only your intuition to go on - based on your knowledge of the play, the defense, and your personnel - why a particular play wasn't run correctly. And then I think the fourth most important thing is being willing and able to use your knowledge and teaching skills to correct the problem immediately, and not let it slide. And fifth- patience. Pray for it. RIGHT NOW!
29. Dear coach, A coaching friend of mine said the most important thing to do in order to win Friday night is develop and know your game plan. As I reflect on my past season I'm not sure if I did that every week. Do you have any suggestions or step by step procedures you would recommend in order to prepare for an opponent. Also, I'm looking for a good football book to read. If you only had time to read one by next season what would it be? Thanks for your advice
We actually begin working on our game plan from the very first day of practice. By that I mean working to eliminate the ways that good teams beat themselves. I won't elaborate on how we do that, but I think that the Atlanta Falcons did an excellent job of demonstrating the results of that approach in their win over Minnesota: no offensive penalties, no offensive turnovers. To the need for eliminating turnovers and penalties, I would add refraining from making the stupid call - The Play That Has No Chance.
Strategically, we want to make sure that every one of our basic core of plays is ready to go, from multiple sets, against anything we might see. And, to the extent that we have passers and receivers (believe it or not, in America in the 1990's, we have trouble finding those kids), we want to have a couple of pass plays to go "over the top."
We won't put a "gadget" play (or any other play for that matter) in the game plan unless it has had numerous successful reps during the previous week - two weeks, preferably. Before attempting anything heroic, we first want to make sure we have maximized its chances for success, because "rolling the dice" on a play we're not confident in has just as much potential to put us in a hole as a careless turnover or a foolish penalty.
We start out thinking in terms of running the off-tackle (88 power or super power) play, and what opponents might do to try to stop that. Here is a really important point: we have to be able to trouble-shoot a play -to determine why it failed. Was it something the defense did do? Or was it something we didn't do? The better we get at trouble-shooting a play, the more likely we are to find that the fault lies with us and our failure to execute the play correctly. That being the case, we want to make the corrections, and not desert a play that is still "live" otherwise.
If that is not the case, then depending on what the defense is doing, we may block the play differently, or hit them with a trap, a counter, a "G" play, or a play-action pass. Or a wedge. Or another set.
If I could recommend only one book to another football coach, it would be an oldie-but-goodie: Football Principles and Play, by David M. Nelson - Ronald Press, NYC, 1962. Dave Nelson is considered the inventor of the wing-T (he coached at Delaware for years) but apart from that, Coach Nelson was a student of the game, a football historian and an NCAA rules guru . A keeper of the faith, you might say. The book is out of print and hard to find, but it is a jewel.
You will also find some great stuff in the Coach of the Year Clinic Football Manual put out every year, summarizing some of the many presentations made at various clinic sites.
Check the "Coaching Resources" page. There are numerous good books mentioned there. Unfortunately, they're mostly old and out of print. Nowadays, lots of coaches "write" memoirs "as told to" some sports writer, but you'll find very few scholarly books being written by the big guys anymore - which is unfortunate. But writing - actually writing - a technical book is time-consuming, especially in relation to its potential payoff, and those guys evidently have better uses for their time.
30. I am thinking about opening up our splits to, say, a foot. What is your thinking? I think you would wind up running something more on the order of the Delaware Wing-T (nothing wrong with that), but there's got to be a point - somewhere - where your splits begin costing you the advantages of the tight double wing. We may occasionally vary our splits when we want to facilitate an inside release, or isolate a man we are going to be kicking out - or as a decoy, when it doesn't make any difference, but ordinarily, we average 6 inches per man or less. A foot, as you suggest, isn't that much more than what we are doing, but it is 12 inches more than Don Markham advocates.
Some ways I can see that increasing your splits to a "huge" one foot might adversely affect your tight double wing are (1) you will either have a less effective wedge, or you will have to tighten up - telegraphing your intentions - every time you run a wedge; (2) your inside gaps will be a little more vulnerable to penetration; (3) you will invite more blitzes, and when blitzes come, they may become more of a problem; (4) your backside tackles will have farther to go to get the job done on power plays; (5) your center and backside end will have to cover a couple more feet of territory between them - almost the width of another body - in trying to prevent backside run-through whenever the guard and tackle pull; (6) if you are running any kind of sprint sweep, it will take the back a little longer to get to the corner; (7) your pass protection will be more susceptible to twists and stunts; (8) you will find yourself back to policing splits again (my experience has been that high school linemen have a tendency to keep tightening down); and, (9) it is conceivable - admittedly unlikely - that wider splits across the line could push your tight ends outside the free blocking zone, taking away their ability to "shoe-shine" on the backside of power plays. Watch your opponents and referees get out their tape measures.
Since we are not hitting fast like a split-T or veer attack anyhow, I question what advantages there would be to us in opening the splits on a constant basis; but it pays to be open-minded because there is always somebody out there doing something that the rest of us said couldn't be done.
31. What are the advantages of running from Spread and Slot formations? For me, Spread and Slot are useful adjuncts to our basic Tight set. They are both useful in long-yardage situations - those occasions where you are most likely to pass and not care about hiding it (even though you're probably going to go ahead and run anyhow.) And if you're hopelessly behind late in the game - it happens to everybody - it at least looks to the people in the stands as if you're doing something special. Maybe you really are.
Spread is the base formation of Tiger Ellison's Run and Shoot , which was really hot when I moved to the Northwest in 1975. (That was mainly because of the spectacular success out here of Mouse Davis, who always insisted on calling it the Double Slot when he was at Portland State.) I ran Run and Shoot until 1982, and even after switching to the Delaware Wing-T, I still retained the Spread formation. Mostly it was for desperation situations. I also used it to isolate a good receiver - or to hide a lesser player. I have used it to do both. (The latter use would, I think, would be of special interest to youth coaches who have to get everybody into the game.)
Strategically, Spread can help your running game, because it can create a situation where the defense covers your two wide-outs with three men: they are sure to cover your spread ends with two defensive backs, and, because of the danger of the post route (assuming you can throw it), they are also apt to deepen their safety to the point where he is no longer a factor in run support. They may even loosen up their outside linebackers to help with the slant (assuming you can throw it). In any event, it is now your 9-man running offense going up against their 8-man run defense. Our biggest obstacle here has been an inability to throw and catch well enough to justify spending time on this approach. (Notice that I have been assuming a 3-deep secondary and an 8-man front; if by some good fortune they take your passing threat seriously and play you with a four deep, you are now 9-against-7 with your running game. Go to it.)
Slot formation seems to have been developed to its utmost by Coach Gordie Gillespie at College of St. Francis, in Joliet, Illinois. In 1992, when Gordie was in Portland for a clinic, I had him over to my house for dinner, and afterward, we watched each other's tapes and were amazed at the similarites in what we were doing. I am proud to say that I have used some of Gordie Gillespie's ideas. I'm told that there are still high schools in the Chicago area running his offense successfully.
It appears that Slot formation has allowed us to get by occasionally with smaller tight ends. On power plays, if the defense is lined up just right, you sometimes get what amounts to a triple-team at the corner. It is vicious. Another advantage is that it enables you to run more of the offense without motion, which means you can go on first sound - a real problem for defenses who think they can key on, and react to, your motion. Another advantage is that it is more difficult for defenses to hold up your ends on pass plays. It is quite possible, as I discuss in my newest video, "Dynamics IV," that the sprint sweep is especially effective from slot formation. Slot is a part of our future plans as we investigate "Bunch" pass pattern possibilities.
A significant disadvantage to Slot is that , although you can run the entire package from Slot formation, 6-g or 7-g is nowhere near as good. That's because in Slot formation, you're now asking your little wingback to block a defensive lineman all by himself. Another disadvantage is that your ends could wind up outside the free blocking zone (four yards wide of the point of the snap) which means they won't be able to shoe-shine (clip) on the backside of the power play.
Slot formation and the "nasty split" it creates does present real predicaments for a defense, but I haven't run it all that much lately. Maybe that's just because of my laziness, but there is also the time factor: it does increase the number of variables that you'll run into in blocking at the corner, and that means using practice time that's already been blocked out for other things.
These areas are still wide open to research and development by coaches who dare to experiment. The difficulty with that, of course, is that you have to be in a situation which allows you to experiment. I have been very fortunate in having been in a number of such situations.
32. We are not going to be very good up front this year. Should we consider the double wing? You're handicapped in any offense if your linemen aren't very good. Nevertheless, if you're aware of what linemen do in a wing-t attack, you know that there is very little straight-ahead, base blocking required. Our double wing is based on wing-t blocking principles, which means we do a lot of double-teaming, blocking down, trapping, kicking out, leading through, walling off, cut ting off --- all techniques which give our lineman a certain mechanical advantage - leverage - against a bigger man. (Especially when you combine the advantageous blocking angles we give them with the way the deception in the backfield sets defenders up.)
And the blocking techniques required are all things that you can help a kid get better at. I don't know about you, but if I've got a kid who is unable to drive block a guy over him who is just plain better than he is, I'm not able to help him much. I do think that if you know what you're teaching, you can show a kid what the problem is, and, more importantly, show him a way to fix it.
We put a lot of stress on correct line techniques. We get into some pretty fine detail. Kids can relate to the need for this. Even if it's only through the movies, most of them have some awareness of the martial arts, and so they can be sold on the idea that if they learn and work on the basic skills and are disciplined in their application, they can beat a bigger, stronger guy.
On top of all that, we run a heck of a wedge. It can get three or four of your guys on one defender. It's a thing of beauty.
33. Did the thought of moving your fullback up tight and delaying on the trap play make you a little bit squeamish at first? No sqeamishness whatsoever on my part - I had already seen it work against me. But I can't speak for the fullbacks. That's because the major trick is convincing the B-backs that it is more like a draw play, and that they've got to be patient; you've probably noticed that the "Installing the System" video deals with that issue - where I stand behind the B-Back and hold onto his belt until it's time for him to go. I always joke about it with him first, figuring maybe I can make him feel so squeamish about what this old guy's doing behind him that he'll do whatever it takes to get me out of there.
34. What are the keys to making a highlights video? Whether you're talking about shooting for a highlights video, for instructional purposes, or just at-home "shoot and show," it helps to think of the term "GIGO." It's an acronym we used at IBM, back in the Stone Age of computers, and it stands for "Garbage In - Garbage Out" - in other words, the quality of your finished product won't be any better than the quality of what went into it. (You may be familiar with an old coaching truism that means basically the same thing. Something about making chicken salad. )
In video production terms, it means that unless you start out with good quality, well-shot video, no amount of special equipment or skillful editing will save your finished product - your highlights tape. GIGO.
Let's assume you're planning on a post-season highlights video. Your first job has got to be to concentrate your efforts on making sure you start out with good game footage. That means two essential ingredients: a good camera and a good videographer. (If you were to ask me which is more important, I'd be inclined to say the person behind the camera. I've seen an awful lot of bad game videos, and it's rarely the fault of the camera.) If you're like me and you've got both, you're blessed. If not, you're at least fortunate that it's the off-season, and you've still got time to check out cameras, and find and train somebody. I'll talk a little more about both as we go along. See VIDEO PRODUCTION PAGE
(The term "footage," by the way, has no relevance whatsoever to videotape, even though we all use it anyhow; it's a holdover from the days when we used real film, which was sold - and processed - by the foot. Ever notice how many of us old geezers still say we "look at film" when in fact most of us haven't threaded a Kodak Analyst in over 15 years?)
35. What do you look for in a center? This is the spot for the big kid who may not be all that athletic but he's smart and he's responsible. Big helps, because otherwise a big nose man who can drive your guy into the backfield can cause you problems with your pulling backside guys. Our backup center last year was 355 pounds, and had some difficulty running, but nobody was going to move him. Strength helps, but it is secondary. Athletic ability is always helpful, of course, but since he doesn't operate in a large area, he doesn't have to be all that mobile. Dependability is crucial. Everything starts with a good snap at the right time. If he is your deep snapper, that's good, too, because that opens up direct-snap possibilities. (By the way, I cover my criteria for every position in my playbook.)
36. Hi Coach: I Have your tape and playbook. They are excellent. I have one question. In your blocking rules. What does shoeshine mean? Thanks for your help - I am afraid I'm guilty of a cardinal sin of coaching - assuming that a term which I understand and use makes sense to someone else, and I appreciate the chance to explain. The term "shoeshine" is a bit of coaching shorthand that I use to tell the backside ends on power plays and certain of our counters to cut off chasing backside defensive linemen. We want them to "throw low," throwing their backside arm across the far knee of anyone over our tackle- as if they had a cloth in that hand and they're rubbing it across the top of the guy's shoes. It's just a descriptive term, and it makes perfect sense to me, but I often wonder how much sense it makes to kids who grow up wearing sneaks and have probably never seen a pair of shoes being shined. But it does streamline things when a kid says "what do I do?" and all I have to say is "shoeshine."
37. Is a nose considered to be a nose when he is in either of the "A" gaps? This is kind of academic because we don't tell the center specifically to block a"nose man". On a typical play, his assignment might be to block ON or AWAY - AFTER THE SNAP! (This is crucial! We want our kids to realize that things can change after the snap. We always check assignments by asking "who will you probably block on this play?" And we discuss with them the things that could happen to change that picture. The fact that our linemen need to "read" is another reason why we have them back off the ball, and why they are somewhat back in their stances with their eyes up.)
To illustrate, let's suppose a play is going to the RIGHT and there is a man lined up "ON" (on the nose). The center knows that he will probably wind up blocking that guy. His ON rule means he will block that man - if he charges straight ahead. If that man should slant LEFT (away from playside), he will still be taken care of by the center, who will now be applying his AWAY rule. If, however, that man slants RIGHT (to playside), he is no longer either ON or AWAY. Neither one of the center's conditions applies. As far as the center is concerned, he is off the screen - there will be somebody else for the center to block. What that "nose man" has now done is attack the playside guard or the playside guard's inside gap, both of which are normally the responsibility of the playside guard. If that guard happens to be pulling playside on a "G" block, the slanting "nose" would normally be the responsibility of the playside tackle or even a pulling backside guard.
If no one lines up on the center in the first place, that's fairly easy. No one on? Block AWAY. But who? Chances are, it's a man lined up on the backside guard. But not so fast - what if an inside linebacker blitzes? If he gets to the center first, he becomes the man on or away. Maybe the man on the playside guard slants into the center. That makes him a man "ON."
So we don't really lock onto a specific man, wherever he goes or whatever he does. The key thing to get across to your kids is the idea that things are probably going to be as they appear. But don't count on it.
38. One of the biggest problems we have in our area is the kids being talked into specializing in one sport. Baseball has started a fall league, but basketball is the worst with their summer leagues, church leagues, and you name it leagues. These all run into football season. The basketball coaches put pressure on the kids to play in these leagues. The kids feel if they don't the coach will not start them when basketball season comes. I'm putting a monthly news letter together for our team and need some input. If you get a chance could you please let me know where to find quotes, articles, statistics, anything that would help convince the kids to play more than one sport? (A youth coach) Coach, we could spend a lot of time on this subject . We football coaches are at an enormous disadvantage, because ours is essentially the only sport that a kid can't play in the off-season. Football players work at getting better, but they can't play their sport. In fact, what football players need to do in the off-season is totally different from what they will do on the field, and is often sheer drudgery. Not only that, but it requires them to think beyond today. Contrast that with what other sports offer in the off-season - games, trips to weekend tournaments out of town, trophies, etc., etc., and football is at a real disadvantage. Throw in unscrupulous coaches who know full well that a kid is going nowhere, but drop subtle hints to the kid and his parents that he could win a scholarship or sign a pro contract - if he works at it year-round. Add parents who invest time travelling to "elite" tournaments, spend money on camps and equipment, and enjoy bragging about their son, and you've got a tough nut to crack. Try these quotes that I had on my old site: From Mark McGwire :"I wish I saw more kids playing everything. But today's kids are so serious with one sport. They play year-round and get burnt-out." or this from Ricky Henderson: "I've learned life from football. Game time? I worked on that in practice. I learned that in high school. "The Fourth Quarter," we called it. When we were dead-tired and could barely move, that's when we would go practice the Fourth Quarter, That's one of those things you learn and never lose." PS- walking around town yesterday , I saw a couple of adults and a bunch of kids out on a field - hitting baseballs! I mean, this is Washington! We don't exactly grow grapefruits up here in February as it is, and it was raining besides.
39. If you were trying to make a football player out of someone who had never played the game before, what is the very first thing you would teach him? I once found myself on the other side of the world, the only American in town, and in the position you describe, having to teach the game - from scratch - to 30 adults. They were good athletes who had played other sports, but few of them had ever even seen a game of football, much less played in one. Dispensing with all the jokes about making sure they put on their girdles with the tail pads in the back, my starting point was the hit position - the break-down position, if you will. Everything starts from there - blocking, tackling, block protection, basic movements. To be a football player, a guy has to learn to make plays with head and eyes up, chin and chest out, tail down and back arched, toes and knees straight ahead, "vees in the knees." And he has to be able to get into this position - in a hurry - from any spot he might find himself in. I don't think it's possible to overemphasize this point. It's one of the many things I learned from my seven years overseas that have affected the way I teach the game over here.
40. What do you do when they try to "wrong-shoulder" your B-Back on power plays? Wrong-shouldering - "trapping the trapper" as it's sometimes called - basically requires the defender at the corner to get his "helmet in the hole", when that is the very same thingwe want our B-Back to do. In other words, he is going to jam up the hole by taking our B-Back's inside-out leverage away from him. This entails certain risks for the defense. First of all, the B-Back's inside-out angle is pretty sharp, making it very difficult to wrong-shoulder him in the first place. But if it should happen, it has to occur close to the line of scrimmage - that's the only way that defender will ever get his head across the B-Back's face. In that case, our running back - led by the QB - will bounce it outside. If this persists, though, we would be crazy not to run a sweep, because if a defender is fighting that hard to the inside, he makes himself vulnerable to any kind of block - reach or down - by our playside wingback. (Which is a key to running a successful sweep.)
41. Should you fit your offense to your personnel or vice-versa? The classic argument has always been - do you run something that you don't know or believe in, but your kids are able to run, or something that you do know and believe in but don't have the talent to run effectively? My thinking is you need to find an offensive system that covers both sides of the argument. You simply can't be going out and learning a new system every year. On the other hand, you don't want to be pinned down in a rigid system that this year's crop of kids clearly can't run. Frankly, at risk of being accused of shameless huckstering, I think one of the strongest arguments in favor of our double-wing system is its flexibility - its ability to adjust to the personnel we have on hand. There have been years when we have run mostly double-tight, others when we ran mostly "spread" (two wide-outs), still others when we ran mostly unbalanced. Some years our leading rusher is our A-Back, some years our B-Back, other years our C-Back. In 1996, it was our QB. Whatever it is that you run, listen to what Dr. Ken Keuffel, single-wing expert and legendary coach at New Jersey's Lawrenceville School - and a wiser head than most of us - has to say on the subject: "Adjustment to personnel is really the name of the game in high school."
42. One of the things we haven't done well with the DW is get our motion down properly so it is timed right. Have you ever considered running some plays that require motion, without motion? Like the Super Power? I know it takes some work but what are your thoughts on this? There never seems to be any consistency with different wingbacks and motion timing. You can easily see this on our films. Although I believe we did better with it this year, one of our WB's just got too deep, too soon on Super Powers. As a matter of fact, most of the motion that we use is so quick and fast that we probably could run the super power without any motion. I do know that when I have first installed the offense with youth teams, I've advised them to start running it without motion at first, and gradually add motion. Running much of the offense without motion certainly does deprive many defenses of what they consider to be a valuable key. The only time motion is really critical is when you need to get the wingback into a pattern or into position to make a block. We have successfully run everything but the super power without motion, and your question makes me wonder why not the super power, too.
43. One problem for us with the double wing has been offensive line play. Our offensive line coach insists on teaching the "two hand punch" style of line play, but all my research, including conversations with other double wing coaches, seems to indicate that shoulder blocking is the way to go with this offense. Our O-line coach has been coaching for some time and I think our head coach is somewhat reluctant to ask him to make such a dramatic change in his teaching. If the head coach agrees with you that the change is in the best interests of the team but is reluctant to ask an assistant to make the change, that is truly unfortunate. For him and for the program. But it sounds more as if you have been trying to convince him of the best way to run the system, and you just haven't been persuasive enough. On my first video, and in my "Installing the System" video, I show how we teach the blocking that I believe in. For a while there, I treated the way people taught blocking in our system as something of a coach's option, but as I get around and see and talk to people, I am convinced that "shove" blocking has no place in our system. (1) We are not into getting separation from defenders. Quite the opposite, our aim is to get into defenders, and stay stuck to them while we drive them. (2) I believe that putting pads on pads allows us to deliver a more forceful blow, because it's more like tackling, only without the arms (See point #6). (3) I also believe that with our emphasis on angle bocking and gaining leverage on defenders, our type of blocking is the only way to assure that a player's helmet is on the correct side (which is the essence of leverage). (4) Our kids have not been particularly strong, and I think our style of blocking neutralizes much of the strength advantage a defender may have, because we are using our legs more than we are using our upper body. (5) You might like this, too: now that the rules have practically legalized holding by letting people use their hands, we almost never get a holding call, at least on running plays, because we keep our hands in. (When we do get one, it's usually when we are pass-blocking, and using the hands.) (6) Finally, I subscribe to Woody Hayes' thinking, which I cite from the 1975 "Kellogg's Coach of the Year" Clinic Manual: "You could teach blocking and tackling together because they're almost the same thing. You just get rid of those arms when blocking." That, in fact, is exactly what we do, and the pancake drill shown in "Dynamics of the Double Wing" is a key to our teaching. This could be a tough one, though, because if you've been reading this page, you know how I feel about loyalty. Whatever happens, you mustn't do anything to promote staff dissension or undermine the head coach. It's his ultimate decision what will be taught, and how it will be taught. Incidentally, I happened to see a posting on a web forum where the best thing a defender of push and shove blocking could say about it was that it makes it "easier to hold." Excuse me, but isn't that like saying that filing down cleats to needle points makes it "easier to run on wet grass?" What a wonderful thing to be teaching kids. Let's go get them phony ID's, and while we're at it, the answers to the math final, too. Call me self-righteous, but I'm not gonna cheat ya to beat ya.
44. How many different plays do you want to have in your arsenal when you head into a game? It is a real temptation to put in all sorts of plays for every possible situation. I don't want to close any doors on plays that might be successful for us, but how do I know if they will be useful/successful unless we rep them a lot? I guess I am somewhat of a purist and I don't want to get too far away from the Tight set for very long. When is too much too much? I think that after a game you should get out your ready list list and take a look at the plays you didn't use in the game. Then, subtract from them the plays that you had to have for "insurance" purposes (in case a key guy got hurt, or you fell way behind, etc.), and what you are left with is chicken fat - stuff that you worked on in practice, but didn't use in the game. Stuff that cost you practice time but didn't do a thing to justify the time you spent on it. I rarely add more than one new play for any specific game, and the chances are very good that we will have run it in practice for a couple of weeks until I have enough confidence in it to run it in a game. (I want to know everything I can about a play's downside, and I will never run a play in a game that I haven't seen repped successfully over and over in practice.) Actually, our variations more often than not entail nothing more than changes in formation, rather than new plays. Often, a new look is dictated out of necessity, perhaps because of a personnel emergency. I don't consider use of multiple formations to be overload in the way that introducing entirely new plays is. In terms of what we ask our linemen to do, it is pretty much the same thing, over and over. This past season, for example, we were forced to run a fair amount from the Stack-I, which, while it looks considerably different from our basic double-tight, double-wing, didn't affect our linemen in the slightest.
45. What are some of the keys to running a successful ball-control offense? Precision execution is always important, of course. But the main thing about running a ball-control offense is that you simply can't afford to fall too far behind - it simply takes you too long to score. And the way you fall behind is by not hanging onto the ball. (1) You must not give up the ball prematurely. You are probably not going to lose the ball on an interception or an errant pitch, but you must pay special attention to ball handling and ball carrying. If you're the kind of coach who can watch a fumble on the practice field and chuckle about it as if it's no big deal, you are going to discover that your players don't respect the ball, either; (2) You can't afford a first-and-15. That situation usually results from linemen not being set, two backs moving at the snap, or just plain jumping the gun. You have to be a bear about that; and (3) you have to avoid the call that makes no sense. This is totally your responsibility. You'd be amazed how often otherwise smart coaches will have a nice drive going, and suddenly come up with something that defies explanation - and costs them a down, or worse. My guess would be that if you are getting the job done in those three areas, you probably won't fall far behind very often.
46. Are there any particular problems that this offense presents for officials? Yes. In your pre-game conference, there are two categories of things that you need to alert officials to: (1) Things they shouldn't call, and (2) things they should. In the first category, you need to make certain that officials know that your backside end on power plays is clearly within the free-blocking zone (our tight splits assure that) and therefore his "shoeshine" block is legal; you need to show them that your wingbacks are not assisting the runner, but are actually pushing on their own tackles (then get on those wingbacks to make sure they hustle, because if they don't , they could wind up pushing on your B-Back); advise the officials, especially if they have never seen the wedge before, not to blow the whistle too soon. In the second category, remind them that it is illegal for defensive people to grab your pulling linemen; remind them also that it is just as illegal for a defensive end to throw at your B-Back's knees (which they rarely call) as it is for your B-Back to throw at the defensive end's knees (which they'll call in a heartbeat). We occasionally see that tactic. I can't be sure it's being coached, but I have my suspicions. It is very dangerous, and I would be rather upset if I thought someone was teaching his kids to injure mine. On a lighter note, Coach Eddie Cahoon, in North Carolina said that the first time he ran the offense, the officials kept telling his linemen not to line up so deep. He had to call time out and tell the officials thanks all the same, but, "that's the way I want them to line up."
47. What should you look for if you're having problems with the center-QB exchange? First make sure that the quarterback's hands are far enough under center, and that there is a tight seal between the center's tail and the quarterback's upper hand - "the center sits on the quarterback's hand, and the quarterback tries to lift the center." Then, depending on how you want the ball delivered, make sure that the quarterback's hands are together with fingers spread, and that the center snaps the ball hard enough. From that point, if the ball is not being exchanged properly, most of my problems have resulted from (1) the quarterback bringing his hands apart just as the ball arrives, and (2) the center lifting his tail off the quarterback's upper hand just as he delivers the ball. We solve (1) by making our quarterback hook the thumb of his lower hand over the thumb of the upper hand, and watching carefully to make sure he doesn't unhook them. You have to stay on top of this. We solve (2) by making sure our center "stays in his stance" with knees bent and heels on the ground as he delivers the ball - to check for that, we look to see if his tail is shooting skyward (sometimes accompanied by a ducking of his head) as he snaps. This means he is getting up on his toes and straightening his knees in his delivery - resulting in a loss of the "seal" between his tail and the quarterback's hand.
48. Very informative site, I learned a lot of new ideas. I was wondering, how do you handle stemming by the defensive front? My 0-linemen were very confused by this tactic and it cost us some bad plays. Are there any blocking schemes or plays that I should look into? I would appreciate your help. (Stemming, for those not familiar with the term, is movement by defenders from one defensive look into something different, sometime between the time your team gets set and the time you snap the ball.) There are three ways to deal with this. (1) have blocking rules that deal with such contingencies. If I teach kids properly, they are prepared to adjust and block someone other than the man they thought they'd be blocking - I always ask a player, "who will you probably block?" (As an English grammarian, I know I should have said "whom", but I want him to be aware of all possibilities); (2) we all get into a certain snap-count rhythm occasionally, which helps us avoid penalties, but also allows defenses the luxury of anticipating our snap count, so you do need to have a "gotcha" snap count that comes as they are stemming; that is one reason why I don't like my offensive linemen spending time "flexing" - while they're going through that essentially meaningless little ritual, the defense is jumping all over the place; (3) you need to have the ability to get right up to the line, get set right away, and snap the ball on the first sound, or even on the "goose" of the center. A defensive team that is getting ready to move sideways while you are calling signals is not in a good position to handle a play run directly at them before they've even had a chance to move. For me, that play is called "Tight 2 Wedge - on Go," and defenders had better be dug in - and not ready to jump sideways - if they expect to stop its surge. We run perhaps 1/3 of our plays on the first sound ("Go!"), one of the most popular of which is the wedge. It is a very old football play - no doubt considered "obsolete" in the eyes of certain younger coaches with no understanding of or reverence for the history of our game. I am very proud of the contribution I have made to the preservation and propagation of the wedge, one of football's truly great plays. The wedge is tough enough to stop when you are prepared for it it, and it can be downright nasty when you are not.
49. Another team's defensive ends attacked my kick-out blockers by diving at their knees. My guard was seriously injured by this tactic. I am sure it is being taught because they did it on both ends of the line. I told the kid's parents that they ought to sue. (This actual situation was described at a recent clinic.) I assume the other coach draws the line at giving his kids brass knuckles. But any coach who teaches or condones illegal tactics that (1) expose your kids to unnecessary injury , and/or (2) deprive your kids of a fair contest deserves whatever he gets. He is disgracing our game and our profession. At a time when mamas think that football is too brutal for their little boys, a guy who deliberately teaches or condones illegal, dangerous tactics just to further his own selfish ambitions is hurting all of us. And don't let him hand you the crap that, unbeknownst to him, one of his assistants taught the kids those things. As the head coach, he is ultimately responsible for anything and everything those assistants teach. You owe it to our game to run that guy's sorry butt out of the business. Fast. But don't take it from me. Just in case you think I need to get down off my high horse on this one, take it from the Texas High School Coaches Association, the nation's largest. Texas coaches pride themselves on their professionalism, and on the respect in which they are held in their communities. This professionalism has at its core a Code of Ethics to which they adhere without question. They police themselves, and from what I have been told, they do an exceptional job of it. Here are some rather telling excerpts from the THSCA's Code of Ethics (the underlines are mine): ARTICLE 1- OBLIGATIONS AND RESPONSIBILITIES: "In becoming a member of the THSCA, a coach assumes certain obligations and responsibilities to the game one coaches, to the players, and to one's fellow coaches. It is essential that every member of the profession be constantly aware of these obligations and responsibilities with the purpose in mind that the coaching profession will always remain an honorable calling and that each member is to conduct himself in such a manner as to maintain the dignity and decency of the profession." It gets better. "In teaching the game of one's choice, the coach must realize that there are certain rules designated to protect the players, and provide common standards for determining a winner and loser. Any attempts at deliberate unsportsmanlike conduct have no place in the coaching profession. Any coach guilty of such teaching does not have the right to be called a coach." Period. End of story. Thanks a lot, y'all.
50. Anything else I can do about those ends attacking my fullback (See #49) ? A couple of things will help. Stepping your playside wingback up on the line just before the other wing goes in motion - or lining him up there to begin with - will move the defensive force man a little wider (we call this "Uptight" or "Back-off" and it's shown in "Dynamics IV" and in the 2nd Edition of my playbook). Coach John Irion, of Queensbury, New York has found that 49-C and 58-C, which send the fullback in the opposite direction and surprise the end with a block by the backside guard, proved to be a good way to deal with that tactic,
REGARDING #49 BELOW, I HAVE BEEN ASKED ABOUT THE RULE THAT PROHIBITS DEFENDERS FROM DIVING AT A BLOCKER'S KNEES. IT IS RULE 9, SECTION 3 ("ILLEGAL BLOCKING") AND IT IS QUITE CLEAR AND QUITE SPECIFIC: ARTICLE 1 says: "Blocking by a player either on offense or defense is illegal when it is (d) prohibited contact, such as blocking below the waist, chop blocking, etc." ARTICLE 2 says "A player shall not block an opponent below the waist except (a) in the free-blocking zone when the contact meets the requirements of 2-17 (diving at a blocker's knees does not); (b) to tackle a runner or player pretending to be a runner."