What Is Best or What Is Best For You

Things To Think About

 As we progress into the off season, now is the time coaching staff's will begin to evaluate their current schemes and decide what changes they need to make for the upcoming season.  Clinic time is one of my favorite times of the year.  It gives you and your staff a chance to listen to a lot of great ideas on schematics, fundamentals, and practice organization.  The greatest part of it all is that you, as a Head Coach or Coordinator, get to decide what you think is best for your program.  You will never get hurt listening to people talk about what they do with their program.  If you gain one simple thought that will help your program then you are better for it.  Even if you listen to things you do not agree with or cannot accomplish at your school, the accumulation of knowledge will never be a bad thing.  You owe it to yourself, your community, and your players to broaden your horizons every off season and talk to as many successful coaches as possible.  The most important thing to remember in my opinion is what is best for your program.

There is absolutely no arguing that the NFL is the premier professional sports league in the United States and it's global presence may be second only to the worldwide game of soccer.  There is only one slight problem with that as a lower level coach, their game and style of play is not as conducive to ours.  As entertaining as the NFL is, it is really not the greatest platform for learning for a lower level coach.  The reason for that is we need to do what is best for us, not necessarily what is best in general.  The neatest thing about lower level football is the wide variety of schematics and systems that you see.  At our level of football everyone is trying to maximize the potential and skill set of their players.  All the while knowing that you really have no control over who those players are.  Its hard to build a west coast offense when you may not have QBS or Receivers or Lineman to do so.  In college and the NFL when coaches come in they get a chance to recruit, draft, and sign players to fit their systems.  At our level we have to fit our system to our players.  That is why you still see Wing T, Flexbone, Air Raid, Pro I, Power I, Spread, 3-3 Stack, 425, and a wide variety of schematics at our level.

I am going to use a few examples of what I think are scenarios that I see that make me think about what is best? Or what is best for us?  The first example will be our punt formation.  The last 2 years we have used the shield or wedge punt look as opposed to the spread NFL look with gunners.  In those 2 years we have only had 1 punt partially blocked that still went 10 yards past the line of scrimmage.  But we have also had 3 punts returned for TDS. The protection side of it is real solid, and it is definitely easier to coach and takes less time to be good at it. But is it safe to say that our coverage is lacking in this look?  Would athletic gunners on the outside give us a better chance to cover?  Would we be risking protection in a scheme that might not fit our personnel to gain coverage?

Spot Drop or Pattern Read?

The next example is spot dropping vs pattern reading.  We have always been a pattern read split field coverage team.  I think it is safe to say that most football pundits agree that pattern reading is the only true way to try and defend all the spacing routes that offenses run today.  Most defensive coaches agree that offenses, offensive coordinators, and QBS are too good to just "cover grass" and spot drop.  But pattern reading takes a lot of time to master and play effectively.  I have always felt like in my 15 years of coaching high school football that kids have a hard time differentiating between coverage concepts.  At the same time I  am also from the school of accepting all blame and thought it was because I was not teaching it to the best of my ability.  But year after year I wonder if we would get better results just dropping to the spots on the field where the majority of passes are thrown and then breaking on the release of the QB, which becomes easier with more eyes focused on the QB and not the routes in your area.  With that being said I always revert back to pattern reading because 90-95% of major college and NFL teams are doing it. But does that make it best for me?

The last example i will look at is the difference in No Huddle approaches.  The first approach is the check with me style that Peyton Manning is so famous for executing.  Now this style of play has been around way longer than Peyton, but it is safe to say that he has mastered it.  With this approach you are on the ball without huddling but you are using a lot of play clock in an attempt to run the best possible play vs. the look the defense presents to you.  Seemingly a good QB and Offensive Coordinator should be able to stay out of a lot of "BAD" play calls.  On the other hand you have the lightning fast no huddle or up tempo approach.  With this theory you are trying to eliminate substitutions and multiple looks from the defense.  Most offenses have gone to "packaged" plays within this theory to try and avoid bad plays. These are plays that give the QB 2-3 or 4 reads based on what the defense gives him since he will not use audibles or change plays.  When Chip Kelly was with Oregon they would have a number of negative plays in a game, but the pace and explosiveness of the offense took its toll on the defense and they could recover from the negative plays.  I have found myself leaning towards the up tempo approach because I felt like it gave players that were not as talented in any given week a better chance at success.

At the end of the day the choices you make for your football program are ultimately yours.  You have complete control over the things you want to do from schemes, to fundamentals, to practice plans, to off season workouts.  Remember the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.  If you do not like the direction of your program or the results then make some changes.  Sit and talk with other successful programs at your level.  Never be afraid to talk to the people that are beating you.  Get as much information on a topic as possible and research it to the best of your ability before determining if it is right for you.  What might be best might not be best for you.


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