Tweet of the Week: Why Coaches Must Not Be Seduced by the Logo on the Helmet

USA Football’s Andy Ryland, a specialist on tackling, explains why a drill highlighted by The Athletic’s Ted Nguyen does not address the issue it’s intended to fix.

Football is a wild and wonderful sport. The wild part applies to the tremendous amount of variables in the sport. This not only applies to what happens on the field but also coaching and practice.

Jon Gruden is a proven NFL coach and one of the big-time faces of football in the public eye. Coaches usually come up through on-the-job training. Depending on their background, learning environment, and surrounding coaching and playing talent, there’s a massive amount to learn:

  • Offensive and defensive systems.
  • Positional techniques and concepts.
  • Teaching methods for technique and system.
  • Managing a practice.
  • Managing a game.
  • Creating plays.
  • Playing calling.
  • Managing players and staff (two really different things).
  • Time management.
  • Working with executives (managing upward).
  • Handling the media (public relations).

Every coach has strengths and weaknesses. Good coaches learn to find assistants who are stronger in areas where they’re weak so they can leverage their own strengths. However, there aren’t accredited football coaching programs across the United States like there are medical or business programs at universities.  If you’re a coach and tempted to espouse the merits of great programs like Glazier Clinics, understand that I’m not criticizing them.

There’s not a real standard coach development and because coaches get most of their education through practical experience, they’re often serving time as position coaches where they know the basics of the position but not enough nuances to maximize the creativity of individual players or develop drills that are best for the lessons they’re trying to teach. And if they possess that knowledge and desire, they may not have the type of leader who is open to experimentation.

This important perspective to consider when you read this excellent thread from USA Football’s Andy Ryland (@USAFootballMT on Twitter) on a drill that the Raiders put its defense through after failing to contain a counter play. Ryland explains that the drill does not give the defense enough realistic information to work through in order to become better prepared to handle the play.

The drill is teaching to the test rather than teaching the practical complexities fo the situation.

I see this every year at the Senior Bowl with pass protection drills for running backs and every year, I read about how well or poorly a running back blocks based on these practices. Yet, these drills don’t require a runner to face anyone bigger than linebackers and safeties and there’s no diagnostic component at all, which can impact how much ground a player must travel to reach his block, what kind of block to deliver, and whether he can make the right call when two defenders are approaching at the same time.

There are numerous drills in football that lack the necessary realism to help a player get better. As far as football has come, there’s still a lot of catch-as-catch-can to the development of coaches and players. Advancing the pedagogical aspects of player development can fall through the cracks — even at the highest levels.

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