Wednesday, February 23, 2011

What I’m Reading….

I’ve been enjoying an immersion of academia into the strata of meta themas

Whilst exposing my spiritual synapses to paradigms of Dostoevsky proportions, this blog may abide bereft tides of vacuity.

Yeah, man……I’m taking a break for a while.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Europeans Can Coach Too

First of all I want to say that I am sincerely honored to have been asked to contribute to this great blog. I hope this article will provide relevant and interesting facts for other curious coaches on this page.

I have been asked to give you some kind of European perspective about football.

The game is now played in almost every western European country (, and you can find football fans everywhere in the world.

We have the same rules, for sure, but the environment is waaaaaay different here. And when I say here, I mean France, as I am a French football coach (

For most of the people outside of the USA, football is like coconut: It looks good, but no one knows how to deal with it.

In other words, football is not part of our culture. Basically that means no fans in the stands, no boosters, and parents very reluctant to let their kids play "american rugby".

In France, a country of 65 million people, we have 25 000 players on about 150 teams, separated in 3 National Levels -- Division 1, Division 2, Division 3 (where I coach at the moment) and also some Regional Championships.

You also have to know that we don't operate in a scholastic environment.

Here it's an amateur team club sport. You can play from 12 years old to whenever your body let you play and there are 4 age groups (U14, U16, U19, +19 years old). Kids usually come to practice from 6pm to 8pm, after school and homework. Nothing is mandatory. Being non-scholastic also means poor facilities. In France there are some fields that have Field Turf with Y goal posts, but most of the teams share fields and locker rooms with soccer or rugby teams. As an example, our game field does not measure the U.S. standard 120 yards long, but is approximately 110 yards... with rugby posts. That means midfield is at the 45-yard-line. We don't even have goal posts on our practice field!

Another main difference is that we cannot practice more than twice per week. Keep in mind that it's an amateur game here. Players on my senior team (+19years old) could be in charge of a family or could be just students. On my 63-man roster I have a running back/baker, wide receiver/salesman, linebacker/law school student, QB/manager, DB/unemployed, DL/bouncer, OL/computer scientist... As a result of that, presence at practice and games is a constant concern.

On the other hand guys who choose to play football and show up at practice twice a week are really passionate.

First, they have to pay to play - each year more than 230USD... They also have to pay for (or rent in some cases) their equipment, about 400USD for a complete package. Want to get better? faster? stronger? It's another 400USD for a year-round gym pass...

Poor facilities, expensive sport, amateur level of play. If you are reading these lines, I bet you are pretty sorry for us right now... There is more: Coaches. We are not getting paid. My Defensive Co-ordinator is a plumber in "real life"; I am a radio journalist.

How in the world do we (European Coaches) manage to do anything good in those conditions?

Jeff Reinebold from SMU was speaking at a Coaching Clinic in Bavaria (Germany) a few weeks ago. He pumped up the gathered coaches by saying -- and I paraphrase:

"You are the best coaches; we are spoiled for choice. You don't have anything and are forced to make do."

Obviously, I don't think we are the best coaches. But the truth is you have to be quite inventive to coach a team or even a position without a lot at your disposal. You probably have not noticed but all the coaching materials (DVDs, books, articles, blogs, forums, clinics, software) are written in English. So if you don't read English, you're done.

I coach a 63-man roster this season and we are only 2 coaches... Fortunately we have players with double-digit years of experience that can run drills and/or take care of a position.

So everything we do, we have to do it with PASSION and LOVE for the game.

One of my former coaches, a Canadian guy with a 25 years experience of coaching high school kids, recently told me that his best coaching experience was when he won the '95 national championship with my team... "Best memories on and off the field" - that's what he told us.

Also, the game seems to get better each year. Players work during the off season (which was not a habit previously), and get bigger, and stronger. This season in France, one of the top teams recruited a former UCLA back-up QB (US or Canadian players/coaches are professional even if they do not make a lot of money. For more info go to That kind of player helps to raise the general level of play across the league.

The numbers are rising too. Football is becoming more and more popular.

We are on our way.... Still a long way to go, though ;)

I told people who make fun of us because we play "American Rugby" that their sons will probably play for me soon.

2 French players have already reached NFL practice squads in recent years and I know there are a lot of Germans on NCAA teams. Not too bad when you consider that the first French league wasn't created until 1986.


Friday, February 11, 2011


In another decade we may look back at the advances (or revolution) in networked media (via Internet) as one of the most relevant accelerant towards coaching since the VHS/DVD video series.

More vibrant than static content websites, more accessible than message boards, the give-and-take of blogging has fast become the way for all voices to be heard.  Though not the premise for his post here, Chris Brown (the patriarch of football blogs) does a good job of articulating the nuances of this interactive media form.

This site started when I ate two slices of bad pizza, went to bed and grew a conscience!
….no wait, I mean just as an extension of 1) Coach Huey Xs & Os message board, 2) Chris Brown’s Smartfootball and 3) Toby’s (eteam) Zone (that I religiously soaked up through the 90s).  Point being, we’re all part of the evolutionary / adaptation process of the game.  I still don’t have a plan, purpose, any sense behind the endeavor and the address used is merely a result of my lack of any imagination – but it is a great way to document cathartic musings, nuggets and frustrations I’ve encountered over the seasons, and expose my idiocy.  Thankfully, some brilliant contributors have helped us out this past year.  The one important axiom in coaching (and life) is you get as much as you give.  Hopefully, you get something out of it.
the ‘itch’ is coming……

Check these can’t miss gems out from some extremely wonderful authors

Monday, February 7, 2011

Exploring Caper’s Nickel

Something that has intrigued me this past year is how more and more teams have been using untraditional personnel groupings (nickel/dime). Now what they do out of these packages isn’t all that mind-blowing. What I do intend to learn from this trend is
  1. how the front integrity remains sound (how the gaps are accounted for) and
  2. how their proliferation relates to teaching methodology (it remains consistent with everything they already do).
Now this post won’t contain any answers – I’m just passing along some things that have piqued my curiosity. Be sure to check out blitzology if you’re interested in getting practical insight now.
I am certainly open to any insight. I am most intrigued by how Dom Capers has been using this (loved his work with the Panthers, plus he was with Saban in Miami) and in particular, the use/technique of the 2 defensive linemen (not ‘Psycho’). I am more intrigued by this because of how the DTs handle the interior gaps as well as the use of standup linebackers on the edge (that puts you in a real 42 because that is how personnel is used, anyway, with no true defensive ends in great supply). TCU has been doing this more and more against 1-back gun offenses because there is little threat of being 'blown off the ball' or out-leveraged when standing up (to the field).

I feel there are certain known factors that provide clues towards what is actually taking place and that would be as follows;

  1. The offensive personnel groupings have no bearing on when these are used. 21 / 11, pro, double-tights……it makes no difference.
  2. I am not quite certain how much ‘field’ and ‘boundary’ has any true relevance concerning the tendency with these groupings. The NFL hashes only give you a little over 9 feet of difference between the area of the field, so I don’t believe there would be a true game plan based on this
  3. Because of the assumption of #2, I would believe that pressure is designated by formation splits and/or back set, as this would be the better indicator of protection.
  4. #3 gives credence to the effectiveness of fire zone/blitz pressure (catch man) coverage, where it can provide ‘unbreakable’ answers, rather than playing double coverage calls (pro/twins).
  5. The modular approach to the fire zone (hot 3, SCIF, deep hole, etc) means you can plug-and-play any defender into a role to come up with a myriad of options to cover 5 receiving threats. It is this approach that I feel will be what most of us (coaches) can use to improve how we teach the game and include more players in the game.
  6. With only 2 defensive linemen in the front and the center never being covered (usually double 3 techniques) , my completely unfounded assumption would be that these guys are playing a heavy (2 gap) technique (which is really becoming prevalent). This also aides in muddying the Mike declaration for 5 and 6 man protection. Though this initial thought may be incorrect or their reads have become incredibly effective in controlling the playside gap. Actually, it is how the 2 DL contribute to controlling the front that has me the most intrigued because it doesn't appear that the 5-7 technique backers are that integral to gap-integrity (as in, they are either controlling the gaps with the pirate stunts associated with fire zone or are looking to spill everything to the SCIF or sideline in man).
Of course, any or all of these assumptions may be incorrect, but if I can find anything we can take away from this I’ll pass it along. It goes without saying that the NFL (game) is primarily about key players that allow you to do things most every other team cannot. Meaning, a good portion of this could be just the by-product of having freaks on your defense.

The constant at the lower levels (particularly high school) is that :
  1. Your best personnel IS your best personnel, meaning your ‘base’ defense is usually your only defense and if you can sub with considerable competent depth on defense, you are in the minority.
  2. Your effectiveness on defense is relative to the quality of opponent you face. If you face offenses that are relatively 1-dimensional and/or do not vary much on down and distance, then situational game planning with personnel groupings like these can be hit or miss.

Additional thoughts....
Semi- related to the Capers nickel exploration, is just an empty adjustment Capers used with Saban at Miami, “Rain”, that follows the same principles. This is a 5-man check-blitz premised out of 0 coverage, but could be used with fire zone 3-deep / 3-under coverage.

The beauty of this is that you’re going to get 5-man protection with no back, so how you declare the mike (extra rusher) is crucial. With the double-3 techs and no real Mike to be found, you give a lose-lose situation to the offensive line with no clear picture to where the pressure will come from.

By presenting a rush of 4, the quarterback would either check to the most dangerous threat or away from the hot. Either way, the defense will be sending two bandits to each B gap, having the blitzer to the side the center does turn his shoulders to (the slide side) pop out and become the “hot 3” player in the hole. This leaves the away side B-gap blitzer a free pass to the quarterback against the man-protection side of the formation (G & T vs edge rusher and DT in A).

Addendum to the Additional Thoughts...
ahem......actually nothing to do with Capers, but following the same meme and how it is used elsewhere. While I really don't have problems 'controlling the front' with the standard 5-man fire zones because it remains sound. I just know that many DCs have been teaching their interior defensive linemen with a variety of techniques over the past 5 years (bridging the gap between 1 gap and 2 gap read) creating more versatile possibilities in what you can pull off in situational defense.

Saturday, February 5, 2011


Searching on youtube this evening on the backside of a North Texas smowmegeddon and I found this guy that has some very good stuff.  Tons of college games from this past season and they are broken down o-d minus all the mumbo jumbo between plays.  It ain't coach cuts, but its good stuff.  Search NFLMocksGameFilm or here is the link

Friday, February 4, 2011

Odds & Ends

Just passing some random thoughts along.....

I've been digging back into the 4D-FTP from Coach Mark Rodriguez again and its growing on me. I don't believe I gave it a fair shake the first time around, likely because I assumed it was something that it wasn't ( a method to replace backpedal or shuffle technique). The video series IS well done and the video quality is exceptional (I would also recommend subscribing to Coach Mark's youtube channel).

The drills of disc two are of important note and I could really see using these as everyday pre-practice routines. Again, the investment in the technique could get 'expensive' (may not see an immediate ROI), but even if you used a T-step or 'run the feet' transition, the 4D drills (Drift, Drop, Dig, Drive) develop fluid hip movement. That is the whole point, as Coach Mark stress again and again in the series, is developing the muscle memory to be an instinctively quicker athlete

DRIFT- The conscious decision / automatic reaction your body’s direction
Positive step in the direction you’re looking to go

DROP- knee drop / body lean in direction to where you want to go, start turning head …..moves shoulders (head turn/ shoulder turn / knee bend….lean forward)

DIG - The shoulder comes on-top of your DIG step to swing your speed
(Drift is a step, Drop is a movement)

DRIVE (from the knee) – The dig propels you, if the drift step holds it just becomes a T-step


Its been difficult to finish my 'project' and forgetting what has been copied, what hasn't, and what discs need to be remastered. To help with this (and anyone else attempting it), is just by generating text list of the ISO images captured so far.

To do this, just navigate to the directory location from a DOS command line and enter "dir>(file name).txt" to create a text listing of all files within this directory. A TXT (notepad) file will be generated in the directory you are in.

From here, just open Excel (or any other spreadsheet application), open the TXT file and create the necessary columns to list the files you've created. Now I can stack my DVDs in piles of "done" and "to do" and give me a clear work load of what is left.