Thursday, March 31, 2011

Thinking Out Loud…

I’m not coaching (again) this year.   Part by choice – part by schedule (conflict).  When you are away from the frying pan, you are afforded the luxury of a perspective without any critical timeline.  When  you’re not confronted with an instant-response requirement to develop a plan for the next game or (during the spring) the next season’s practice structure anything can seem like a good idea.   During the spring, your team is full of potential and beaming with unchallenged optimism.  You will try new things, looking for any edge you can find to become even better than you were last season to improve your players performance to a higher, more efficient level.

Along that mindset, something that has been on my mind for a few months after stumbling upon an enlightening book,  “The Tell-Tale Brain",  by Dr. V. S. Ramachandran, and his theory of the “mirror box”.  Its an amazing discovery, though simple in concept.

The patient put his phantom limb on the nonreflecting side of the mirror and his normal arm on the reflecting side of the mirror. When the patient then looked at the reflecting side, it appeared as if the phantom limb had returned. (It was, in fact, a reflection of the patient's existing arm.)

The mirror experiment

"If the patient then starts moving his hand, clapping his hand or conducting an orchestra or waving goodbye while looking in the mirror, he's going to see the mirror reflection of the normal hand superposed on the phantom, moving in command with the command sent to the phantom arm," says Ramachandran. "So you're going to get the visual illusion that the phantom limb is obeying the command."

Though patients know intellectually that their phantom limbs have not returned, they are able to successfully trick their brains into thinking that their limbs have returned.

"It not only looks like it's there, it feels like it's there," says Ramachandran. "Patients say, 'When I move my normal hand, the phantom arm looks like it's moving. When I open the normal fist, the phantom hand — whose fist I could not open for months — suddenly feels as if it is opening as a result of the visual feedback, and the painful cramp goes away.' This is a striking example of modulation of pain signals by vision."

Dr. V.S. Ramachandran, called the "Marco Polo of neuroscience" by Richard Dawkins, is the author of several books on the brain, including Phantoms in the Brain: Probing Mysteries of the Human Mind and A Brief Tour of Human Consciousness: From Impostor Poodles to Purple Numbers. He gave the 2003 BBC Reith Lectures and has published more than 180 papers in scientific journals including Nature and Science.


So, I’ve  just been simmering on that concept for the past five months or so, thinking, “Hey, could this be helpful with coaching?”.  It was also during this time that I was fully immersing myself in Coach Mark Rodriguez’s 4D-FTP transition / footwork methods. 

Yeah, sounds good and if it works, you’d look like a genius.  So the question is, it may work for the neurologist quack and his fancy book-learnin’, but is there any practical use in the “real world”?

Well, when you stop and think about it – yes, there is, and its quite common.  Skilled dancers relyon instant reinforcement of mirrors in dance studios all the time.  Without it, performers may feel like they’re doing a great job, but quite possibly contorting themselves into horribly inefficient movements. 

Also, think of the (real) purpose of all those mirrors in the gym.   No, they aren’t for you to practice your pose down for the Arnold Classic, but to reinforce strict form on your concentric/eccentric movements.  So, yeah…..I guess it IS a common practice when training the body to perform an action.

I’ve always appreciated (and stressed the need for) filming practice and drill work to reinforce/review technique with players. While it has been helpful, I find the lack of immediate response rather deflating. Sure, you get to see what went wrong, what is correctable, but it usually requires another practice session hours away (or 24 hours after viewing) for an opportunity to get it right (then go through the same process, if audible cues aren’t successful). The point is – if you can get an immediate stimulus to how you (as an athlete) are performing, you could ‘self-correct’ instantly. The athlete could take cues not just from what a coach is telling him, but he would see and feel the peak body position.

How could it be used? The key to technique is in the minutiae of movement; leverage, body position, feet and hips. I’m thinking foot placement ladder drills for DBs (or the 4D weave drills) or OLine stance/starts. Anything where you’re just concentrating on few movements in a short space. The player obviously would have to be in an environment where you are not pressed for time (so I’m thinking pre-practice), won’t be making contact, and where the eye-level/focus can be sacrificed to reinforce body position (in the mirror).

If I were coaching this spring, I was planning on just using a simple full-length mirror (that you could get cheaply at any department store), place it horizontally along a DB ladder. With the player’s eye level through the mirror, they can see each step as they take it, and ensure they aren’t over striding, and are effectively placing their toes on the ground. You obviously wouldn’t use it in every drill, just when you’re trying to build those fundamental psycho-motor responses that are intuitive in great game performers.


What are the drawbacks?

  1. It is different.
  2. It requires the athlete’s eye’s be diverted to a focal point you may not want to reinforce (if eyes are down for below-the-waist training).
  3. May not see an immediate (if any) benefit (you’re training muscle-memory…it is long-term process).
  4. Out on the field, equipment (mirror) is fragile and could cause a real mess. This is something probably reserved for indoors / at the Field House.

I don’t know – maybe I’m just completely full of it.  Let us know what you think. It could help or it could be just a huge waste of time.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Unity of Apparent Intent

The following is a synopsis of what I consider the finest, free playbook on the internet:


Ted Seay (who, despite our never having met, has influenced me greatly) now has this gem in it’s 4th edition (available here). Schematically, 10/20 personnel Wing-T that combines series based runs with modern horizontal and vertical stretches is my cup of tea. Even if it is not your brand of football, I stand by my sentiment that EVERYONE concerned with offensive football should read this document.

In particular, as feeble an attempt as it may be, I would like to review Mr. Seay’s concept of “unity of apparent intent” (UAI). My intention is certainly not to add to this idea, nor do I trust I can adequately rehash it. My hope is to relay enough information that your interest is peaked and you will do yourself the service of reading about the “side order of football”.


The UAI is all about deception, a key component of the Wild bunch offense (and every other scheme). Starting at page 154 of the linked document, Mr. Seay artfully ties military strategy with football philosophy, creating his theory of attack as it pertains to offensive football. Again, go read the document for this valuable insight, as the scope of Mr. Seay’s theory (The Tao of Deception) is another article in and of itself. For now, I want to focus on what this means from a series based approach.

Creating conflict, in its most simple form, involves attacking a defender’s over reaction to a base play.


The above diagram is a crude drawing of the curl-flat concept, where by the Flat Defender ($) is placed in a no-win situation. He can either cover the out route and allow the Curl to materialize behind and inside of him, or he can sink to the curl and give up the easy throw to the out.

It is a typical 2 on 1 stretch that many offensive passing concepts seek to create, and unless the flat defender receives help from one of his teammates, the only thing stopping the offense from running curl-flat all the way down the field is a lack of offensive execution.

So here is what happens:

The cornerback (C) will only allow 10 yards completions happen right in front of him for so long before he starts playing the curl (instead of his deep 1/3 responsibility). Attacking overreaction (cheating of assignment, over aggression, etc.) is what series based play calling/offensive structure is all about.


Another crude drawing, but the wheel tag is an excellent way to attack a CB who is jumping curl routes. Essentially, we are attacking the primary responsibility of a player who has abandoned it in favor of “plugging the dike” somewhere else.

So, that is a simple example of what we mean generally by “creating conflict”. The UAI, however, is about the details. It’s about making Y’s out and wheel routes stem the exact same way. When two things look the same, but end up attacking a defensive in ways that are not only different, but in fact complimentary, then you have developed the unity of apparent intent to your advantage.

Imagine the CB has a great position coach….one who is determined to make cover 3 work against this little curl-flat with the wheel tag package. He decides to teach his CB to key #2 (Y) in his backpedal. He notices that on Curl flat, Y will vertical stem his route before breaking it hard to the flat. On the Wheel, however, Y will stem straight toward the sidelines and start to veer up field.

So, if Y stems vertical, then the CB has the ability to press the curl…….if Y immediately releases to the flat, then the CB knows he must play the wheel. The pattern of an offensive player’s movement tells the defender where he needs to be.

When it comes to making offensive decisions about “how do we run this route”, etc., this must be in the forefront of the play designer’s mind. Routes need to stem the same way (and runs need to look the same too) in order to keep the defense in a state of confusion/uncertainty. When an offense eliminates cues as to their intention, thereby gaining UAI, the offense functions far more efficiently.

For Mr. Seay, this culminated in how he blocked Fly sweep and the FB compliment off it for his Wild bunch.

Coming from a Wing-T background, Mr. Seay’s original version had pulling OG’s on the sweeps. After much study, he finally decided to switch to zone blocking everything.

The result is a truly UNREADABLE offensive series that starts with Jet Sweep (with OZ blocking). The compliment is the front side IZ run with the FB, which Mr. Seay’s research has shown actually averages more yards per call than the sweep. The OL movement and backfield mechanics look EXACTLY the same on both plays, leaving defenders without a reliable visual key.

We talked about curl-flat and Jet Sweep series, but this concept needs to be built into everything you do, regardless of your offense flavor.

Obviously the ability to execute is paramount, but winning football games against good competition comes down to details. That guy running the Jet needs to move at the same pre-snap speed and purpose whether he is getting the ball or not. We can’t cheat initial movements too much (though a little may be advisable in certain situations), and especially if we do not have a GOOD REASON for it.

Again, great stuff from Mr. Seay.


I appreciate the comments.

Per Mr. Seay's invitation, here is a link to some new WB material:

Enjoy it.......I know I will!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Billick Case Study: Complete season


First off, I learned an important rule for blogging: don’t make promises you can’t keep.

I apologize to those who were sitting on pins and needles for my article……I hope both of you can forgive me…….especially you, Mom.

In all seriousness, I do apologize for the delay, I didn’t keep my word to get this to you in a timely manner, and that is not cool.

With that out of the way, let’s apply this study to a season’s worth of statistics.

Before we begin, MAD props to coach fingerz42, a member of Coach Huey's X's and O's site.


Seriously, if you find this to be of any use, send him a PM and let him know you appreciate his work. He was absolutely awesome, and this article would not be possible without him.

Coach fingerz42 is the first year head coach at "High School X". Suffice to say, they struggled in year one (hence the anonymity). Coach fingerz42 brought a new identity to the program, and the growing pains were evident. The team battled to a 2-8 record, and averaged 9 points a game. The adversity of learning a new scheme was further complicated by the loss of his starting quarterback in week 2.

With all due respect to Coach, the poor performance of his 2010 offensive squad makes this analysis especially exciting. The more an offense's talent outweighs that of the defense, the less important 1st down efficiency becomes. If you can have a holding penalty (1st and 20), a reverse for 1 yard (2nd and 19), a QB scramble for 6 (3rd and 13), and then throw a comeback for 15 yards consistently, then either your team is full of studs, or this must be your opponent:


Don’t laugh, these guys may win the Big East’s automatic qualifier in 2011

Team X's lack of offensive prowess, coupled with staring down a massive talent gap nearly every game, made staying on schedule exponentially vital, and that is something Coach told me he plans on scrutinizing more carefully in 2011 (good for him).

Before we examine Team X's first down statistics, let's see how they did in the other 3 areas Billick considers vital to offensive success:

  1. Turnovers: Team X turned the ball over 26 times in 10 games. Obviously, stemming this tide is priority number one, of which Coach is well aware.

  2. Explosive Plays: Coach didn't keep stats, but when you average under 200 yards a game in total offense, you can figure this is also an area in which Team X needs to improve.

  3. Red Zone Efficiency: 9 scores in 19 trips. Lack of opportunities and low efficiency.

Despite the obvious shortcomings in these categories, the case could be made that they all trace the root of their trouble back to first down efficiency.

Falling behind (on the series and the scoreboard) leads to more passing, and when you are a run first team with a backup quarterback, throwing in predictable situations is a recipe for disaster (picks, punts, and poor field position).

This serves to highlight an importance game planning aspect for run first teams: If you plan on attacking a defense 80% run and 20% pass, merely having that ratio in the final box score doesn't mean you accomplished anything. If your 20% came in predictable situations (3rd and long, 2:00 situations, etc.), then there is exists NO semblance of balance, and conversely, there is no defensive imbalance.

Offensive football is all about stressing the defense as a means to the ultimate end: crossing the goal line. There is nothing wrong with wanting to run the ball 80-90% of the time, as long as you avoid predictability.

First Downs

What really got me excited about Coach's team was his breakdown of conversion percentages for those first down plays that garnered over and under 4 yards, respectively: On first downs where the offense gained 4 yards or more, they went to convert 80% of the time.

On first downs where the offense failed to gain 4 yards or more, that percentage fell to 31%

Think about's a team that to the naked eye can't seem to do anything right (again, all due respect to coach fingerz42, almost all of us have been there), and yet, when they manage to gain 4 or more on first down, they manage to move the chains a whopping 80% of the time!

Now, the rub comes when we examine the frequency of these +4 gainers.

On the season, Team X had 194 first down opportunities. On 129 of these (66%), Team X failed to gain 4 yards.


The big question for Coach this off-season is to figure out how to create more 2nd and <6. In fact, from the conversations we’ve had, I know he is already working on his first down success through 2 important endeavors that all coaches need proficiency in:



Our staff calls it the R&D department……..recruitment and development; THE foundation of any program.

The following conversation was overheard at a clinic between coaches from rival schools (as far as any of you know):

Coach 1: "We just couldn't stop you guys from hitting the speed out. We used our Tango technique, then switched to the Dragon Claw alignment, and even whipped out the Lombardi Kung Fu grip and we STILL couldn't handle it. What are you guys doing to make that that route so effective for you?"

Coach 2: "Our fast kid runs it."


All this effort into analysis and stat tracking will flesh out an extra game or two on your season (which can mean a world of difference), but the real wins come in the off-season.

Practical Applications

So, how can we make this work for us?

While I place a great deal of emphasis on analysis as it relates to decision making, there is no need to go all Beautiful Mind on your football team…


If you know a team runs Power Right out of the Pro-I forty-three percent of the time when on the left hash facing 2nd and 5 in the 3rd quarter when the wind is over 10 mph blowing from the west and the blah, blah, blah……….

Focus on the big things, and the little things will handle themselves.

Our staff (limited in time and man power) has started to focus on the follow areas:

  1. First down tendency

  2. 3rd down tendency

  3. GL tendency

We look at our opponents respective offensive and defensive strategies in these three areas and plan accordingly.

We also find 16 year old kids can remember a couple 1st down tendencies (2 main runs, favorite pass), and a couple situational items (3rd and long…..draw, verticals, etc.).

I wish you happy hunting. I hope this helps, and if you have analysis of your team, please feel free to share.

And again, one last BIG shout out to coach for making this article possible.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Interview Questions

Hey, Coach Hoover here.  Thanks to hshscoachtom from Coach Huey for posting this extremely thorough list of questions that he has accululated over time from Jerry Campbell's and Coach Huey's forums.  This is the time of year to land that big job, so pick out your best coat and tie and study up on these questions.



1. Will Athletes be able to attend extra help after school if needed?

2. What steps will you take to insure the academic eligibility of the athletes?

3. What plans do you have for study halls?

4. How do you monitor your athlete’s academics?

5. Do you believe in having the smarter athletes tutoring the academically challenged athletes?

6. Do you agree with the MHSAA rules for academic eligibility? If not, why and what would you change?


1. Who is the best coach you ever coached with or played for? Why?

2. Tell us about yourself and your purpose for being a coach?

3. Why did you resign from your previous position? Why isn’t that head coach listed as a reference?


1. Do you think it’s important to attend boosters sponsored football banquets at the end of the season?

2. How should the booster club be set up and should there be one club or a separate club for each sport?


1. How much do you need to operate your program?

2. How will you raise the funds you need to operate your program?

3. What will your relationship be with the booster club?


1. Is college recruiting important to you and how would you help my son get recruited?


1. How do you handle individual player discipline?

2. How do you handle team discipline?

3. What is your philosophy of discipline and what is your method?

4. How do you handle athletes who are disrespectful to other people?

5. What is your policy on foul language by coaches and players?

6. If a player misses practice what is his punishment?

7. How do you prevent lawsuits?


1. The health of our kids is important. How do you see yourself handling injuries, especially concussions?

2. How do you handle your trainer and injuries?


1. How do you handle the media?


1. How do you motivate your athletes?

2. How do you coach? Are you demonstrative? Are you laid back? Have you ever been profane?

3. Are you a visual teacher or an audio teacher?

4. Do you teach in contrast or in abstract fashion?

5. How do you handle learning support football players? How do you teach them when others understand and they don’t?


1. We want our coach to live in our district. Would you be move here?

2. How do you handle your equipment situation?

3. Are you willing to coach more than one sport?

4. How do you handle these online football forums that bash you and your program?

5. Will you use social network websites for your program? What safeguards will you use?


1. Describe how your off-season strength and speed program will work.

2. What are your thoughts on attendance during off-season workouts and involvement in practices and how that reflects to playing time on the field?

3. How does your weight room program deal with the multi-sport athlete?


1. How do you handle helicopter parents?

2. When do you contact parents regarding your players?

3. How do you handle issues with parents?

4. Tell us what the roles of the parents might be and what you would talk to them about in the pre-season.

5. How would you handle a parent who threatens you physically? Who wants to handle the issue with a fight? Our former head coach actually had this happen to him.

6. How do you respond to the parent that thinks football is too big of a time commitment?

7. If a parent calls you and yells at you about why his son is not starting, how do you handle the situation?

8. Dealing with parents is a major factor that comes with coaching today’s high school athlete, what is your philosophy on fielding complaints, phone calls, emails, etc from disgruntled parents?


1. Tell us about your weaknesses.

2. Tell us about your strengths.

3. In what area do you believe you could grow professionally?

4. Body language is interpreted by parents and fans, what would your body language on the sidelines tell us?

5. Would you be willing to attend clinics? If so, what would you expect to gain?

6. What subject areas are you qualified to teach?

7. What word would players use to describe you?

8. What word would parents use to describe you?

9. Who are your heroes? Explain why.

10. If we call a former coach or employer, how would they describe you?

11. What are two mistakes you made in your coaching career?

12. What are your long-term goals? Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

13. If offered the position, are you prepared to accept the position now?

14. What compensation do you expect?

15. What type of a coach are you in terms of perception by your players?

16. What community service activities do you plan to involve yourself?

17. How do you handle the other opposing coaches of whom you compete?


19. Give an example of how you are a team player.

20. If you are not hired as head coach would you remain on the coaching staff?


1. What is your coaching philosophy? How will you achieve that?

2. What is your philosophy on playing time at all levels of the program?

3. How does your faith impact your football philosophy?

4. How do you value winning? How do you value losing?

5. Why do you want to be the head football coach at our school?

6. What is your program philosophy/Mission?

7. Define success individually for each level of the program (9th, JV, Varsity).

8. What is your philosophy on life?

9. Is winning the most important thing?

10. What is your definition of leadership?


1. What will kids remember after they are done playing for you?

2. How would you purposefully go about developing players on and off the field?

3. How are captains chosen?

4. How do you communicate with your athletes?

5. How would you develop the football players throughout all age groups in our system?

6. What do you need to know about your students in order for them to be successful?

7. What are the most important criteria you look for in a player?

8. What do you do with seniors in your program?

9. Do you want your athletes to play other sports?

10. What is your opinion about specialization, and the multi-sport athletes in high school?

11. What should be the top priorities of a high school athlete?

12. Since you do not have a faculty position at our school, how will that affect your relationship with the players in the program?

13. How do you evaluate players?

14. If a player is openly badmouthing the coaching decisions that you have made, how do you handle the situation?

15. You learn of a party being planned following an upcoming game, how would you handle the situation?

16. How do you handle players who criticize, complain, degrade, or use foul or abusive language, or have trouble with teammates or being part of the team concept?

17. Do you have a plan if a female student wants to come out for football?


1. What is your practice philosophy?

2. Describe a successful practice that you have led?

3. What time would you start practice and dismiss practice? How long will practice be?

4. What is your overall practice structure? How would you describe a typical week of practice during the season?


1. What are some team building activities that you do?

2. Why will students want to come to your games?

3. How are you going make a difference on campus?

4. How do you handle the local youth program?

5. Why will kids want to play at your school in your program?

6. What is the role of administration and faculty in your program?

7. What do you expect from your administration/school board?

8. How will your program differ from your rivals and opponents?

9. If time and money were not concerns. What would you do to make us state champions?

10. How will you increase participation in football at our school?

11. How would you get the faculty involved in the football program?

12. What is the head coach’s responsibility and role in the community?

13. How do you see yourself with the administration as being important to the success of the overall program?

14. We are having a difficult time getting people to attend our games. How would you create excitement for our program in the community?

15. How will you run your training camp?

16. There is a possibility that you could go 0-18 over the next two years. What would you do to remedy that?

17. How does your weight room program deal with the multi-sport athlete?

18. When we watch your team play, what are a few things that would show this is “your team” or “your program”?

19. What would you say at your first team meeting?

20. What would change or do differently with our current program?


1. What are your team rules?

X’S & O’S

1. Will you bring in your systems for offense and defense and expect players to adapt or will you base what you do on offense and defense upon the talent you have available?

2. What is your primary concern when developing your basic offense and defense?

3. What system are you going to use on offense and defense?

4. You have been a defensive coordinator. How will you handle the offensive side of the ball?

5. How will you transition your offense and defense systems into ones that our kids are running now and understand?

6. How do you win football games?

7. How will you make your offensive system work?

8. How will you make your defensive system work?

9. What skils do OL need to develop?

10. What skills do WR need to develop?

11. What skills do RB’s need to develop?

12. What skills do QB’s need to develop?

13. What skills do DL need to develop?

14. What skills do LB’s need to develop?

15. What skills do DB’s need to develop?

16. What are the overall defensive skills that a great defense needs to have?

17. What are the things that a great defense must do?

18. How do you handle special teams at practice?

19. What is your philosophy of each special teams unit?


1. What kind of staff will you put together, who will you bring with you?

2. Ideally, how many assistant coaches would you like to have?

3. Assistant coaches are important. What attributes of an assistant coach are most important to you, and why?

4. What qualities do you seek in assistant coaches, and how will they be handled?

5. What is your philosophy on staff development?

6. How will you handle your football coaching staff assignments and organize your staff among the teams we promote? (9th, JV, Varsity)

7. What is your philosophy on hiring assistant coaches?

8. How do you plan your staff?

9. Will you have student trainers/managers?

10. What are you looking for in a statistician?

11. What are you looking for in a game film person?

12. How can you have a productive staff environment?

13. How much do you plan to delegate within your program?

14. What qualities do you feel are important for an assistant coach and head coach?

15. We are working hard to develop a staff that trusts each other, how would you develop relationships with the coaches/teachers in your building?


1. We have 10 candidates applying for this job. What makes you stand out from all the rest?

2. Our last head coach was loved by the whole school system and we didn’t want to see him go. Our next head coach will have to follow in his steps. In one sentence, tell us why you will or won’t be that coach 10 years from now?

3. Why are you the right person for the job?

4. Why do you want this job?

5. What do you know about the school district?

6. Why do you want to coach?

Good article by Deuce on the 46 Defense: