Tag Archives: football coaching

Football’s not about the Jimmy’s and Joe’s, It’s about the X’s and O’s.

Guest Football Coaching Blog Post

This is a guest blog post on the X’s and O’s of football by Coach Kurt Earl, offensive coordinator at Lincoln Christian School and publisher of Compete4Christ, a football blog. You can follow him on his Twitter Handle, KurtEarl14. If you’re interested in guest posting for Strong Football, email CoachCP at editor[at]strongfootballcoach.com.

Yeah, I know I got the old saying backwards, but in my first few years in coaching, as I began attending clinics, I noticed something. Many of the coaches sitting in the audience with me said the old saying the way it has always been said: It’s not about the X’s and O’s, it’s about the Jimmy’s and Joe’s. You know what else I noticed? The guys on the stage never said stuff like that. They said stuff like “You can teach almost anyone to do this” or “See how our system doesn’t require tons of great athletes?”

I was a young coach, but I didn’t need the wisdom of experience to put two and two together. Lack of talent is not an excuse for poor play. I think this is particularly true in regards to offense because offensive systems have the ability to control the defense through formations, shifts, motions and play calls. I dare say that the offensive coordinator has more impact on the outcome of a game than any other person in all of sports.

From that perspective I have spent hundreds of hours over the past 8 years constructing an offensive system that is about the X’s and O’s, not the Jimmy’s and Joe’s. What follows are some of the lessons I have learned in the process. I don’t have the perfect offense and I make a lot of mistakes in terms of calling plays, but as our offensive has evolved I have learned some things that are worth sharing.

Football X’s and O’s Lesson #1: Being Multiple is a Good Way to be Average

Perhaps at the college or pro levels a coach can choose to be multiple, actually install that offense and execute it with success, but at the high school level being multiple means not being much of anything. The best offenses we have faced have an identity and they cram it down your throat. My offense is a spread option offense. We line up in the same formation 95% of the time, we run various reads and options from the gun and we dare you to stop us. That attitude has been successful for us and it is the same type of attitude the best offenses we face seem to have as well.

Football X’s and O’s Lesson #2: Every Good Offense is a System

As I have attempted to counter the ways defenses have played us, I have come to realize that great offenses have answers. One of the slogans for our offense is “We got answers”. We have found that the best plays are the counter punches to the defensive adjustments. I don’t waste too much time borrowing and gathering plays from other coaches. Instead, I attempt to understand why their plays work and then discern how that concept can be applied within the framework of my offensive system.

Football X’s and O’s Lesson #3: Develop a system with a few top priority positions

As you attempt to put lessons #1 and #2 into practice, attempt to do so in such a way that very few positions require an excellent Jimmy or Joe. Obviously, you want to have a great team when all 11 guys are studs, but odds are pretty good that most years you’re going to have less than 5 great high school players on your team and a true college talent is going to be even rarer than that. In our system, offensive linemen usually double team rather than work in a one-on-one situation. Our receivers are asked to understand concepts more than they are asked to be fast. The vast majority of the throws we ask our QB to make require accuracy more than arm strength. The point is this: whenever I create a new “answer” I ask myself, “Can we coach kids to do this or does it require too much raw talent?”

Football X’s and O’s Lesson #4: Become an expert at coaching the top priority positions.

Duh! But I think there are three keys to becoming really good at coaching the positions that really matter within your system.

  1. Identify the actual skills needed by your critical positions. One of our critical positions is QB. We are a shotgun, spread option team. Our QB needs to be able to count to two (as in 0, 1 or 2 safeties high), needs to be able to execute zone reads, options and get his feet set after a play-action fake and make a short accurate throw. We don’t waste too much time working on anything else.
  2. Never allow traditional or popular thoughts about how to play your critical positions impact your assessment of what skills your priority positions need to develop. For instances, the Manning QB Camps aren’t the best for our QBs to go to QB camp. They play QB differently than we do. We don’t need to be like them.
  3. Become obsessed with learning how to coach those skills. Attend clinic sessions, compare video of great players at that position, be willing to experiment with new drills, etc…

I believe that when you, as the offensive coordinator, begin to put all of these ideas into practice you have the ability to impact that outcome of the game more than anyone else in the stadium. Throughout your career there will be fluctuations in the amount of raw talent on your team, but you can always put your players, within the framework of your offensive system, in a position where they have an opportunity to be successful. Ultimately, it’s up to you. Are you going to be a coach that wastes seasons waiting for the Jimmy’s and Joe’s to show up, or are you going to focus on the X’s and O’s and maximize the potential of the players you have?

Make sure you check out Coach Earl’s other post on Football Offensive Play Calling and Tempo. Also check out ChiefPigskin.com.

Steve Jobs’ Presenting Lessons For Football Coaches

What Steve Jobs’ Tips for Presenting for Football Coaches Would Probably Be

Steve Jobs was a terrific presenter. If you don’t know this, go watch a youtube video on the iPad, iPhone, or Youtube launch. Steve Jobs is a terrific presenter and understands that you don’t need to present “What” to the audience, but “why”, which is something us football coaches talk about often but never seem to have the time for. Steve Job’s presentation skills, as mentioned at a great marketing blog called Kissmetrics, were unique because he followed best practices that we as coaches and teachers should be using. I will discuss I think he would tell us as a keynote speaker at a clinic speaking about presenting.

Inform the Players on the Structure

When you walk into the meeting room, or if you only work on the practice field, tell your kids up front what you’re going to be working on. For instance, for a defensive meeting, if it’s in the class room, tell them you’re going to discuss opponents offensive 3 best plays, their 3 best players, and how you’re going to attack them. By letting the football players know right away that you’re going to cover three specific subjects, it can get them in the right frame of mind and build anticipation.

As you navigate your talk, never spend more then 10 minutes on a specific subject. Also, never cover more than 3 or 4 items in a given meeting. In our example, we have only 3. Building more than that makes the meeting complex and it will likely be difficult for you to even stay on subject.

Build in Breaks

As you navigate your meeting, build in your breaks (the space between one of those 3-4 parts). Even a one minute break can help the audience. Maybe you give away a “Player of the Week” award. Maybe it’s a funny highlight from the previous week that magically snuck its way into your film.

Another note on film real quick, if you edit it right, you can probably fit a lot of solid clips, aka show the formation before the play for only 1 and a half seconds before the play (unless there is motion or something). This wasted time would be something Steve Jobs would hate, along with the players. But back to the breaks, Steve Jobs always has something to help the audience re-energize. These unique breaks do that.

Football Coaches need to Create the “Why”

Steve Jobs never ever says that the ipod has 16 gigabytes. He ignores the technomumbo jumbo. Instead he says, we’re going to give you 1,000 songs … in your pocket. That’s the difference we as football coaches need to make. I’m very guilty of this, but we tend to get caught up in the technomumbo jumbo, things as simple to us as “3 technique”, “EMOLOS”, or even “line of scrimmage” can be difficult for new people to football! Instead, keep it simple. Then build in the why. “This play is great because they get to the outside quickly”, or “This Play-Action Pass works because the QB really sells the fake hand-off”.

Avoid things like “The way the tight end attacks the defensive end is by using a hand placement on the outside number”. A kid in a meeting room doesn’t need to know that right now, cover that in practice when you work on defeating that block. Also, Steve Jobs wouldn’t say, “They Run Outside Zone 48% of the time to the field”. He would say “They’re favorite play is outside zone because they can get they’re best player in space” That 48% doesn’t matter to the kids. To the field may not matter either. Instead, what matters is they run outside, and to the open area (the space).

Our kids are not doing statistical analysis on the field. However, helping them understand WHY they run a certain football play will help in the game. This why is imporant so often in coaching, and when we use it we make it too difficult. It can and should be rather simple to process.

Tell A Story

You’ve shown your kids their top 3 plays and why they work. You’ve shown them who their best athletes are and why they are successful. Now tell them how you will defeat all those things. Build the story of how they will be successful on Friday or Saturday (or… Sunday Mr. NFL assistant coach who I hope reads this blog!). Don’t just talk about the schemes. Tell them about how you matchup.

For instance, “When they run outside, Smith, our defensive end, is going to get that tight end in the backfield and our Turner, our safety, is going to wipe out the tailback!” … now the scheme behind that is for the practice field as well. Smith maybe the defensive end who stretches the play out for the cover 4 safety who is the force player to make a tackle in space. But the kids, in the meeting, don’t need that detail as much. Maybe you draw it up, but saying it won’t always stick. Maybe for one or two examples, but not all of your opponent’s plays. Also, your kids may be able to figure out that part on their own as you go because (hopefully!) you run a similar scheme from week to week and the kids understand what you try to do. Back to our story. By using the kids names, now we have some HEREOS! Notice how I discussed the person who makes the tackle happen, aka the role player. He knows he is just as important than the tackler, or maybe even more so because I mentioned him first.

Steve Jobs On the Football Practice Field

These lessons can be applied on the practice field as well. Maybe you start by explaing the plan for your individual practice, and tell them why they need to get better and how it will be useful in the game. That way the kid knows what the point of that drill is and when to use that technique you just spent 15 minutes of individual time insisting for.

Steve Jobs’ best practices still apply, so don’t be afraid to have a little fun between sessions. Take the chance to get to know the players, ask them questions, make fun of them a little bit, or do a quick competition or something. Don’t always just use a “water break”. You need to be human, but at the same time, you need to be the human that leads the conversation and the direction.

Conclusion on Steve Job’s Tips for Football Coaches

Don’t be scared to be a human being when presenting. Don’t be a robot spewing technical crap. The meetings need to have direction and it’s important for the athletes to know that direction is and WHY (most important aspect) we are doing it.