Author of the JP Weiscarver Mystery Series
If I were coach …
We are 10 days away from the end of the 2014 football season, Super Bowl XLIX, (A side note: will we be disappointed with next year’s logo for Super Bowl L?) and this seems like as good a time as any to present my football coaching philosophy.
Admit it, we all say it or think it, “If I were the coach, I’d…”
At the top of my list is discipline, something pro teams have seemingly passed off on the league. The result has been mind-numbing rules and interpretations of taunting and unsportsmanlike conduct that disrupt games and then belittle it with mid-week declarations of league penalties. Why can’t teams and coaches control their players?
On my team, any display of self-aggrandizement such as a post-score dance and spiking of the ball means you’ll be sitting out the next series, at least.
Don’t go No Fun League on me; hear me out. Celebrate the score but do it on our sideline and without showmanship. High fives and slaps on the shoulder pads, etc., are what I’m talking about, just don’t go making a scene.
And quit it with those leaping butt bumps or whatever you call it. Why? Because I need you ready to go back out on the field, not nursing a twisted ankle.
If you score a touchdown, hand the ball to a referee or place it on the ground (I always thought it cool that Emmitt Smith kept all of his touchdown footballs, so that’s OK), then come to the sideline or line up for the extra point.
Football is a game of passion, especially on defense. Your adrenaline is pumping and you’re throwing your body around the field and that’s all great. However, just like with the guy who scores a touchdown, I will not tolerate boasting or self-glorification.
If you sack the quarterback, do not dance, do not take even one additional step toward their end zone, do not make any silly signals. Get up, move to our side of the ball, accept back slaps from your teammates and get ready for the next down.
Know and abide by the rules. Sometimes, penalties just happen and we have to accept them. Other times, however, it’s because your head is not in the game. Don’t be surprised if you make a stupid mistake that I’ll let your backup get in a few snaps while you get your head back in place.
Let’s face it, I’m not likely to invent a new offensive scheme or come up with any defensive surprises. With luck, I’ll have competent coordinators on staff. However, there are three things I want to do, none of which would be considered usual.
First, unless the situation dictates otherwise (such as having just tied the score), I will usually go for a two-point conversion.
Why? Because two points are twice as many as one. I feel my team would be capable of executing a two-yard play successfully more than half of the time, especially given that we would have specific plays designed for it and not necessarily one of our “regular” plays.
Successfully converting a two-point conversion early puts additional pressure on the other team and causes its players and coaches to operate outside their range of comfort.
Second, I would be less likely to punt. That is, I would more often go for it on a fourth down.
There are too many factors to try and lay out when I would and wouldn’t punt, but part of the logic is the same as the two-point conversion. I have to feel me team can make those few yards when needed. If not, I have to feel my defense can come up with a stop.
I wouldn’t go crazy with it, but if we had the ball on the other team’s side of the field and less than three yards for a first down … I’d probably go for it.
The reality is that we’d come up short some of the time, but I think it would be an overall net gain if managed well.
Third, we will be constantly on the lookout for opportunities to extend a play. Much like a rugby team that is always lateraling the ball, all of my players will be drilled on trailing a play if not leading it, looking for a safe opening to pass off the ball and being in position to receive it.
Sure, this increases the chances for a turnover. It also increases the chances for breakaway plays. With plenty of practice, players will get a grasp of when it is safe to pass and, just as importantly, how to be in position to receive a lateral.
Also, this increased action will please the fans and maybe that will atone for not performing the Chicken Dance after every touchdown.
OK, let me hear it. What did I get right, what did I get wrong and what would you do?