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Tuesday Night and Wednesday Morning Ramblings | How to Get the Offense Back on Track

LUBBOCK TX - SEPTEMBER 18:  Defensive end Scott Smith #94 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders celebrates a pass interception against the Texas Longhorns at Jones AT&T Stadium on September 18 2010 in Lubbock Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
LUBBOCK TX - SEPTEMBER 18: Defensive end Scott Smith #94 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders celebrates a pass interception against the Texas Longhorns at Jones AT&T Stadium on September 18 2010 in Lubbock Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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I watched this week's episode of Raider Power '10 last night and most of the episode focused on the coordinators and preparing for the Texas game.  There were a handful of things that I took away from that episode including my idea to get the offense back on track. 

A HIERARCHY | Both DC James Willis and OC Neal Brown both made references or was inferred that they're the one calling the plays during the game.  I had always suspected that head coach Tommy Tuberville is more of a CEO type of head coach and personally, I'm okay with that.  I know that there's plenty of you that thinks he should be doing something, but I'd imagine that coordinating a business is a full-time job.  In the RP '10 episode you actually see Tuberville meeting with Willis quite a bit, and going over defensive alignments.  I don't have any more insight, but the feeling that I get is that this is a true hierarchical system in that Tuberville lets the coordinators do what they're supposed to do best, which is coordinate. 

And I hope that this trickles down the the position coaches as well.  The position coaches are spending more time with the players than the coordinators and a big part of the success of a football program is dependent on the position coaches being given the autonomy to tell their coordinator who should start and who should sit. For the past three days, we've talked about so many variables when it comes to the success of a team in any given game, but having the right personnel on the field is as important just about anything.

LET THE COORDINATORS COORDINATE AND THE CEO HEAD COACH |  If the paragraph above is true, and if you've been watching Raider Power '10, then you see quite a bit about how the coordinators are on camera, probably more than Tuberville.  Whether it's in meetings or on the field, they're the ones that you mainly see watching the film and working with the players.  (ASIDE:  I'm prepared for the comments about Leach here as I'd be willing to be that he never attended one defensive coordinator meeting.  Again, I loved the guy, but I don't think he cared much about the defense so to perhaps a much greater extent, he probably let his defensive coordinator essentially be an associate head coach). 

There's no right way to coach a team.  And this is something that's one of those eternal arguments and we could go round and round.  Sean Payton is the offensive coordinator and head coach and that's worked out.  Bill Belicek is the defensive coordinator and that's worked out.  Wade Phillips is the defensive coordinator and head coach and that hasn't worked out.  Sometimes coordinators as head coaches work out and sometimes they don't.  Sometimes CEO head coaches work and some times they don't.  Just to rattle off a few of the more successful head coaches and ask if you think any of these guys are CEO head coaches:  Urban Meyer, Nick Saban, Mack Brown, Pete Carroll, Bob Stoops, Jim Tressell, etc.  Personally, I think that they are CEO head coaches for the most part, but I can't really say that I know that for sure as I don't follow their programs all that closely.  I'm pretty sure that both Stoops and Brown don't run their respective units, although I bet they have plenty of input.  I don't see Tressell calling plays or Meyer calling plays either.  That's not to say that these coaches don't focus on one side of the ball over another, but I seem these coaches as program managers, not game managers).

I LOVE WILLIS | Willis is my favorite coach / character to watch.  I am almost certain that he will be a head coach sooner rather than later.  I know, this is extremely premature, I'm just telling you how I feel when he's on film and from what I've seen on the field.  I think the guy really knows that he's doing and right now the offense had a rough go at it and I'm guessing that Willis will look overwhelmed a game or two this year, but the more I watch Willis the more I'm certain that he got the right guy for the job.

BROWN IS SAYING THE RIGHT THINGS | Brown says all of the right things leading up to Texas.  He talks about getting the ball in space, he actually says that Texas Tech uses the pass to set up the run, he talks about doing what Texas Tech does best and not letting the UT defense dictate the offense, he talks about how Muschamp has this unique ability to make something look complicated to an offense or a quarterback, but it's really not complicated at all.  You see Brown talking with Matt Moore, Sonny Cumbie, Tommy Mainord and Chad Scott all talking about what they wanted to do on Saturday.  I've got a lot more on Brown later, but for those of you who think that Tuberville and/or Brown have abandoned the system I still don't think that's what they want to do.  Granted, the offense looked pretty bad last week, but there's nothing to indicate that Brown wants to abandon the pass to become a running team.  He never would have taken this job if that was the case.

THEY ARE WORKING, I PROMISE | Just like any staff, these guys are putting in the hours and time time.  They want to win.  They want to win for personal gain.  Each one of those guys on the staff probably have higher aspirations than their current positions.  Position coaches might want to become coordinators and coordinators might want to become head coaches.  Winning improves your odds of that happening.

THE HAL MUMME PRACTICE PLAN | I watched the episode, I continued to be struck by Brown's comments as they sounded incredibly familiar.  For those of you who haven't been around, Hal Mumme is the guy largely credited for creating this offense.  Mike Leach and Neal Brown both learned under Mumme and the one thing that I was drawn back to was the Hal Mumme Practice Plan.  I haven't looked back at this is quite some time, but as I started to think about how to make this offense improve it's these tenets that both Leach and Brown learned from Mumme that most of these tenets makes the most sense to see a quick improvement next week. Let's run down the plan.

Practicing the Multiple Receiver Offense | Practice schedules and drills for the pass offense are not a lot different than those for the conventional offense but I believe a great deal of thought and preparation must be done to achieve success. In the "Air Raid" offense I have used for many years at several different levels certain nuisances have lent themselves to practicing well. I will detail these things in the article with hope it will help you.

This is something that I think a lot of you have pointed out, which is that it appears that there may be more 2-back sets than prior years.  Of course, the reason for those 2-back sets is that the offensive line is struggling and the quarterback needs some extra protection.  However, if you can get another receiver out in the field and you have a quarterback that can buy just a second or two or more time, then I don't think there's any question that the offense is going to be more difficult to cover.  I know that here Mumme is talking more generally, but if the key is to get the ball to players in space, then how is space created?  Space isn't created with fewer offensive options, but rather more offensive options.  The more space that a defense must cover, the more holes the offense should have.

More after the jump.

Make Practice Consistent | The pass offense depends much on timing and chemistry between players i.e. QB and WR on route, this makes consistent practice a must. I always tried to erase doubt in the players' minds as to what would be done in practice on any given day. I endeavored to make all the Mondays the same, all the Tuesdays the same, etc. By keeping a consistent practice schedule through each game week of the season our players could gear up mentally for the tasks to be accomplished in each segment of practice. To give an example, our individual drills were all done the same way and same segment of each day's work out. Consistent practice makes for consistent reps, which make for great reps, which makes for great play.

Since I haven't seen a lick of practice, and neither has no one else, I'm guessing that this tenet still holds true.  Tuberville seems like a guy that likes to stay on schedule and I also think that young folks like a little bit of familiarity.

Practice Success | That old saying about you play like you practice is true. It was always my belief that five great reps of anything were worth more than ten mediocre reps. With this in mind, I encouraged our players to slow down their reps but to do them great. For example, if you have a QB and two WR working on the curl route don't rush through the drill just so you can say you got ten reps. It will be a lot more productive to have the WR walk back between reps, take there time, and have five great curl routes each one perfect. Hustle is fine but is not the only ingredient. Practice successful reps even if it means fewer reps.

I never wanted to practice anything that a player could not visualize doing in a game. The successful coach should look at every drill - be it individual, group, or team type - and ask himself if this will happen in a game. If this answer is no, throw it out, it is wasted motion, which means lost time. The only resource that cannot be replaced is time. Knowing you can eliminate poor drills, look at the fruitful drills. Take each one and study how you can make them more game-like. For example, our "Air Raid" offense depended greatly on multiple sets, player groupings, and the no huddle attack. With those parameters, I decided to make all of our team offense drills more game-like by having the sideline coaches and players box painted on our practice field and requiring all our coaches and players to work and sub from where they would in the game on Saturday. This greatly enhanced the efficient use of subs and made delay of game penalties unheard of in our offense. I believe players will perform better in games if they can visualize what it will be like therefore practice game-like events.

This is perhaps my biggest question / thought.  Brown came and stated that he wanted to run a fast offense and I thought that this could be a really interesting twist to what the Air Raid could do.  I had seen enough Gus Mahlzan's offense at Auburn to know that this was something that really intrigued me as a football fan.  But I wonder, if in Brown's quest to speed up the offense he lost a little bit about doing things perfectly.  In Brown's quest to speed things up, perhaps he needs to slow it down a bit and make sure that each receiver is running the correct route based on the coverage, that the offensive line is making the right call on stunts or blitz pick-up.  Fast is good if you do it perfectly, but perhaps Brown and the offense would be better to get it right rather than get it fast (my wife tells me this all of the time, but I have no idea what she's talking about).

Practice for the Unplanned Event | Every coach loves that play which happened just the way he drew it up. To be honest about it though, those are more rare than ordinary. This is particularly true in the pass offense. Practicing contingency football is very important. I would take each of our pass plays and draw up what would happen if our QB were forced to scramble to his right and then repeat the process with a scramble left. I would drill this about ten minutes per a week to make sure everyone knew where to go on the field if the QB scrambled right or left. I had landmarks for each receiver and the offense of line and running backs had specific duties. Our teams often made spectacular plays when the opponent's defense played its best and forced our QB from the pocket. We turned our lemons into lemonade so to speak because we practiced the unplanned event.

Practice Organization is crucial to having an effective multiple receiver pass attack.

The game of football is about adjustments and most importantly the adjustments that a coach makes in-game are the most important adjustments that he's going to make all week.  A good coordinator is going to have to make quick adjustments depending on the other side of the ball.  The interesting thing about both Wills and Brown is that they were both spit-ballin' about what they thought that Muschamp and Davis were going to do.  They were obviously trying to plan for the unexpected, but the thing that we've talked about so much is that right now QB Taylor Potts is the type of quarterback that only moves backwards and forwards.  He moves back to take the pass or he moves forward to avoid the rush, but he almost never rolls out to the right or the left to see if a play is there.  Granted, a big part of this is because he is limited physically, but when a play breaks down, it breaks down for the offense and the defense.  There are opportunities to be had.  The more I think about this the more I can't help but reach the conclusion that I reached Saturday and so many of you reached much sooner.

Practice Making the Big Play | Scores happen because players expect them to take place. I have certain things I want accomplished on each play from each player but the bottom line is to score. With that in mind, I made it mandatory that whomever ended up with the ball on any play had to cross the goal. In other words, our players scored on every play in practice, from individual drill right through team. I wanted all of the players to expect to score on every play. This takes some patience since the coach has to give the ball carrier time to return from the sprint to the goal. The results are worthwhile, as big plays can become habit.

Weren't you told this about your own life?  You don't just fall into success, you make them happen.  This is in just about every walk of life.  Again, since we don't see practice, I hope like heck this tenant continues to be practiced.  None of us really know, but there's enough receivers and running backs that see time on this team and this shouldn't be a problem.

Plan Success | All the practice habits described can be planned into workouts. The best time to plan workouts for the season is in the summer when the pressure is off. For this reason all of the workouts for the entire fall including bowl games or playoffs I planned in July. They were organized by day of the week and placed in a large binder to be used as needed on a daily basis. It was always amazing how few changes had to be made and how consistent our offense would become due to this planning. The most important time during the game week are the moments coaches spend with their players. By not having to devote daily time to planning practice schedules the coach has more time to spend with the players. Success can be planned well in advance.

I mentioned this a couple of weeks ago, but one of the keys for any profession is to convey your business or practice to your clients or customers in a manner that's easily understood.  That's why those coaches spend so much time in the film room.  They're watching the film to then turn around and give the players an easily digestible portion. 

A big part of the inspiration for this post came from watching Raider Power '10 and I want to see the next episode to see how the team and the staff and the cameras portray them after a loss.  On some base level, I think that fans "enjoy" the loss more than the win ("Enjoy" isn't quite the right word, but I'm at a loss).  DTN experiences more traffic after a big win, but more commentary and comments after a big loss.  I think that people enjoy reveling in the misery a bit and dissecting each and every morsel that they can.

And last but not least, enjoy the journey.