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Saturday, May 24, 2014

Coaching Tip: # 1

Worldwide, there are, have been, and will continue to be numerous excellent male and female coaches whose efforts and errors have helped pave the way for sports fans to enjoy thrilling moments of triumph, suffer through painful losses, or even endure the dreaded tie game.

Bill Walsh, the late, great, innovative and legendary high school, collegiate and professional football coach deeply and truly believed that coaches have to be flexible to be successful over any substantial length of time.

Walsh lived, breathed, preached, taught and thrived upon his own football teams' tight execution of his bold systems that forced opponents to alter their own personalities on the gridiron. Walsh wanted his opponents to be very uncomfortable in their attempts to defend his unique systems, and by design -- Walsh wanted to force all opponents into a more iffy and adaptive type of position -- so that Walsh's own football teams could execute his own specific and desired style of play -- which during the time of his coaching tenure was considered very contrarian, as compared to most of the opponents that his teams played.

And, as a transition into my first Coaching Tip piece...the late, great and legendary University of Notre Dame Head Football Coach, Knute Rockne said, “Build up your weaknesses until they become your strong points.”

At every level of football, youth, high school, college and pro, innovative coaches are pushing the game forward to the benefit of us all...players, coaches and fans.

Therefore, it is with great humility and respect for my peers that I begin this open-ended series of “Coaching Tips” (in no particular order), as gleaned so far during my 25-years of coaching football at the high school and NCAA levels.

Whether you are a sports fan, a coach at any level of the game, a player, or a professor, I hope you find these series of tips useful, interesting, and/or informative…

NUMBER 1:

“Identify Your Weaknesses as a Coach and Turn Them into Your Strengths”


I’ve never met one person that truly enjoys admitting their weaknesses to other people.

However, as a coach, once you've learned to admit your weaknesses and are willing to absorb something totally new, it liberates your mind and allows you to become the pupil once again – your mind reverts to being that thirsty sponge reborn again, seeking valuable nourishment in the form of fresh ideas and innovative methods that can help to creatively solve complex problems.

In Just One Case in Point: prior to our creation and implementation of the A-11 Offense in 2007 at Piedmont, I had already coached football for 21-years, but I was not a fan of the Shotgun formation at all, nor that much of the Spread offense. In fact, I had only used the Shotgun formation one-time prior to the 2007 season.

However, after admitting that a coaching weakness of mine was in not having had used the Shotgun formation before, I decided to jump into the fire with both feet and went for it.

Bluntly put, it was a very unpleasant and uncomfortable coaching experience to endure at the beginning of those harsh lessons being learned, especially when our team began the 2007 season with a poor record of 0 – 2, it would have been very easy to end that Shotgun/A-11 experiment, and get back to something that I was much more comfortable with.

But together, the coaching staff and I saw glimmers of hope upon diligent review of the game video, and we always kept in mind the best interests of our team; which was the entire reason we decided to try something new like the Shotgun/A-11 system...the simple fact that our team’s personnel was ideally suited for such a unique plan of Super-Spread offensive attack.

*In fact, we had TWO Quarterbacks aligned in our Shotgun/A-11 system during the ENTIRE 2007 season. Yes it is true, we played the whole season with Two Starting Quarterbacks set-up in the Shotgun formation in the A-11 system, because that was the best fit of the personnel we had that year.

And then during the third game of that 2007 season, our Piedmont team “clicked” and they took full ownership of the Shotgun/A-11 system we employed, and they never looked back. The team rattled off seven straight wins, finished the regular season with a record of 7 – 3, and earned a trip to the California state football playoffs. It turned out to be an incredibly successful season full of exciting and dramatic moments for the team.

In retrospect, what would have happened if we had never attempted to try something totally new, or if we had merely decided to scrap the entire mission after opening the 2007 season with those two losses before our Shotgun/A-11 system had been given the proper amount of time to mature, or totally fail?

It is OK to attempt something new, give it your best shot and fail. Yes, it hurts big time, but it's OK. As coaches, we are striving to win every game, every year, but when we do our best and we fail, it stings bad, but it does happen.

Fortunately in 2007, we tried something brand new and gave it every ounce of energy and grit we had. And, because of the hard work and commitment from the assistant coaches and the players, together we turned our weaknesses into the actual strengths of our team, and it turned out very well.

That very risky approach with the Dual Quarterbacks in the Shotgun/A-11 system paid big dividends for our team. But then afterwards, beginning in 2008, it caused an exciting and innovative ripple effect nationwide as Hundreds of coaches began creating and implementing their own versions of A-11 concepts to help their team...truly remarkable.

In 2008, we adjusted the Shotgun/A-11 system into a more traditional set, using One QB and One RB in the backfield and we earned much success. Also, we watched with great appreciation and satisfaction as other football teams around the nation unveiled their own wildly creative A-11 concepts with record-breaking success.

In 2009, we successfully blended A-11 concepts into traditional football jersey-numbering rules, further establishing the A-11 system as another example of football innovation helping to advance the game into its exciting future.

And now as of today, thousands of football coaches and players have downloaded all of the free A-11 Offense concepts playbooks, manuals and videos, and several million people have watched A-11 videos or read about it. Furthermore, many of those innovative football coaches have also shared their new strategies with us.

It's really good to try something new, to Go For It...and to see what happens.

My advice, is to take a look in the mirror and evaluate your coaching weaknesses, be honest with yourself. Then, after you've identified the areas that you need to work on, take the time to educate yourself and to learn from other coaches whose demonstrated strengths happen to reside in the areas of your weaknesses.

Turn your weaknesses into your strengths, learn from others in the process of doing so, and if you succeed, then take the time to share with other coaches what you have learned along the way.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Man's Best Friend

It’s important to remember the great things away from the game of football…

For us ‘Dog-lovers’ worldwide, we’ve shared our lives with, “man’s best friend.” Our family was blessed to have had two wonderful, rust-colored, Golden Retrievers during the past 20-years. (Honey), she passed away a few years ago - was a vibrant, smart and loving dog, and she also delivered three incredible litters of puppies during her lifetime. *From her second group of pups, our family kept one of them, and his name was Thunder. Thunder was athletic, robust, playful, handsome and loving. Yesterday, after spending 14 great years with our family, Thunder simply couldn’t go on any longer, and he passed on.

Great dogs like Thunder and Honey bring immeasurable love, joy, laughter and zany moments to a family’s already busy and complex life. These remarkable dogs are truly irreplaceable and unforgettable. Our family would not have traded those wonderful years with Honey and Thunder for anything in the world, and we thank God for bringing them into our lives and hearts forever.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

“The Future of Football and the Real Impact of the A-11 Offense”

Interview Conducted by Kurt Bryan -


Recently, I spoke with a football coach & author who has been a student of the game for decades - going back through the game’s history seeking insights on the best ways to coach and advance the game in every regard. He is remarkably blunt about the game’s past, present and future.

Football Historian, John T. Reed is a West Point grad (1968) and Harvard MBA (1977). He also has 16 seasons of coaching football under his belt, and has written seven football coaching books. His 1997 manual “Football Clock Management” is revered by football coaches at all levels - high school, college and pro, and it is now in its 4th printed edition.


The Interview Session with John T. Reed…

Question: What is your opinion about the status of pro football today regarding player safety?


Reed: “Pro football has a major issue with concussions. And, there is a rarely-spoken-of issue about linemen being too heavy—far beyond the Body Mass Index (BMI) number that physicians say is healthy.

When football started in 1869 (Princeton vs. Rutgers) the attitude about player safety was Neanderthal, and the game has not yet ‘fully’ moved on from that overall mindset. In 1906, the President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt threatened to outlaw the game, period. He called a meeting with about 60 of the top college head coaches and administrators and demanded that the game be made safer, immediately. The result was the legalization of the forward pass.”


Question: It was 101-years between the legalization of the Forward Pass in 1906 and the unveiling of the A-11 Offense in 2007. Are those two unique episodes in football history worthy of comparison, or not at all?


Reed: “Before I answer, let me say I was intrigued by the A-11 Offense after its birth in 2007. Luckily, I was able to watch and learn about the A-11 first-hand at Piedmont; during a number of meetings with the coaches and players in depth, and having a football background myself. I was pleased with the initial success it had and very distressed when the National Federation of High Schools changed its rules because of an ‘old guard’ backlash against such a substantial innovation as the A-11. The A-11 had previously been ruled permissible before Piedmont and other football teams nationwide adopted the A-11. The Forward Pass met similar resistance after the 1906 rule change and many people back then thought it was going to ruin the game.”

“Back to your question, the New York Times said in September 1906 after that rule change, “the main efforts of the football reformers have been to ‘open up the game’—that is to provide for the natural elimination of the so-called mass plays and bring about a game in which speed and real skill shall supersede so far as possible, mere brute strength and force of weight.”


Question: Are the two developments linked in any way?


Reed: “The 1906 rule change achieved some of its goals but it did not go ‘so far as possible.’ The legalization of the Forward Pass did not ‘eliminate mass plays’ and totally replace ‘brute strength and force of weight with speed and skill.’ The A-11 Offense actually finishes that job. By broadening the roles of interior linemen to include the option of receiving the ball and more dynamic open field blocking, the A-11 removes the unhealthiest aspects of the current professional game and improves upon it by schematic design. The A-11 replaces one large set of more limited players and replaces them with more athletes who possess the speed and skill that the New York Times and many others thought football was getting in 1906 via the Forward Pass.”


Question: In what regard?


Reed: “In fact, an unintended consequence of the legalization of the Forward Pass and the restrictive jersey-numbering requirements that ensued have caused the specialization of players for pass protection, resulting in a lot of unnaturally-sized linemen on both sides of the ball. Some of those linemen do get hurt by what happens on the field, and also by what they have to do to bulk up and make the lineup in order to get onto the field. The A-11 reverses that avoidable mistake.”


Question: Exactly, how?


Reed: “For example, when the staff at Piedmont coached in the A-11 Offense, they’ve said a number of opposing coaches stated they had to remove some of their starting defensive linemen from the field and replace them with faster linebacker/defensive back types to deal with the speed, skill, and versatility of the A-11 linemen. The first time that happened was the day that the New York Times’ premature prediction of more than 100-years ago finally came true.”


Question: OK, but is that a bit of a reach?


Reed: “Not at all. The A-11 and spread offensive football around the country may have ended ‘traditional’ smash-mouth football. That more limited brand of pro football has run its course. The invention and implementation of the A-11 Offense in 2007 was the century-later ‘second coming’ of the big innovation to improve safety that Roosevelt forced in 1906 to advance the game’s complexity and to make it safer for the players. The A-11 completes that long-overdue promise described in the New York Times article.”


Question: What other ideas would help to improve player health and safety in pro football?


Reed: “I would outlaw players whose BMI exceeded the medical experts’ recommendation—a weigh-in and height measurement before every game like they do in boxing, mixed martial arts, horse racing, and wrestling, etc. The current practice of encouraging and even demanding that linemen carry an unhealthy amount of weight is a moral outrage. Coaches and the owners rightly defer absolutely to the doctors regarding traumatic injuries like concussions and neck injuries, and so forth. But they do the exact opposite with regard to doctors’ advice when it comes to long-term health issues like the linemen BMI. That makes no sense. It needs to be changed to help the players stay as healthy as possible during their careers and afterward. The game will not suffer—it will improve as a result. I would expect to see much fewer of the five-step and seven-step drop back pass protection plays without the sumo wrestler body types on the offensive line. But the game will be safer, faster, more athletic, more fun to watch and play, and more interesting. With the A-11 Offense unbridled at the pro level the offensive and defensive line-play becomes a contest of great athletes who can block, catch, or run with the football. Many compare football to chess and the linemen to pawns. But in the A-11, linemen block, catch backward or forward passes, and carry the football. At Piedmont the lineman even threw some passes. Chess is a great game, but not because of its pawns. In A-11, all eleven players contribute towards victory in a broader variety of athletic ways.”


Question: What will happen to the Quarterback position at the Pro level in the A-11 Offense?


Reed: “The new-found versatility of the offensive line will cause an increased emphasis on versatility at all positions. It will increase the number of passers on the roster and encourage coaches to use many multi-threat players on the field at the same time. Imagine three players in the backfield at once, all of them being able to run, throw or catch as a regular staple of the offensive game plan. Talk about opening-up the game by structure…having so many triple-threat skill players on the field at once, opens up the game—squared.

Drawing a basketball analogy, football is now what basketball would be like if only Lebron James on the Heat were allowed to shoot. Or like soccer, where only Beckham could attempt a goal. The A-11 turns football into a game where, like basketball or soccer, every player is capable of performing most football skills and on any play. Only unlike basketball and soccer, you would still have the between-play stoppages that allow football to be so much more complex, cerebral, and planned. Even in the fast-paced no-huddle version of the A-11 Offense at the professional level.”


Question: Conversely at the highest levels of the game, what will happen to the Defenses?


Reed: “We’ve already seen the dramatic match-up changes at the high school level against the A-11. If the offense gets more versatile then the defense must do so as well. The defensive linemen against the A-11 will need to be hybrid players able to match-up against the multiple roles that an A-11 offensive lineman will play, and the other players too. The defense must adjust to the fact that the more extreme specialization of recent football schemes like the seven-step drop back passes are probably no longer the issue. Since all eleven of the A-11 personnel are capable of doing almost anything at any time, you cannot have today’s more extremely specialized ‘limited role players’.”

Today, you can basically tell just by looking at a college or pro football player in street clothes what position he probably plays. Not in the A-11. The A-11 will eliminate extreme specialization that severely limits the pro game now. The current pro game is overly predictable and the beauty of the A-11 is in its versatility and lack of tendencies, which leads to a more wide-open style of play and should increase scoring. A-11 forces the defense to remain honest most of the time and levels the playing field for both sides of the ball, which leads to improved player safety. When I wrote the book, ‘The Contrarian Edge for Football Offense’ in that I expressed my dislike of the ability for football defenses to gear up to stop a particular type of play by studying opposing offensive tendencies. As a coach, I was for forcing opposing defenses to remain in their ‘Base set’ during the course of the game because of my offensive team’s tempo and because I was using the same formation almost every play. It’s important not to give opposing defensive coordinators basic tendencies to tee-off on. The A-11 does all of these same types of things to the defense because of its unpredictable nature.”


Question: What will the game of pro football look like ten to twenty-years from now?


Reed: “Assuming the A-11 takes off, it will make the game far more complex, faster, with more finesse and skill at every position, and more athletic overall. Each player will be contributing in many more ways than in today’s pro game.

The unintended specialization caused by the legalization of the Forward Pass was aided and abetted by the adoption of a platoon system during World War II (needed because of a lack of players due to the draft).

The A-11 will not end all platoon football, nor should it, but it will force players on both sides of the ball to be less specialized and much more versatile. When you think about it, football has evolved into a sort of three-ring circus; with a shoving match going on over here…and a passing and catching competition going on over there…and the running and chasing in another location over there. I don’t think the leaders of football today would have created such a game on purpose from scratch with so many unhealthy limits. The A-11 steps in and sweeps clean the attic that still contains the last vestiges of its Neanderthal origins, and that’s a good thing.”


Question: 100-years from now, what will football historians say about the A-11 Offense and its impact on the game?


Reed: “I expect the football experts of the future to say the A-11, like the Forward Pass before it, saved the game from its own bad habits, including too much sumo-type shoving, less than truly optimal athleticism on the part of nearly half the players on the field, and severely insufficient attention to the health and safety of the players.

Decades from now, the A-11 Offense could be seen as the ‘second-coming of a football revolution’ in safety and athleticism wrought by the 1906 rule changes that preceded it. A-11 can rescue the game of football by making it safer for the players, more interesting, more complex and cerebral, and more fun to watch.”

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Chip Kelly Headed to the NFL...?

UPDATED: January 16, 2013...Chip Kelly to Coach the Philadelphia Eagles!


Please see original article below from November 14, 2012...

A Very Bright and frustrated NFL Team Owner will probably soon hire current University of Oregon Football Coach, Chip Kelly to become the new Head Coach of his Pro Football franchise, and there are great reasons why an intelligent NFL Owner will move quickly and pull the trigger to hire Chip Kelly ASAP.

Throughout football history, there have been key innovations that have changed the game for the better and pushed the game forward:

The Forward Pass, Huddle, Veer (Triple Option), Shotgun formation, 3-4 defense, Run-n-Shoot offense, West Coast offense, Bear (46) defense, Zone Blitz, No-huddle offense, Spread Option offenses, and the Super-spread offenses, among several other solid innovations respectfully.

Why Should a Smart & Frustrated NFL Owner Hire Chip Kelly to bring his Spread Option No-Huddle Offensive System to his NFL Team & reinvigorate their city?

1. During the first 2 or 3 seasons, nearly every defensive opponent that has to play against Chip Kelly’s new NFL team will most likely NOT be adequately prepared (talent-adjustment wise) to defend his warp speed spread offense. Most NFL defensive units are bigger and more bulky, and to a certain extent some defensive substitutions will have to take place for many of those defensive teams to have a legit chance of winning. Bigger is not better vs. the Shotgun Spread No-huddle system like Chip Kelly’s, and in many cases it is worse. NO system is unbeatable but there is too much upside to ignore in Hiring Chip Kelly, the wins will come soon enough.

2. Cardiovascular Conditioning: Chip Kelly’s new NFL team will practice and play at an ultra-fast Tempo that is completely Alien to most NFL defensive units. 95% of the NFL offensive teams currently Huddle-up & relax during the course of a game between plays, but Chip Kelly’s offensive teams ONLY relax during timeouts, injuries, after scoring or when their own team’s defensive unit is out on the field. Chip Kelly’s offensive teams will be faster than most NFL defensive units AND they will be in better shape, usually able to sustain their warp speed pace during the entire game while their opponent’s defensive units get fatigued and worn out.

3. Reduction of Injuries to their Offensive Players: The Shotgun Spread offensive systems and Super-spread offenses help to reduce injuries to the players by design (Please see my previous articles about this issue).

4. Drafting Different Players: During the first 2 or 3 years, Chip Kelly would have his PICK OF THE LITTER in the NFL Draft and Free Agency, from a Gold Mine of awesome Collegiate Players that don’t fit the standard NFL mould. Smaller players, many of them already tutored in various aspects of the NCAA Shotgun Spread Option offensive systems so popular at that level.

5. Smaller & More Spread Out: Chip Kelly knows the answer to the players getting so huge in Pro Football (even though the dimensions of the playing field have not changed in more than 100-years) is to flood the field with smaller and faster offensive playmakers, and to spread them out as far as possible, then compound the problems for the defense by motioning players, offering zone reads & options, and moving the Quarterback out of the pocket. It’s much harder for the defense to hit a moving target than a stationary one, and Chip Kelly understands the critical point that the Football Moves Faster than the man.

6. Excitement: Chip Kelly’s system will energize his team and his team’s city.

7. Winning: Chip Kelly will build a winner.

Big Changes are coming to Pro Football…Stay tuned; there are many more great changes ahead.

More on the A-11...

“I think this offense will change the game of football. When all eleven players are eligible to receive a forward pass, the mental and physical aspects of the athlete are now elevated to a level that has never been performed in this game. The coaching now becomes even more vital due to strategies that are endless on both sides of the ball. All athletes think they are receivers, all want to be a receiver; they now have the opportunity to live their dream with this offense!”

Joel Berry
Head Football Coach
Covenant Christian Academy
(Texas Private School State Champions)