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View Full Version : Buck the conventional wisdom. Let's hire some nerds.


SrslySirius
11-07-2010, 10:26 PM
I am serious about this proposal. If you're expecting a humor thread with funny pictures, I'm sorry to disappoint you. Maybe I'll do a thread like that in the next few days.

I believe that a lot of people have the wrong idea about what qualifications NFL coaches, coordinators, and general managers should have. In particular, my point of contention is that experience is a highly desirable quality. It is understandable why people might think this is so. The reasoning is as follows:

If someone has played football their entire life, some of it at the professional level, then they must know a lot about football. They have a deep understanding of the underlying strategy, schemes, game planning, and clock management, among other things. They've been in the trenches; experienced it firsthand. They have a unique insight and are more knowledgeable about the game than anyone else.

This may be true to a small extent, but the reasoning is mostly flawed. Football is a highly strategic game. Coaches should be able to analyze a team's tendencies and devise ways to exploit them. They should be able to make logically sound decisions under the constraints of time and intense pressure. They should be able to use the vast amount of information available to determine the optimal choice in thousands of specific situations, on the fly. These are skills that require sharp intelligence, an analytical mind, and a strong understanding of probability and statistics. I submit to you that most coaches in the NFL do not possess these skills.

Professional jocks are not known to be exceptionally intelligent. These jobs should be given to nerds.

Instead of hiring retired football players to do the brainy work, let's hire people who specialize in it. Give me the hotshot day trader with a hard drive full of spreadsheets and an eye for trends. He'll spot the subtle weaknesses and tendencies of opposing teams. Give me the war buff tactician with a degree in game theory who knows the appropriate situations to go for it on 4th or punt late in games, and can manage the clock in his sleep. Give me the statistician who can scour a database and tell you that the Titans blitz on 3rd and long between the 40s X% of the time, and which formations have the highest probability of prevailing against each package. Better yet, give me one with eidetic memory who can do it from the sideline.

Don't give me the guy that banged lots of cheerleaders, drank like a sailor, and played a little linebacker in college. I want a coach that has never suited up in his life.

Let the conditioning coaches coordinate practices and workouts. Bring in a motivational speaker to make speeches before games. Get a drill sergeant to chew out the players if you must. Those things are important, but they're a lower priority. Let the nerd coaches focus on the important work: devising the optimal strategy to winning football games.

And let's do it right now.

Hookem Horns
11-07-2010, 10:28 PM
We already have a nerd coaching this team.

SrslySirius
11-07-2010, 10:30 PM
We already have a nerd coaching this team.

Explain.

gtexan02
11-07-2010, 10:32 PM
I think being a good football coach is a 2 part endeavor:
1. Being knowledgeable enough to compile the right players, call the right plays, etc
2. Being knowledgeable enough about the game to earn the respect of your players

I just dont think a person so far removed from "actual" football will have the ability to really capture the players loyalty thats required to get them to buy into the system

I think thats what went wrong with Jason Garrett (nerd). He had them when they were winning, but as soon as the ship started to get holes, everyone bailed

Hookem Horns
11-07-2010, 10:33 PM
Explain.

Nerds are known to be wimps. They tend to get pushed around a lot. Intelligent but without gonads. Kubiak is all of the above.

gtexan02
11-07-2010, 10:34 PM
Nerds are known to be wimps. They tend to get pushed around a lot. Intelligent but without gonads. Kubiak is all of the above.

They also love to eat at Denny's and can't stand to watch extra points and FGs. Fact.

SrslySirius
11-07-2010, 10:39 PM
I think being a good football coach is a 2 part endeavor:
1. Being knowledgeable enough to compile the right players, call the right plays, etc
2. Being knowledgeable enough about the game to earn the respect of your players

I just dont think a person so far removed from "actual" football will have the ability to really capture the players loyalty thats required to get them to buy into the system

I think thats what went wrong with Jason Garrett (nerd). He had them when they were winning, but as soon as the ship started to get holes, everyone bailed

That's the conventional wisdom. A coach is supposed to be a motivator, a mentor, and a disciplinarian. I completely reject the notion. Smart strategy should be the ultimate priority. NFL players are highly payed professionals. And if some of them do mail it in, it shouldn't be the coach's responsibility to deal with egos.

Let the nerd coaches call the plays and have other professionals make sure the players carry out orders. It is more efficient to specialize than to shoehorn jobs together into jack-of-all trades roles.

SrslySirius
11-07-2010, 10:40 PM
Nerds are known to be wimps. They tend to get pushed around a lot. Intelligent but without gonads. Kubiak is all of the above.

I know you've been drinking, so I'll forgive you for saying that Kubiak is intelligent.

TexCanada
11-07-2010, 10:41 PM
I think the original poster is describing what you want out of a coordinator. Although, a coordinator also needs to have creativity with their playcalling, not just be able to read spreadsheets.

hradhak
11-07-2010, 10:45 PM
That's the conventional wisdom. A coach is supposed to be a motivator, a mentor, and a disciplinarian. I completely reject the notion. Smart strategy should be the ultimate priority. NFL players are highly payed professionals. And if some of them do mail it in, it shouldn't be the coach's responsibility to deal with egos.

Let the nerd coaches call the plays and have other professionals make sure the players carry out orders. It is more efficient to specialize than to shoehorn jobs together into jack-of-all trades roles.

This works well at the GM level because you can offload the scouting part of the job onto your head coach. It's difficult for a head coach to come from a non-football background (at least at first). Holmgren was a math teacher, but he had a lot of intermediate jobs first.

Coaching requires you to have a very solid knowledge of X's and O's, player scouting, drafting, playcalling, video watching, and much more. I agree that having someone who is strong in monitoring trends is very helpful, but coaches already have those guys - they're the statisticians, quality control guys, etc. The HC has to wear all of those hats, and in areas he is weaker, delegate responsibility. It's not a simple job, and although a person with a high IQ could probably master some of the tactical things, they wouldn't be able to assimilate all the knowledge without a lot of experience.

Hookem Horns
11-07-2010, 10:45 PM
I know you've been drinking, so I'll forgive you for saying that Kubiak is intelligent.

LOL ... good one.

DexmanC
11-07-2010, 10:51 PM
Until Tony Dungy retired, every head coach in the AFC South was a former
player.

Dungy and Fisher were defensive backs. Del Rio was a middle linebacker.
and Kubiak was a backup QB. Mike Tomlin of the Steelers was a defensive
back.

Many ex-players make excellent coaches. The best are a combination
of nerd and jock. All of one or the other ain't good.

SrslySirius
11-07-2010, 10:52 PM
Coaching requires you to have a very solid knowledge of X's and O's, player scouting, drafting, playcalling, video watching, and much more.

....

It's not a simple job, and although a person with a high IQ could probably master some of the tactical things, they wouldn't be able to assimilate all the knowledge without a lot of experience.

Disagree. The only things that can't be learned on paper is scouting and socialization. Those responsibilities can be delegated. The rest can be learned quickly enough by the brightest minds in the world. Football is not rocket science. Let's not overestimate its complexity, or underestimate the capability of brilliant minds to internalize information.

hradhak
11-07-2010, 11:01 PM
Disagree. The only things that can't be learned on paper is scouting and socialization. Those responsibilities can be delegated. The rest can be learned quickly enough by the brightest minds in the world. Football is not rocket science. Let's not overestimate its complexity, or underestimate the capability of brilliant minds to internalize information.

If you want a good read on what a head coach really has to learn I'd recommend Pat Kirwan's book, "Take Your Eyes of the Ball". He talks about all the stuff that's required to be a good coach and explains in detail what the various people in an NFL organization have to do on a daily basis.

I agree that very smart people could probably learn a lot of things. But there's a lot to be said for having experience at various coaching positions before becoming a head coach. Having an intense focus on one aspect of the game helps you learn that position really well. All that experience can be brought with you to the head coaching level.

IIRC one of the line coaches for an NFC team was a former aerospace engineer and is now a line coach. I imagine after a few coaching upgrades he may make it to head coach, but he needs the requisite experience at various levels to get there.

SrslySirius
11-07-2010, 11:06 PM
If you want a good read on what a head coach really has to learn I'd recommend Pat Kirwan's book, "Take Your Eyes of the Ball". He talks about all the stuff that's required to be a good coach and explains in detail what the various people in an NFL organization have to do on a daily basis.

I agree that very smart people could probably learn a lot of things. But there's a lot to be said for having experience at various coaching positions before becoming a head coach. Having an intense focus on one aspect of the game helps you learn that position really well. All that experience can be brought with you to the head coaching level.

IIRC one of the line coaches for an NFC team was a former aerospace engineer and is now a line coach. I imagine after a few coaching upgrades he may make it to head coach, but he needs the requisite experience at various levels to get there.

Here's a thought. Let's set up a farm system.

We bring in a few dozen gifted scholars and put them through Football University. Bring in former coaches as guest speakers, let them attend practices, analyze game film, and teach them everything they need to know. Maybe a few years of this. Then let the cream of the crop start working their way up the coaching ladder.

You can pay the students a decent salary for attending. It wouldn't be a huge investment, and would pay off tremendously.

gtexan02
11-07-2010, 11:07 PM
Maybe we'll get lucky and Peyton will retire within the next decade and decide he would like to coach the Texans.

He's the perfect combination of nerd and jock

hradhak
11-07-2010, 11:13 PM
Here's a thought. Let's set up a farm system.

We bring in a few dozen gifted scholars and put them through Football University. Bring in former coaches as guest speakers, let them attend practices, analyze game film, and teach them everything they need to know. Maybe a few years of this. Then let the cream of the crop start working their way up the coaching ladder.

You can pay the students a decent salary for attending. It wouldn't be a huge investment, and would pay off tremendously.

I think it's a great idea. And would probably be one of the best ways to get a smart non-football person up to speed and ready for coaching. The real problem is that too many owners / GMs are scared to "buck the trend". I wouldn't be surprised though if it started happening. Coaching is a lot more complicated than it used to be 30 years ago.

SrslySirius
11-07-2010, 11:16 PM
I think it's a great idea. And would probably be one of the best ways to get a smart non-football person up to speed and ready for coaching. The real problem is that too many owners / GMs are scared to "buck the trend". I wouldn't be surprised though if it started happening. Coaching is a lot more complicated than it used to be 30 years ago.

Sadly, it's never easy to challenge the status quo. Especially in sports. Statistical analysis in baseball was very primitive until fairly recently, and a lot of execs are still resisting it.

wagonhed
11-08-2010, 01:31 AM
Two words:

Bill Belichick

hradhak
11-08-2010, 07:08 AM
Sadly, it's never easy to challenge the status quo. Especially in sports. Statistical analysis in baseball was very primitive until fairly recently, and a lot of execs are still resisting it.

Well Sabermetrics has made its way into dugouts, but it did take a while. FootballOutsiders is making progress on the football front. I know Bellicheck has used some of the FO analysis for some of his playcalling.

I think the bottom line is that once a team starts beating you with stats analysis, it will catch on like wild fire. I imagine the same will happen in the NFL with coaching.

wagonhed
11-08-2010, 03:23 PM
I should point out that a much better case can be made for statistical analysis in baseball because they play 160+ games. The larger the sample size, the better statistics work. I'm not saying it shouldn't be used to some extent in football, but that it can be much more difficult to divine conclusions from the analysis and decide on courses of action.

RTP2110
11-08-2010, 03:29 PM
I thought we had a pretty good example of this when Lil Shanny was here. I know he played at the college level but he was far from the pro athlete/meathead type. He was a pretty "nerdy" type dude, IMO. Probably created most his plays in Madden football.

Double Barrel
11-08-2010, 03:47 PM
Two words:

Bill Belichick

He still played football at some point. Center and tight end for Wesleyan University.

The only HC that I know of that never played football is Todd Haley.

I think a coach that is well schooled in Sun Tzu's Art of War might do well in the NFL.

Invincibility lies in the defence; the possibility of victory in the attack.
Sun Tzu

All warfare is based on deception.
Sun Tzu

Know your enemy and know yourself and you can fight a hundred battles without disaster.
Sun Tzu

Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.
Sun Tzu

Avoid Strength, Attack Weakness: Striking Where the Enemy is Most Vulnerable
Sun Tzu

The last quote is what really got me about the game plan against Indy. It was pathetic and beyond comprehension why they game planned to Indy's strengths. Freakin' Pickets charge.

Blake
11-08-2010, 03:51 PM
Buck the conventional wisdom. Let's hire some nerds.

I am down. Who you got?

HuttoKarl
11-08-2010, 04:05 PM
We need to stop hiring Aggies and Broncos.