Smart Notes 2/25/2010

The elder Kiffin. Despite the weirdness of his recent career path — due entirely from following his son around — Monte Kiffin remains both one of the most well-respected defensive minds in the game as well as a source of hope for the fans whose team is (currently) coached by Lane. So it is with the excellent Trojan Football Analysis, which adroitly summarizes Monte’s defensive philosophy.

2. Tebow’s motion, cont’d. Tebow is changing his release. I’m fine with this: it needed to be done, it appears (from the few clips I’ve seen) that he’s getting good coaching and things are improving, and if he didn’t the story threatened to derail him from getting drafted at all. And most importantly, if it works, he should be a better quarterback. Two points. One, realistically, Tebow just has three timelines with all this. The first is his pro day. If he can improve enough there to get drafted somewhere, then that’s a major hurdle. And then guess what? He has a long time to work on these mechanics and get better — his next two deadlines would be (a) preseason when he might play a bit, and (b) the eventual day he would get in a regular season game, which might be years hence. So while this overhaul requires a quick turnaround for his pro day, it is just one day and involves throwing in a controlled environment to receivers he knows, like Riley Cooper. (Of course, this fact that Tebow needed to learn to play pro quarterback is why I said he should have gone pro last year and sat the bench working on these mechanics all year.)

Second, the Senator rounds up the minor dust up regarding who is to blame for Tebow’s crappy throwing motion. If there must be blame for this, I blame Tebow, though I don’t think that’s really fair either. Basically, Meyer’s job was to win games, and Tebow is the all-time greatest; yes there was some spin in hiring Scott Loeffler, but Loeffler was basically told not to mess with Tebow’s motion. (And as others have pointed out, they had limited practice time together.) But Tebow regressed during his time at Florida. Here’s what I saw from Tebow, especially as a senior: Instead of trusting his footwork, his release, and his progressions, he would drop back, look for the first receiver, and then simply try to buy time and scan the field. Quite literally from one side to the other, the way you would do in a backyard game where each receiver is just making up his route. This is why he was so often late with passes; he wasn’t throwing on time. And as he became fatigued his footwork regressed and he relied on an increasingly large wind-up to try to deliver the ball with velocity. Remember, it’s much easier to have good form if you’re throwing on rhythm. Can you blame Meyer for this? To an extent, sure. But remember who you’re talking about, the most celebrated and maybe the most successful quarterback ever. A guy who won games on moxie and guile alone. This business about dropping back, scanning the field, looking for Hernandez or Cooper, and then throwing on the move with a huge wind-up became part of his game. In any event, he has time to rectify the problems, and I wish him luck in doing so.

3. HGH testing in the NFL? It’s on the table in current negotiations.

4. How do you evaluate kickers? The WSJ Numbers guy chimes in, as does the Sabermetric Research Blog:

And that just seems wrong to me. League-wide, a 51-yard field goal attempt is successful only about 55% of the time. Admittedly, Stover has been worse than that, but still, when you try something that succeeds only about half the time, and then it winds up failing, all that second-guessing isn’t really called for.

5. Bench the quarterback! It was clear that the Packers of Lombardi’s day could only rise to the top if they did one thing: bench Bart Starr. Or so says a fan letter from 1959, from Pro Football Reference Blog.

6. Fire zones. Brophy with more wisdom (and video).

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Brian Kelly it is: UC coach to take over Notre Dame

I will have more to say about this, but, in the end, he’ll be compared to the man below, for better or worse. Strap up.

Dumbest thing I read today

From an “SEC assistant” via Tom Dienhart about Alabama’s “unsound” secondary (h/t Orson):

SECONDARY: Their weakness might be their secondary. They lost some guys who were chemistry guys in the back end. Schematically, they do a lot of different things. They do some things I couldn’t get away with because I don’t have some of the players who can just make plays. They do some things like Florida where you go, ‘Holy cow, that’s not very sound.’ But it ends up in a 2-yard loss.

Setting aside the fact that a large portion of this is meaningless, the takeaway point appears to be that the scheme is unsound and/or undisciplined but Saban just “has the players” to make it work. Uh, what? (Let’s leave aside the Lane Kiffin inflammatory analysis of the SEC Championship game that Florida has better players while Alabama has better coaches.) I simply do not agree. I’ve seen Alabama play a lot, and “unsound” is not the word I’d use. Aggressive? Sure. Do they play a lot of man coverage, which takes talent to be able to use? Yes. But unsound implies that they just make things up. I don’t know who the SEC assistant is, or if it got lost in translation to Dienhart, or what, but this just strikes me as an unbelievable form of analysis.

But, if you don’t believe me, you be the judge. The film isn’t from this year, but if they’re unsound, what should it matter? (H/t Brophy for the clips.)

Houston and the “stick” passing concept

“Stick” or “y-stick” is one of the most recent passing concepts to have gone totally viral such that basically every passing team uses it — it’s only about twenty to twenty-five years old. Everyone has their spin on the play, but basically it is a quick, three-step route play, where the offense puts the flat defender in a bind by sending one receiver to the flat while another hooks up or “sticks it” at five to six yards. Below is a good video showing the concept and showing an example of the Houston Cougars running it.

Note that it looks like Tulane is in man coverage, though it is the defensive end who drops off to cover the running back. In any event, stick also serves as a very good zone beater, as well being a great, quick zone play.

Drew Brees and the Saints’ pre-game chant

Get fired up…

Brees: 1; Chorus: 2
Brees: Win; Chorus: For You
Brees: 3; Chorus: 4
Brees: Win; Chorus: Some More
Brees: 5; Chorus: 6
Brees: Win; Chorus: Again
Brees: 7; Chorus: 8
Brees: Win; Chorus: Great
Brees: 9; Chorus: 10
Brees: Win; Chorus: Again
All: Again, Again, Again, Again!

(h/t CoachHuey.)

Improving a quarterback’s throwing motion

[The following is from noted quarterback guru Darin Slack. Check out his site and find out about his camps, materials, and the like.]

tombrady1There’s an old coaching adage that “you can’t change a throwing motion! A quarterback either can throw or he can’t. Period.”

You hear this all the time, this idea that a quarterback’s mechanics can’t be changed. Commentators, football dads, and coaches proclaim, “It’s impossible to change a quarterback’s throwing motion. Just coach his footwork.” Older quarterbacks in particular get subjected to this tunnel vision.

It says more about the coaches than it does the kid. The message it sends, however, is that, “We don’t have time to improve a kid’s throwing mechanics. Or we don’t know how — we don’t have the technical skills needed to coach them up. Why bother if we can just go find another kid who can already throw it better, without coaching”?

But what is passing talent? The mentality that some kids “have it” while others don’t shouldn’t apply to throwing in the same way it might to raw speed or quickness. Yet it comes up so often. There are many high-profile “athlete-quarterbacks” who are world-class athletes but aren’t very accurate. They can throw a spiral and an accurate pass or two, but because of their latent talent the theory is that the best thing to do is just to “let them play” and the last thing you should do is “overcoach” them. The old myth comes back: Just coach their feet; ignore the upper body.

But that’s only the most high-profile example. There are thousands of high school kids that receive almost no coaching of their passing mechanics. At best they get a few throwing drills. The result is thousands of young players who are given no the opportunity to develop. For the great-athlete quarterbacks, the lack of coaching puts a cap on their success and hurts their team’s passing games. For the less talented kids, they simply never see the field or get moved to new positions. If they ask for help, it’s that same refrain again: “Let’s work on your footwork.” Yet aren’t the feet are the farthest appendage from where you throw a ball from? Don’t you throw it with your arm?

Lack of coaching or not, the expectations remain: Perform at a high level or face criticism or the bench. The “can’t coach a throwing motion” myth prejudices the careers of many young men. Not all quarterbacks make it to the NFL but all want to succeed. Ignoring the upper body is like only coaching half the kid.

Ironically, the same coaches who preach a “footwork only” gospel also throw out plenty of meaningless buzz-phrases in lieu of actual coaching: “Follow through,” “Come over the top more,” “Raise your elbow,” “Turn your shoulders more.” This double standard of non-coaching and coaching-via-cliché is confusing — for both the coach and the kid.

If all you know are the same old cliches then you’re insulting your players’ intelligences, and if you’re insulting their intelligences then, over time, you will prove yourself to know very little. Because the stuff you’re saying won’t work. It might work a time or two, but you won’t have all the answers, as so much of it will be guessing on your part. And once that happens the players will start just fiddling with it themselves, drawing their own ad hoc conclusions about what works best. The result is typically not pretty.

Can you improve a quarterback’s throwing motion? Yes, but it’s important to use the right methods. As stated above, the old way is to focus on footwork only and then sprinkle in clichés throughout practice. Our way is different. We teach quarterbacks to “self-correct, not self-destruct,” through a central focus on the arm. We do this by teaching simple biomechanics concepts that are universal and non-negotiable, and yet provide powerful results that inform the footwork to support the entire process.

Here are two simple biomechanical examples to improve a throwing motion in the wrist and elbow. The wrist should be pronated, or turned over, on the release (see the images below), yet there are countless ways the wrist can move and only some are correct — the bad variations can create problems.

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Quarterback film study with Mike Leach

Excellent article from rivals.com. Do read the whole thing:

That brings us here, to Texas Tech’s football complex. It’s almost 6 p.m., and it’s time to get to work. A visit from Kansas looms, and it’s time to watch film with one of the nation’s most innovative coaches and his crew of quarterbacks.

Tech quarterbacks have led the nation in passing six times in nine seasons under Leach, and this season’s group is assembled in a meeting room adjacent to Leach’s office to watch film of the A&M debacle. Taylor Potts, Seth Doege, Steven Sheffield, Garrett Riley and Jacob Karam sit at a long conference table. Most slouch or recline, feet propped on a nearby chair and necks craned at a big screen.

X’s and O’s are scribbled on a nearby greaseboard. A phrase is scrawled along the top of the board: “Reads = QBs. Have your eyes in the proper place and deliver the ball to the right player at the right time.”

Wearing a black “Texas Tech Football” pullover and cargo shorts, Leach sits at the head of the table like a pigskin CEO, in front of a paper plate that once was covered with pulled pork, baked beans and coleslaw. His gray hair mussed, Leach surveys a schedule for tonight’s 8 p.m. practice as he sips iced tea. The room is silent, then Leach flips the lights and the show begins.

This is the official start of game week and the first of several film sessions for Leach and his quarterbacks, who already have watched film with the rest of the offense.

Tonight, though, the quarterbacks will review clips from the previous day’s game with just Leach. The players are given Mondays off. On Tuesdays, the quarterbacks watch film cut-ups of the upcoming opponent’s defense. On Wednesdays, the quarterbacks watch more film of their foe along with film from the previous day’s practice. That’s repeated on Thursdays and Fridays.

“This is where the scheme meets the reality,” Leach says before the film session. “On Mondays, when the players are off, the staff pores over film of the opponent and develops the game plan. It’s a long day. I probably end up watching about 30 hours of film a week. The quarterbacks probably watch about eight.”

The formula works. Since arriving in west Texas in 2000, Leach has become the face of this school, making Texas Tech one of the country’s most dynamic – and talked-about – offenses. You think of Texas Tech, you think of Leach, his mad-scientist attack and his fascination with pirates.

In the film room, the video has rolled for less than a minute before Leach spots something he doesn’t like from Potts. This will happen often on this evening. Potts was seeing his first action since suffering a concussion against New Mexico on Oct. 3; he ended up being benched at halftime and replaced by Doege.

“What did you see here?” Leach asks. “[Wide receiver] Detron [Lewis] really wasn’t open. You should have gone to this guy. You had leverage and he was open there for a moment. You can’t hold the ball that long.”

Potts’ final numbers didn’t look bad, as he completed 25 of 36 passes for 310 yards with two touchdowns. But he also had two interceptions and lost a fumble, and after the game, Leach described Potts as “statue-like.”

On the screen, Potts is getting sacked. “You have to feel this and step up,” Leach says. “It’s only one guy and he’s not on your blind side. You need to step up and avoid this.”

As Leach runs the play back – again and again – he lobs critiques at his pupils in a conversational manner; he doesn’t raise his voice, though he occasionally curses. It’s essentially a one-way exchange throughout the entire session, as the quarterbacks either offer a “yes, sir” or a nod.

On the screen, Potts is throwing an interception in the end zone. “No, we can’t have that,” says Leach, using a laser pointer to highlight an open receiver that Potts missed. “We don’t practice that, do we?

“We have an entire offense that needs to listen better. If you see that the group is anxious, huddle them up to calm them down. Make sure your messages are delivered with confidence. You need to relax. For whatever reason, you are struggling.”

Still, Leach doesn’t want to harp on the negative too much. It’s important to inject a positive message. There’s still a lot of football to be played this season.

“What did you see on that play?” Leach asks.

“I thought the receiver in the boundary was covered, so I looked to my option cutting over the middle,” Potts answers. “It looked like he was open, but their defensive back closed quickly.”

On the screen, the Tech offense rolls on.

“I think we are playing at a pretty high level here,” Leach says. “Go through your progressions. Nice job here, Seth. But I know you guys can do better.” . . . .

Doege is soaking it all in on this Sunday night. He watches and listens as the second-half tape continues to cycle by with him under center. This is his big chance. A quarterback controversy may be brewing in Lubbock, and Doege may end up starting this week against Kansas. He wants to be ready.

“That check is good, but we have some guys who are trying to do too much,” Leach says. “You did a good job on your reads. You found the hot receiver.”

Doege nods and says, “Yes, sir.”

“Good job moving your feet and staying out of trouble,” Leach says. “But when the safety went here, you should have gone here with this throw.”

On the screen, Doege drops back and fires a nice pass – which is dropped.

After about an hour, Leach has seen enough.

“Someone hit the lights.”

The first film session of the week is finished. Leach has Potts wait in the film room and tells Doege to wait in his office. Leach wants to talk to each quarterback in private, presumably to tell them who will start against Kansas.

The one-on-one sessions last about 10 minutes before the quarterbacks leave to get dressed for practice. Leach scribbles some notes on his practice agenda. There’s lots of work to do, and Leach will be back in his captain’s chair later.

Now, he pulls on a jacket and heads toward the stadium for practice. It’s cold out, about 40 degrees. The door closes behind him. The next game is six days away.

And here’s a quote from a drop caption in the article: “I would say Kliff [Kingsbury] and Graham [Harrell] liked [watching film] the most of all of my guys,” Leach says. “Those two were sons of coaches, so I think they came by in naturally. They really enjoyed it and were like gym rats.”

(H/t doubletnation.com)

Breakdown of Drew Brees’s Saints passing game, and four verticals

Available over at the NY Times’s Fifth Down blog. Check it out there.

Most depressing thing I read today

From a study of NCAA probation penalties:

… The study reveals universities who belong to conferences whose champions receive annual automatic BCS bowl bids (BCS automatic-qualifier schools) received less stringent probation penalties from the NCAA infractions committee than other Division I institutions. Also, the research indicates FBS institutions receive less probation years than FCS institutions and non-football sponsoring schools. Finally, the results suggest historically Black colleges and universities in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference and Southwestern Athletic Conference (HBCUs) received harsher probation penalties than other Division I institutions.

Read the whole thing. (H/t Blutarsky.)

And yet, as bad as this is — and it is terrible — I still tend to prefer the NCAA system and am more hopeful that it can be fixed than the NFL’s current autocracy, which works as follows, at least for individual players:

Commissioner Roger Goodell determines if you have violated the NFL’s policies. If you have, Commissioner Roger Goodell will bring enforcement against you. Commissioner Roger Goodell will determine if Commissioner Roger Goodell properly determined that you violated Commissioner Roger Goodell’s policies, and then determines the punishment. If you disagree with Commissioner Roger Goodell’s ruling or punishment, you may appeal to Commissioner Roger Goodell. Finally, Commissioner Roger Goodell will determine of you have complied with Commissioner Roger Goodell’s terms of punishment and/or probation.

The wisdom of Texas Tech’s Taylor Potts

Potts, after the Red Raiders’ loss to Texas: “We’d get on a roll offensively and then get a penalty and go right back where we started,” Potts said.

“We tried to beat Texas and ourselves in the first half. In the second half, we just tried to beat Texas.”

Taylor_Potts_-_trucker_stache_medium

And they gave it a pretty good effort. That is, until Sergio Kindle shut the door.