Wednesday, July 3, 2019

12 Keys To Being A Successful Offensive Coordinator

In the nearly 20 years I have been a coordinator, I have learned a lot about what doesn't work. Those mistakes have helped us learn ways to troubleshoot and figure out how to get better. A couple weeks ago a coach I met at the Glazier Clinic in St. Louis called me because he just got promoted to offensive coordinator. We talked about some things I thought were important, and figured this could benefit about anyone who was an OC or aspired to be. Here are some things I have learned that might benefit you.

1. Less Is More
The first and most important thing I have learned is that less is more. I have consistently been way too ambitious with our install menu. If we are going to use 32 formations, 10 runs, 6 passes, 2 screens, and a draw, along with a waggle and a naked boot, we have too much stuff. I used to think running a play is running a play regardless of formation. One season we decided to add new formations each week. Our concepts were the same, but the formations would change.  One week we struggled with our inside zone read play. Our tight end came back to the sideline and said, "coach, it looks different." Even though we ran the same inside zone read concepts, running them from different formations changes the presentation. Our tight end gave us a valuable coaching point that day.

The more you install, the more your players have to process. The more you install, the more they have to remember. It is also important to remember that each team is different. Some groups will have a bigger capacity to learn and remember. Some teams will not be able to handle as much. You have to figure out how much each group can handle.

2. How Much Should We Install
Coaches often will ask me how many plays they should install. There is no concrete answer, but I will say most of us install too much. Realistically you need 1 inside run, 1 outside run, 1 off tackle run, and one counter or misdirection play. You need 2 to 3 intermediate pass concepts, 3 quick game concepts, a play action off your identity run, a sprint out, a draw, and a screen. You run these from 6 base formations. Add one trick play and one exotic formation each week, and you will have more than enough.

You might have one gap inside run and inside zone. You might have a pin and pull concept or outside zone to attack the perimeter. You might have a quarterback who struggles to read though a progression. If that is the case then you want to install key defender reads. Find what works best for your guys.

One important addition is this: You need to have an identity play which you can always run against anyone and anything. Too many offenses do not have an identity. They have a collection of plays, but they don't have an identity of who they are. You need to know your identity and who you are. This needs to be a part of building your install menu and schedule.

3. Think Players Not Plays
When the game is on the line you need to get the ball to your dudes. What you call is important, but who you get the ball to is most important. One of the biggest mistakes I have made is trying to call the perfect play. The perfect play to an average athlete will rarely be a "perfect play." If you call a bad play but get the ball to a dude, he will make it a great play. The best thing to do is call a great play to a great player, but when in doubt, get your dudes the ball. Many a time we have had a huge play on a bad play call because the right guy had the ball.

4. Match Your Philosophy To The Head Coach
This is really important. If you want to run an air raid system and your head coach runs the slot-t, you will have to marry your philosophy to his. If you can't do this, then it isn't a job you need to take. Don't take an OC job to take an OC job. Make sure your values are aligned with those of the head coach. If your head coach wants to slow the game down, then don't walk in there trying to run a bunch of tempo. When Joe Cluley hired me to be his OC at Estacado he laid out his expectations and we made sure we shared the same philosophy. This is vital to the success of our offense and program as a whole.

5. Get On The Same Page With The DC
This is very, very important. You and the DC must be partners. You have to work together to build practice plans and share personnel. You have to be able to bounce ideas off each other and make sure you are always doing what is best for the team. If you don't get along with the DC you will not have as much success and you will be miserable. At Estacado our DC is Cody Robinson, and he is awesome to work with. We have a great relationship and work as a team. We also compete against each other, but we work closely to ensure we maximize the success of the program.

6. Leave Your Ego At The Door
One of the most important things you must know is that it isn't about you. It is about the kids and the program. This goes with points 4 and 5. What is best for your program? What is best for your kids? Never walk in and try to impose your will on situation. You must fit your system to the strengths and needs of the program as a whole. If you want to play fast and snap the ball 90 times a game, but it isn't best for your team, then don't do it. Guys are always talking about stats. The most important stat is the win-loss record. No one person is bigger than the program, including the offensive coordinator. Never forget this.

7. Hire Smart People and Trust Them
I want the best people in football around me. Find people who are very smart, care about kids, and are great teachers. Then listen to them when it comes to building your system. If there is a better way to do something find that way. When you personnel your offensive staff, find a way to put them in the positions where they can best contribute to the staff as a whole. The most important thing you will do is put your staff in place. Give them responsibility and a vested interest in the success of your offense. Give them the authority to coach their guys.

8. Promote Your Staff
As a coordinator your goal needs to be to help the members of your staff grow as coaches and move up in the profession. You want your guys moving on to be coordinators. Do everything you can to help them move up. With that said, make sure your guys understand what it takes to be a coordinator. If a guy comes late all the time or is always the first one out the door, he probably isn't serious about being a coordinator. Find out the goals of the guys you work with and help them reach those goals.

9. Personal Growth Is Vital
The day you think you have it figured out is the day you need to quit. Everyday is a chance to grow. Everyday is a chance to learn. Early in my career I saw a very successful D-1 Head Coach speak at a clinic. After his talk he was sitting in the front row watching the next speaker, a high school coach talk about paired plays. This power 5 head coach was taking notes on a high school speaker. This was a valuable lesson. Every time someone talks football, be ready to take notes.

When a coach visits your school to recruit, ask them questions. Ask them about install. Ask them how the teach a concept or a drill. When you ask, then take notes. Taking notes is a great tool for learning. Taking notes helps you to remember information. It also gives you something to look back on if you do forget. Most guys are smarter than I am. But I know that when I don't take notes I will forget.

The biggest part of this is personal growth. Be willing to grow everyday. Always strive to be a better coach. Always strive to be a great example. Never ask your position coaches to do something you wouldn't do yourself. This is vital.

10. Always Have A Pen and Whistle- 
Every time you talk on the field make sure you have a pen and a whistle. A pen is vital so you can take notes during practice. Too much happens for you to remember everything. Having a pen allows you to write down your thoughts immediately. You might want to look at how you are teaching a blocking scheme, or receiver steps on a route. If you don't write down your thought you might forget it. Maybe you never forget things. That's great. But having a habit of writing things down during practice will help you be more apt to remember.

11. Set Clear Expectations For You Staff and Players
Make sure you have clearly defined roles and responsibilities for your staff. If you don't have clear expectations your staff cannot meet them. This is an area that I struggle with to this day. You have to make sure your staff knows exactly what to expect on a daily basis. Once you set your expectations, hold your staff to those expectations. Your staff will only be as good as the example you set and the expectations you all strive to meet each day. Make sure you are the standard on a daily basis.

Make sure your players understand the expectations and standards you set. When they make a mistake you must first look at yourself. Could they have been coached different? Did they understand the standard? Was the expectation clear? If not, clarify. No one wakes up trying to screw up. Find a way to reach each player. If they don't get something don't give up on them. Find a new way to teach it. It all starts with clear expectations.

12. Preparation Is Vital
When I first became an OC I used to say "we run what we run." It didn't matter what the defense did, we were going to what we did. In theory this sounded great. But this kept me from preparing well. The truth is I really didn't know how to prepare. After that first year as an OC I went back and watched every single play from the season. I watched in disbelief of why we called certain plays. I winged our in game calls. There had to be a better way. I spent a lot of time researching how to prepare. I talked to successful high school and college coaches about how they prepared. I took pages and pages of notes.

During the summer of my 2nd season as an OC we spent a lot of time watching film and practicing our preparation. I built call sheets and began to simulate calling games. I had recorded college games on VHS tapes and would break them down. I would watch the games and try to find weaknesses. This was the beginning of our systematic approach to preparation.

When you prepare you have to watch film. I have written about this extensively, but the biggest deal is that you have to look at their structure, how they line up to formations, what coverages the defense plays, their blitz tendencies, and their personnel. We want to know were we can find leverage, numbers, and green grass, and where we can find a personnel win? Where can we win a matchup. We began to build a weekly menu, a very detailed practice plan, and very precise scout cards. Everything we did had a rhyme and a reason. Regardless of how you prepare, you must spend time in preparation.

Final Thoughts
These 12 keys are by no means an exhaustive list, but they are the 12 things I find most important to being successful as a coordinator. I wrote this looking inward as I need to work on several of these myself. It boils down to this: Be confident in your abilities, but be humble enough to realize it is bigger than you. Don't get caught up in the title of OC. Be a great coach at everything off the field and put the program first.

And remember this; Focus on what you have, not what you don't have. Don't look for the weaknesses in your players. Find their strengths.See the greatness inside the guys you coach. See them not for where they are, but for what they can be. If you see a kid as a backup, that's how you will coach him. If you see him as a starter, that's also how you will coach him. See them for what they can be, then coach them to get there. Also, make sure you let them know what you see them being. That is vital.

Next Level Preparation
A few years ago I was speaking at a clinic about our game planning and an FBS coordinator asked me after the talk to go through what we do. I shared with him our offensive game planning resource and he used it through the spring. He emailed me back that it was a game changer. It was an honor to have him use these documents. After speaking at clinics and hearing that more coaches didn't know where to start, I decided to make these available.

Here is a link to my offensive game planning documents: 
It includes everything from a scouting report template, to practice plans, to a two-sided color call sheet, and more! Each of the nine documents are fully editable and customizable! Order today and start preparing for your first game right now! At one time this was $99, but it is available right now for less than $13!
Here are a couple of screen shots to show you what our call sheet looks like: 

This shows you a small portion of it. It is a fully editable, customizable two sided call sheet. It gives you the ability to better organize and be prepared on game day. It helped us to be better play callers on game day. There are eight other fully customizable documents! Some of the top high school programs in the country use this, as do several college programs!

When I was a defensive coordinator we adapted this to our defensive preparation! 
Here is a link to the defensive game planning documents. It includes 12 fully editable and customizable documents. These are what we used to post 6 shutouts when I was a defensive coordinator. Defensive coordinators at all levels of football are using this. Again, it is less than $13 right now!

And finally, I put together a special teams resource. This has everything you need, included drill tape, practice tape, and game footage. It includes teaching presentations and scouting forms just for special teams! This helped us to build dominating special teams! It is just $14.99! It will help you win more games. 

I wanted these to be available at a very reasonable cost. These can help you to be more successful on the field and more efficient in the office! 

1 comment:

  1. Excellent article format. Breaking down an overall goal of being a successful coordinator into easily understood components that can be gauged and assessed daily.