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10 Football Coaches.

Who Contributed to the Game

KENNY RATLEDGE

FOOTBALL COACHES are notorious for imaging success -- studying the modus operandi of winning coaches and copying or adapting the things they like.

When Bud Wilkinson began beating everyone with his Split-T offense at Oklahoma, it became the rage of the age.

When Darrell Royal pioneered the wishbone option offense, it became the height of fashion.

The story is repeated almost every year. One year it's the Miami 4-3 defense. The next year it's the Washington Redskins signature counter trey, and the third year it's the Chicago Bears 46.

And of course everyone in football has tinkered with or adopted pieces of the Veer, Winged-T, shot gun, double-wing, etc., etc.

All of these intriguing offenses or sets are the handiwork of brilliant coaches whose contributions to the game are well-worth closer study.

PAUL "BEAR" BRYANT

The secret of Bryant's success was not innovation or cutting edge X's and 0's. In fact, he had his greatest years after he adopted Darrell Royal's wishbone offense in the early 1970's.

He was a master psychologist who applied such concepts as goal setting, repetition, reverse psychology, incentive motivation, and immediate reinforcement long before these terms became popular. His uncanny ability to motivate diverse personalities and to know just how far to push each player were the secrets of his success.

Bryant's leadership skills were astonishing. He could motivate average players into becoming starters on championship teams. Many of his former players have freely admitted that their greatest worry in football had been disappointing Coach Bryant.

The Bear was famous for his readiness to heap praise on his players and his staff when Alabama won and to take all the blame when Alabama lost. This served to foster loyalty and love from his coaches and players, and was always a compelling reason for not letting him down.

VINCE LOMBARDI

Coach Lombardi was called many things: tyrannical, emotional, mercurial, sentimental, loyal, and harsh, but the term that suited him best was perfectionist.

He made harsh demands on his players to prepare them for the harsher demands of the game. He felt that every fiber in your body should be used in pursuit of excellence. He was fond of saying "The quality of a man's life is in direct proportion to his commitment to excellence, regardless of his chosen field or endeavor."

Lombardi would not tolerate excuses or compromises. He was interested only in results. He taught his players that success and winning are habits. To play for him, you had to be mentally tough. Aches and pains were of no consequence to him.

His signature play was, fittingly, the power sweep. There was no mystery about the play. Opponents knew what was coming. The only problem they had was stopping it.

Lombardi spent an immense amount of time on this one play. He demanded that every component part of it had to be executed precisely.

The play worked so well that the Packers, in Lombardi's nine seasons, won six conference championships (three of them in a row), plus the first two Super Bowls.

STEVE SPURRIER

Coach Spurrier's basic philosophy is a marvel of ingenuity: If you are going to be successful, do things either better than everyone else or differently than everyone else.

Spurrier became the head coach of the Florida Gators in 1989, and the Southeastern Conference hasn't been the same ever since. He forever changed the way football was played in the SEC. He not only brought a highly sophisticated passing game into a running conference, but espoused the radical idea that the pass would set up the run!

He flooded the field with all five eligible receivers (six if you count the QB) and forced defenses to cover the entire field. He further complicated the opponents' game plans by varying the number of backs in the backfield. The defense never knew whether they were going to see two, one, or no backs on any particular down.

Coach Spurner's philosophy to do things differently allowed Florida to dominate the SEC during the 1990's. He clearly proved that there is more than one way to skin a cat.

JOE GIBBS

The reputation of the former head coach of the Washington Redskins (1981-92) seems to be growing with time. Redskins fans believe he was Washington's greatest loss since Abraham Lincoln.

Gibbs took his teams to the Super Bowl four times and won three world championships with three different quarterbacks. These are Lombardi-like stats.

He was famous for game preparation. He felt that every winning effort had to start with preparation and that games were won on the practice field, the meeting room, and the weight room.

He also fervently believed that the will to win is meaningless without the will to prepare. Everyone wants to win, but the real winners are those who work to win. Luck was on the side of the best prepared.

The entire offensive staff devised the Redskins game plan. Each play was studied and debated before it was included in the Sunday play list. This was tedious work at best and very time-consuming, but extraordinarily effective.

Gibbs had two approaches to offensive preparation. One was to prepare what your team does best without regard to the opponent and the other was to focus on attacking a defensive weak spot, whether it was a particular player or a hole in the defensive scheme.

Gibbs usually combined the two theories. He did what his team did best and he attacked the defensive flaws. His obsessive work ethic exacted its price. Though nobody ever had a better relationship with his players and front office, Gibbs finally succumbed to the stress and strain of his 100-hour work weeks. He retired from football and his fantastic work ethic is now paying huge dividends in NASCAR racing.

TOM LANDRY

Tom Landry was a major exponent of the cerebral approach to football. He believed in sowing confusion in the opponents and went after them with finesse rather than the sledgehammer.

Traps and misdirections were staples of the Dallas Cowboys offense, which featured an awesome package of motion, shifts, and changing snap counts.

The quiet, unsmiling, reverent master strategist will always be remembered as the father of the Dallas flex defense, refiner of the shotgun, and pioneer of computerized scouting.

CHUCK NOLL

It's going to take a little while for anyone to win four Super Bowls in six years, as Chuck did with his dynastic Pittsburgh Steeler teams.

As most championship teams know, getting to the top is the easy part; staying there is the difficult part. Noll had the ability to keep his players focused and stable and to maintain the same approach to work and preparation, win or lose.

He subscribed to the old saying, "There is only way to coast and that's downhill." He persuaded his players to buy into the theory that being a winner was a day-to-day thing.

He conducted post-season evaluations every year, during which his staff surveyed each player and each position, with particular emphasis on player attitude. Were they still hungry and focused?

When he himself began to have trouble with these two things, he retired. Noll was a quiet, cerebral, hard-case, who was totally focused. In most ways, he was the perfect kind of coach for the super group of players he had.

BILL WALSH

Bill Walsh coached the San Francisco 49ers for 10 years and won three Super Bowls in spectacular fashion. He is considered one of the most innovative coaches of all time.

His "West Coast" passing game is being used in one form or another by almost every team in the NFL. With a cool, accurate passer at the helm and a corps of trained receivers, the 49er offense could move the football up and down the field at will.

Walsh also introduced "The Script" on offense. That is, starting a game with a prepared list of plays that allowed the signal-caller to execute the game plan in a stress-free environment, while also revealing how the defense was going to react.

All of this eliminates a lot of pre-game pressure and anxiety and enables the coach to gather an invaluable amount of information that can be exploited later on in the game.

FRANK BEAMER

Like many other coaches, the Virginia Tech mentor will tell you that special teams often spell the difference between the W and the L.

He takes it a step farther by breaking down the opponent's game film, looking for weaknesses, and personally coaching various aspects of the kicking game. Beamer is very hands-on with this.

This kind of personal involvement by the head coach sends a message to the players: "Special teams are very important." He puts his best players on the special teams and everyone knows that that is the way to achieve status on the team.

Many of Coach Beamer's special-team practice ideas are now being used nationwide.

MARTY SCHOTTENHEIMER

The new coach of the Washington Redskins is famous for creating a winning environment for his players. He is a "player coach" who makes them feel valuable and wanted.

He always gives them the freedom to provide input and feedback on various aspects of the game plan -- to see the big picture.

Communication is another of his strengths. He is noted for his two-way communication and focus on the positives of a situation.

BRIAN BILLICK

The former offensive coordinator and current head coach of the Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens is particularly noted for his ability to adjust his offensive mentality to the available talent.

Billick came to the Ravens with the reputation of an offensive genius. He has evolved from an aggressive play-caller to a more conservative type of game planner because of his dominating defense.

He still looks to strike early with the vertical game, but as the game unfolds, he realizes the need to control the clock and to avoid the kind of defensive stress that leads to turnovers. Reigning his natural impulse to throw the ball all over the field, he jokingly claims he has "gone over to the dark side."

The Lombardi Credo

..."Leaders are made, they are not born; and they are just like anything else has never been made in this country--by hard effort. And that's the price that we all have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal.

..."And despite of what we say about being born equal, none of us really are born equal, but, rather unequal. And yet the talented are no more responsible for their birthright than the underprivileged. And the measure of each should be what each does in a specific situation.

..."It is becoming increasingly difficult to be tolerant of a society who has sympathy only for the misfits, only for the maladjusted, only for the criminal, only for the loser. Have sympathy for them, help them, but I think it's also a time for all of us to stand up for and to cheer for the doer, the achiever, one who recognizes a problem and does something about it, one who looks at something extra to do for his country, the winner, the leader!"'
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Copyright 2001, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:RATLEDGE, KENNY
Publication:Coach and Athletic Director
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2001
Words:1855
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