FNF Coaches Talk — A Way for Defenses to Attack Passing Schemes, ‘Challenge Day’ for Starting Jobs, Active Winningest Coaches

Welcome back, Coaches. We’ve got some stories for you today. We hope everybody’s staying safe from the hurricane on the East Coast.

1. A new way for NFL defenses to attack sophisticated passing schemes (For the Win)

This is Part 2 in a four-part series in which USA Today explores trends with schemes across various levels of football.

There are two basic approaches to constructing the coverage end of pass defense:

Keep things simple and allow the players to do less thinking and more reacting.
Install a more complex scheme that gives the defensive coordinator more tools on game days but requires smarter players to execute them.
Neither approach is inherently better than the other and the decision really depends on a team’s personnel. The two most successful teams of the last decade have taken opposite approaches. Seattle’s Legion of Boom defense was hardly diverse, as Earl Thomas pointed out after signing with the Ravens…

The NFL has a reputation for being a copycat league but nobody outside of the Belichick coaching tree has really tried to replicate the Patriots’ defensive system of, well, not having a system. Teams did, however, rush to copy Seattle’s style of play to the point where NFL defenses have become as homogenous as the offenses had been.

This isn’t a new problem by any means and the solution has been around for decades now. Saban and Bill Belichick developed that solution during their time together in Cleveland when they came up with the concept of “pattern matching.” It’s still a zone defense, but after the receivers have run their routes, the defenders pick them up in man coverage. Before “pattern matching” became a thing, defenses were either playing man or zone; Saban and Belichick figured out a way to get the best of both worlds: The defense maintained the leverage advantage provided by zone coverage while still creating the tight windows that they’d get in man coverage.

What adjustments have you made to your defensive scheme to counter opposing teams’ more sophisticated passing attacks?

2. Small college program has instituted “Challenge Day” to compete for starting spots (The Apprentice School Athletics)

Here’s a good idea if you’re tired of hearing complaints about playing time.

Marvel’s Black Panther introduced us all to Challenge Day, when tribes are able to challenge to become king by defeating the current heir to the throne. This coach of a DIII school in Virginia took a similar approach to deciding his team’s starters.

What opportunities do you give your players to challenge for playing time in-season?

3. Winningest active high school football coach in each state (MaxPreps)

Here’s a season-opening story about the winningest active coach in each state. It’s interesting to see how some of the states stack up.

While coaches like J.T. Curtis of John Curtis Christian and Mike Smith of Hampton have racked up huge win totals in their career to rank as their state’s active coach with the most wins, coaches don’t necessarily have to have over 300 wins to be the top dog in their state.

What is one common trait you’ve seen among the most successful high school coaches?

What’s driving the conversation in your locker room? Email Managing Editor Dan Guttenplan or Tweet us @fnfcoaches. Don’t forget to use that hashtag #FNFCoachesTalk!