FNF Coaches Talk for Oct. 24

We have a few stories to get to on this Wednesday. Here are three of the biggest ones we’re talking about in our newsroom.

1. Op-ed: How one flawed study and irresponsible reporting launched a wave of CTE hysteria (Yahoo Sports)

We’ve certainly heard a fair share of bad news when it comes to CTE (Chrionic Traumatic Encephalopathy) research over the last few years, but this op-ed attempts to rebut some of the claims that football is the cause of long-term brain damage. Former NFL player Merril Hoge and Peter Cummings, ME, recently authored a book, “Brainwashed: The Bad Science Behind CTE and the Plot to Destroy Football.”

This op-ed shares the basis of that book, which looks to put into context the risks associated with football. The inspiration behind the book was a New York Times story stating that Boston University’s CTE’s Center had examined the brains of 111 former NFL players and found signs of CTE in 110 of them.

Let’s start with this: the study that produced the 110 out of 111 brains finding had no control group. Good research design requires a control group against which findings can be compared. In this case, the control group could have been brains from 100 athletes from sports other than football, brains from 100 men who had never played contact sports – any cohort that would have allowed the researchers to determine whether men of a certain age who hadn’t played in the NFL also showed signs of CTE. For some reason, this study didn’t have that.

Hoge and Cummings also note that the Boston University CTE Center may have entered the research with a predetermined result in mind.

Also, many of the 111 NFL brains were donated by deceased players’ family members specifically because the players had displayed symptoms of mood, cognitive or behavioral disorders. That’s selection bias. If you only look at brains from people who seem to have neurological problems, don’t be surprised when you find signs of those problems.

The op-ed also calls into questions whether the players tested had substance-abuse issues, steroid use, obesity, cigarette smoking or chronic stress in their medical histories. Regardless, it’s another side to consider, and we haven’t seen much push-back on the widely accepted conclusion that football is a cause of CTE.

What questions do you have about the widely accepted narrative that football is a cause of CTE?

2. Teach These 6 Onside Kick Progressions (X&O Labs)

X&O Labs is a partner of HUDL, which just about every coach uses. In this story, St. Anthony’s High (NY) defensive assistant George Karafantis details how to use an onside kick as a weapon to get extra possessions.

Would you ever have an offense consisting of only one or two plays? Of course not, so why have only one onside kick in your game plan?

Karafantis and his staff do not consider the special teams kickoff unit a coverage unit. Instead, it is a unit that helps initiate offense.

Our kickoff onside team can sometimes be referred to as a kickoff offense since we are designing the play to give the ball to our offense. We start with the ball on kickoff, so we feel we have some control of where the ball goes and because of that we look for the least athletic player on the return team and study him.

Karafantis shares six onside kick play calls and explains each one. Check it out, coaches. It’s an interesting read.

What factors do you take into account before calling a surprise onside kick?

3. Gridiron glory, heartache and hope: Spending a week with South head football coach Ryan Goddard (The Pueblo Chieftain)

This is a fun story that any coach can relate to. The reporter, Jeff Bersch, had an opportunity to shadow South High (Pueblo, Colo.) head coach Ryan Goddard on a game week before a rivalry matchup with Pueblo.

Goddard is depicted doing so many things high school coaches can relate to — giving a pregame speech, watching film at 2 a.m. after the game, going through a sleepless night, watching college football with his daughter on Saturday morning, abiding by a rule not to talk about football at home, leading a meeting with his staff on Sunday, and leading his team through practices and strength training sessions during the week.

So at 2 a.m. Saturday, about four hours after the loss, Goddard sat in bed and watched film on his phone. It was the first step in preparing for a game the following week, this one against Pueblo County.

We all know the way in which losing seasons can take their toll on us. Here’s an example of how it weighed on Goddard in the beginning of his stint at South High.

The first few years were tough. The Colts went 5-6 his first season in 2010 and 2-8 the following year. In 2012, South went 1-9. “We had ‘For Sale’ signs in our yard — that we didn’t put there,” Goddard said. “There were things like that that we had to go through. Once we got it turned around, it’s been a blast. Winning or losing, I’ve had a lot of fun coaching football.”

It’s a fun read for football coaches who — at midseason — might take comfort in the fact that they’re not alone in what they’re going through at this time of year.

If a reporter were to shadow you for a week, what would fans learn about your coaching style that they wouldn’t expect?

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!