FNF Coaches Talk

Good afternoon, Coaches. Here are some stories for you.

1. Eagles provide roadmap to analytics-driven future of football (ESPN)

We understand pro and even college teams have much larger budgets to assemble an analytics department, but this article shows why it’s certainly something to consider at the high school level. Pulaski Academy (Ark.) coach Kevin Kelley is referenced in the story for his philosophy of never punting, and it gives examples of ways high school coaches can use information derived from analytics to their advantage.

Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie predicted in 2016 that this radio frequency identification (RFID) technology would “revolutionize the sport in the long run” and made sure his team was well-positioned to handle the flood of information that hit the NFL as the league released two years’ worth of game data last spring.

Since 2014, the NFL has worked with Zebra Technologies to outfit its stadiums with RFID technology that tracks and records the real-time position and movement of all players using a chip embedded under their shoulder pads.

Meanwhile, teams such as the Eagles who have been working to master this language for some time have started using the information gleaned from player-tracking data in their game preparation. Teams can efficiently time the pace of play of their opponent — how fast they get to the line of scrimmage and how many adjustments are made once they get there — and tailor the tempo at which they practice accordingly. They are using this data to develop schemes, identifying matchups and tendencies they can exploit.

Analytics can also be used to help coaches make in-game decisions, like whether to go for it on fourth down. As we know, the statistics would show MOST coaches should be going for it on fourth down more often than they are.

The team’s working philosophy turned into practice when the open-minded Pederson became coach in 2016. Pederson and Paganetti communicate before every fourth-down situation. The Eagles went for it on fourth down 26 times during the 2017 regular season — second only to the Green Bay Packers (28) — converting a league-high 17 attempts for a 65% success rate during their Super Bowl run. Since 2016 under Pederson, the Eagles have gone for it on fourth down 78 times, most in the NFL over that span.

In what way does the use of analytics inform your coaching decisions?

2. Mack Brown shares how to establish trust from players quickly (Drew Maddux)

Mack Brown recently shared with a reporter how he gets players to trust his coaching tactics quickly, since these days, coaches don’t have two or three years to develop team chemistry.

“We felt like the only way for us to get to know each other is for guys to get up and say who they are, and what has happened in their life, and who are the people in their life that have changed their life.”
“I’m telling you now. There are some wonderful stories, heartbreaking stories, but these kids are incredible kids, and some of them to overcome what they have overcome. For them to stand up there and say those things, to us. It just made us, as coaches, want to get up there and say things that we may not have told them about us either.”

Here’s a full explanation of the philosophy, from Coach Brown.

What are some of your favorite trust-building exercises to do with players?

3. Penn State: Adjustments Not As Simple As You Might Think (StateCollege.com)

The phrase “halftime adjustments” is an interesting one because it implies that adjustments during the game are difficult to make.

And for some teams they are, you see it at every level of football, but most often with college teams. An offense will struggle with something in the first half and come out firing in the second. Sometimes that’s simply execution, but often it’s a small change or tweak.

Penn State is no different, in fact its 2016 Big Ten Title team was the epitome of this. While players and coaches didn’t entirely enjoy the label, it’s hard to argue the figures: Penn State scored more points in the second half than the first half in 10 of its games.

Asked about the obstacles that come with making adjustments with a younger team, James Franklin went into great detail, divided up here by concept.

THE VALUE OF SCRIPTING:

“That’s why a lot of people script the opening drive of a game. Well, why do you do that? Because you think these are your best plays in the game, but it’s also, you want to line up in empty once to find out as soon as possible, are they lining up to empty how we thought, and into the FIB-formation into the boundary how we thought. If you can show all these the 10-personnel, 11-personnel, whatever it may be, now you can find out quickly, are they playing how we thought they would play. If you don’t line up in empty until the fourth quarter, you don’t know if they are following the empty playing that we have.”

IN-GAME KNOWLEDGE:

“It’s not just the coaches making adjustments to the players. The first thing is getting feedback from the players. And what’s amazing is as players get older, the more accurate information you get — right now with Michal Menet, when he comes to the sideline, he can tell us exactly what’s happening and it aligns with exactly what they are telling us if the booth, because sometimes what we are hearing in the booth isn’t exactly happening.”

What information do you rely on to make in-game adjustments?

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!

About the author

Dan Guttenplan