FNF Coaches Talk — Recovering NJ Coach Records Pregame Message in Championship Game, McDermott Changes Play After Defensive TO, VICIS Out of Money

Welcome back, Coaches. We’ve got three stories for you.

1. New Jersey coach wins championship for recovering coach, who recorded pregame pep talk (NJ.com)

NJ.com listed its 10 most inspiring stories from the 2019 season, and this one is a nice one for coaches to read.

Ridgewood was without its longtime leader, coach Chuck Johnson, at MetLife Stadium, but the Maroons played inspired and emotional football for its absent coach on the state’s biggest game. Up against then-No. 4 and unbeaten Union in the North Group 5 Regional Championship, a pregame video message from Johnson – who missed the final two months of the season while recovering from an illness – led to one of the biggest late-season upsets as the Maroons downed Union, 41-37, in a game which featured five lead changes in the fourth quarter.

The overwhelming message from Ridgewood following the victory? It won it for Coach J.

“Coach Johnson runs this program not like your typical program,” interim head coach Dave Cord said. “He doesn’t meet these boys at ages 14 or 15 when they become freshmen in high school. He meets them when they’re 8 years old and in third grade. These kids know their entire youth careers they’re coming up to play for Coach Johnson.”

With Johnson’s health reportedly improving recently, Ridgewood (10-2) requested to the NJSIAA that its Regional Championship be moved back a week. There was hope that Johnson would be able to attend a week from now.

The NJSIAA denied that request, however, not wanting to set a precedent for the future.

His team responded by taking every Union punch and always having an answer.

“Coach Johnson put this program in motion a long, long time ago,” Cord said. “This is just a fitting way for our season to end. Nothing went to plan. I’ve only known Coach J for five years, but never in my wildest dreams would I ever think he’d not be able to finish out a season. I don’t think our kids ever thought that, either. But they rolled with the punches. Putting up 41 to win? Ridgewood doesn’t do that, but we did it today. They responded.”

What was your final message to your team this season?

2. Bills coach gets Pittsburgh’s offensive look, calls timeout, makes play call that ends game (Dan Orlovsky)

ESPN analyst Dan Orlovsky has a great breakdown of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ final offensive play from Sunday’s loss to the Bills, and it’s an example of how a coach can use a timeout when his team is on defense to get the perfect play call for the situation.

McDermott sees Pittsburgh’s two-receiver, two-tight end formation and calls a timeout immediately out of the two-minute warning to get in a better defensive call.

When you send out a dummy look with the intention of calling a timeout and adjusting to the opponent’s formation, how often does the opponent stay in the same play call out of the timeout?

3. High-tech football helmet maker Vicis is running out of money (GeekWire)

Vicis, the high-profile Seattle startup that garnered support from the NFL for its high-tech football helmet, is in financial trouble.

The company is running out of money, has furloughed employees, and may shut down operations, according to documents reviewed by The New York Times.

It’s an abrupt downfall for Vicis, which spun out of the University of Washington in 2014 to develop a helmet with multiple, specialized layers built to mitigate the impacts believed to cause concussions.

More than three-quarters of all NFL teams have a starter who wears a $950 Vicis ZERO1 helmet. At the college level, 180 programs have deals with Vicis, up from 125 last year.

The company has raised more than $85 million to date from investors that include current and former NFL players Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Doug Baldwin, Alex Smith, Roger Staubach, and Jerry Rice.

But that hasn’t been enough to support a sustainable business. Vicis is trying to raise more money at a $5 million valuation — down from a $90 million valuation last year — according to a letter to investors cited by The New York Times, which noted that the company expects to lose $26 million this year.

What helmet manufacturer supplies your team?

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