A brief description of this blog: I write this each year and look at these episodes from a psychological standpoint. This is not a football analysis, but a look at all aspects of the communications and the psychological environment that is created.
I do not follow pro football at all and typically my only knowledge of players and coaches is if they were in previous episodes of Hard Knocks – or based on my very limited knowledge of college football – this means mainly LSU football, where I got my undergraduate degree. I try to review these episodes in the same way a football analyst will go over a play in slow motion and break down why the play did or did not work. I look not only things that are said or done – but also things that are not said or not done – both the verbal and non verbal communication of both the coaches and the players.
There was not much coach – player interaction during this first episode. What impressed me about the Raiders is the positive environment they are creating. Last year, with the Browns, it was obvious in the first week or two, that there was much dissension between the coaches. We saw none of that in this first episode.
I really like the community the Raiders are trying to create. Examples of this is when, in the first team meeting, coach Jon Gruden asks the players to welcome each other. Also, Gruden reiterates that he does not want any rookies hazing. Both the alumni and the family gatherings are very helpful in trying to create a sense of community. I have not seen these things, done to this extent, in previous episodes of Hard Knocks.
Coach Gruden has a positive and no nonsense business like approach to coaching. Some examples are his comments like: “Great route,” “Way to throw the deep ball,” “luv you bro,”
Gruden is firm in dealing with rookie safety Johnathan Abram when Abram is being too physical in practice. Gruden firmly tells Abram: “I don’t want any sideshow, be smart, some of that stuff was unnecessary and you know it.” It is concerning that Abram does not seem to understand his role in this situation. He may turn into the type of player that thinks nothing is his fault. These players often blame others when they make mistakes.
Gruden was very matter of fact when he cut undrafted rookie Ronald Ollie. Ollie missed his appointment with the trainers, thus he was cut. This was done in a matter of fact, business like way, there was no personal attack on Ollie. This clearly sends a message to the other players that Gruden is setting what we call in therapy “healthy emotional boundaries.”
Defensive line coach Brenston Buckner does a nice job in telling his players exactly what needs to be done. Examples of his specific comments are: “Get your butt up in your stance so you can take off.” “Don’t turn to him, go straight.” In past years we have seen coaches simply yell at the player that they were doing it wrong – not what they need to do.
Buckner was very clear and matter fact in handling Ronald Ollie about missing his treatment session with the trainers. Again, there was no personal attack, just a matter of fact conversation about the expectations of being a professional football player.
Based on what I observed in this first episode, I expect this team to have much more success this season than last season.