Hard Knocks; Raiders 2019; Final Episode.

This has been the best Hard Knocks series I have ever seen. Jon Gruden has created a fantastic environment for players to develop. Too often coaches don’t teach or help build the players self confidence. Many “old school” coaches feel they need to be tough on their players. With these coaches there is little teaching and no real regard for helping the players develop. What we saw this series is Gruden and many of the other coaches help the players develop as better players. One of the most important themes in this series is Gruden and the other coaches helped the players build their self confidence as well as their technique.

Gruden praises Antonio Brown in practice with: “Great job,” “good,” “nice A.B.” With all the issues with Antonio Brown, many coaches easily could have made the situation much worse. Gruden supported Brown throughout the camp.

I can’t recall other coaches doing what Gruden did with his running backs – he was showing film of players on other teams and pointing out how those running backs were good blockers. Here is an example of a coach showing his players exactly what he wants to see from them.

Tight Ends coach Frank Smith does a great job in working with Darren Waller. He is showing Waller exactly what he wants him to do when he is blocking. He is working with Waller to have him use better leverage in his blocking. Again, Smith is showing Waller what he wants to see – instead of yelling when Waller does not do what he should be doing.

Nate Peterman is an excellent example of Gruden’s work this series. One only has to look at how Peterman was preforming at the start of this series and look at how much he improved during training camp. Gruden says that Peterman had lost his self confidence from his previous professional experience. Gruden talks about how Peterman has gotten better and better, is throwing the ball good, making good decisions and is learning the offense. Gruden adds: “I’m proud of the steps he has made in his career – especially with us.” After the preseason game Gruden is quick to praise Peterman: “Hell of a job Nate, hell of a job.”

Gruden states: “ We have some tough cuts to make, we will try to handle it as respectfully as we can.” He adds that the guys who are cut he will try to help them get jobs with other teams- or try to keep them with the Raiders. Again, this series of Hard Knocks we have heard the least amount of talk about cuts, and the fewest threats of being cut. This makes the players feel they belong.

Before the last preseason game Gruden says: “Everyone of you guys is good enough to play for the Raiders – I promise that you’re all good enough to play in this league.” Again, this is totally different from what we have heard every other year. Every other year the coach says something along the lines of ‘you better play great or we will cut you, this is your last chance.’

Gruden always praises players when they come off the field and have done a good job. After Keelan Doss dropped two passes in a row, Gruden tells Doss that he ran two great routes, and he just needs to catch the ball. Gruden then says: “We’re going to come right back to you.” Doss then proceeds to catch about five or six passes in a row. After the game Gruden seeks out Doss and tells Doss he is his biggest fan and this is why he’s tough on him. All these small things Gruden does add up to a huge thing- he is building the players confidence and he is on their side.

When the team is back home Gruden praises all the coaches for the work they have done during training camp: “We developed some young players and that’s a credit to you guys.” “We’re building a foundation of something great.” I totally agree.

As I state every year – I do not follow pro football at all. I do not know how much of a factor having twelve rookies on a team will be during the season. We never now how much injuries will play a role with any team. What is obvious is that Gruden and his staff have created a great team atmosphere. The players and coaches are united in their goals. Eight to ten wins seams reasonable for this team, with perhaps a playoff win or two. This team will win a lot of games over the next few years.

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Hard Knocks Blog 2019 Oakland Raiders Week 4

This episode starts with Defensive Line Coach Brenston Buckner. This is the first time we have heard Buckner sounding like any other coach in the past episodes of Hard Knocks. He points out that some of the players are just going through the motions and will be cut. Instead of saying this to the whole group what should have been happening is Buckner should have been telling each player throughout training camp what they need to work on and improve to make the team. From watching the past three episodes, this is probably something that Buckner has done.

Unfortunately, in this episode Buckner simply tells players they need to “get better,” “play harder,” and “get tougher.” These are the typical generic things we often hear in Hard Knocks each year. These comments do not help at all. To Buckners credit, he has given a lot of specific instruction, perhaps he is frustrated that the player are not improving in the areas he has told them to work on.

Throughout the years, I will probably refer back to Darren Waller, and his honesty and humility in working to stay clean and sober. He is a great example of how sobriety looks and sounds.

An overall theme in all these episodes is the respect all the players have for Jon Gruden. Notice how often players refer to him as “Coach Gruden,” or say “Yes, sir.” This is one reason I am confident this team will be successful over the years.

Gruden is always specific in his criticism. He will criticize what the player did – not the player personally. He gets angry and frustrated, but never follows it up with a threat of being cut. He is respectful in his criticism. He is very quick to praise players, both in private and in public.

Before the preseason game, Gruden stresses camaraderie, as he also did on the last day of training camp. He talks about how he wants the team to bond. He has players welcome each other to Canada.

During the game Gruden is quick to congratulate the offense as they come off the field after a score. Down 21 – 10 at the half, Gruden again puts the focus on what they need to do, “pick it up,” and “challenge people.” He does not make threats of cuts because of the poor performance in the first half – something we have seen in previous episodes of Hard Knocks. He goes back to his “raise the bar” theme.

As both the defense and offense play better in the second half, Gruden is quick to praise everyone.

Backup quarterback Nathan Peterman plays much better. Notice how he is much more confident in all aspects of his game. He encourages and gives his teammates direction in the huddle and between plays. He praises the lineman for doing a good job. Many back up quarterbacks we have seen in previous episodes of Hard Knocks are less confident by the 4th week because the coach destroys their confidence week by week. Peterman has clearly improved, a credit to both him and Gruden. Two weeks ago Gruden was telling Peterman how he needed to exude confidence on the field. Peterman has accomplished this.

After the game Gruden praises Peterman in front of the team, and then individually tells Peterman exactly what he did right. Again, I do not think we have seen this type of behavior from coaches in the past.

Gruden does not make threats of the cuts that everyone knows is coming. He simply says: “We’ve got some tough decisions to make, and it’s gonna be really tough.”

Peterman earned the backup quarterback position in this episode.

This is an eight to ten win team this year, and will be better next year.

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Hard Knocks Blog; Week 3, Oakland Raiders 2019

Again, the most impressive thing about this episode is the environment Jon Gruden is creating.

Gruden again expresses his support for Anthony Brown, saying: “I give the guy credit for standing up for what he believes in.” These kind of statements help create team unity. Players know the coach won’t turn on them at the drop of a hat. This translates to they know the coach “has their back” if they make a mistake during a game.

Tight End Darren Waller is featured in this episode. As I have mentioned over the years in these Hard Knock series, sobriety has a certain sound. If you listen closely to Waller, his humility comes through. Sobriety is about humility. When Waller is told his rating for the Madden game is 68, his reply is: “That makes sense.” Waller is honest about his time with the Ravens, about his drug use and lack of effort. He talks about how being honest with himself and others helped him both in his sobriety and him again finding his love for football.

Notice the comments Gruden makes to Waller: “Hell of a catch.” Gruden makes these comments all the time – they help build the confidence of the players.

We get to see Gruden coaching the backup quarterbacks. To Mike Glennon: “Good, good read Mike.” You’re eight feet tall so they can read your eyes and that’s all they are doing is jumping your eyes.” Yes, the interceptions drive Gruden crazy but he does not focus on them. He does not threaten to cut players, he encourages them.

Then we see Gruden with Offensive Coordinator Greg Olson. Olson wants Peterman play in the second quarter in the next preseason game. He and Gruden talk about this and come to an understanding, that Glennon will play before Peterman. There seems to be no hard feelings, simply an agreement.

Then Gruden’s comments to Hunter Renfro: “Hunter, that’s absolutely awesome.” He then says to other players: “Renfro, he’s something – that little guy.” Then: “Hey, Fro that a way to go – that a way to go.” Positive comments like these in front of everyone send a signal. That signal is that when you do something good, the coach will acknowledge it – and do so in front of others. This falls under the old adage “Praise in public and criticize in private.”

There are six tight ends vying for four spots on the roster. Notice how the tight ends work together and encourage each other, both in practice and in the preseason game.

In the preseason game starting quarterback Derek Carr and other starters encourage and congratulate other players when they come off the field. Again, this is an example of the team unity Gruden is creating.

Gruden to Mike Glennon in the preseason game: “Great play Mike.” “Mike, great drive, that’s a good play.” “I’m telling you if we can run good plays into good looks with good players, we’re gonna get great results.” He does not yell at Glennon, he encourages him.

Gruden to the team after the preseason game: “Just look around we’ve got a lot of good players here.” We’ve got some great players, we’ve got a chance to do something.”

Gruden to the coaches after the preseason game: “I can’t tell you guys enough what a great job you are doing in these two games.”

In a private conversation with Anthony Brown, Brown says to Gruden: “Thanks for supporting me coach, my head, the feet, people after me, you’ve been a constant supporter.”

Even though he does not show up for practice the next day it is General Manager Mike Mayock who gives the “all in – or all out,” comment – not Gruden.

What is extremely important to notice in this third week of Hard Knocks is that there was zero talk of cuts. I can not think of another third week of Hard Knocks where this has happened. There are over thirty players who will be cut in the next two weeks, and we hear zero talk about this. All the players and coaches know this is coming, yet we hear no threats – simply encouragement to improve.

The focus this whole series is about “raising the bar.” There are no put downs, no personal attacks, simply a focus on getting better.

When I watch the preseason games I hear the commentators talk about how young this team is, how horrible the defense was last year, and many such comments.

This team will be very good, perhaps not till next year, but very soon.

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Hard Knocks Blog; Week 2 2019 Oakland Raiders

Clearly the star and main character of Hard Knocks this year is Head Coach Jon Gruden. I will pinpoint what Coach Gruden in doing right.

First of all, again this week, Coach Gruden has the players welcome each other to the second week of training camp. Where is this going and why this is important? I am confident this series will end with the players welcoming each other to the final roster. This is important because Gruden is using a step by step approach to help create comradery and team bonding. We have never seen anything like this in Hard Knocks.

It is very obvious that Coach Gruden is passionate about football. He has a high standard and expects things to be done a certain way. Clearly, this is what has made him a great coach.

A very important aspect of Coach Gruden’s style is how he constantly praises the players and points out when they do things right. This is not a trivial matter, this is at the heart of great coaching. He is constantly working to build each players confidence.

Notice Coach Gruden’s interactions with Alameda native, and former UC Davis player Keelan Doss. Gruden tells Doss: “Two days in a row, you made big time catches.” Gruden points out that Doss made catches against good defenders, and says: “That ought to give you confidence.” “You’re doing great – keep it up.” Later in practice Doss makes a great catch and Gruden yells: “Keelan Doss – yeah!” Then Gruden jokes with Doss at a team meeting “I’m more excited to see you play than I am to see my wife and I haven’t seen her in two weeks.” Think about how undrafted Keelan Doss felt about himself after hearing these things – he probably felt like he belonged and that could play at this level.

The other important aspect of the Keelan Doss footage is when Doss asks for clarification on drills and running pass routes. Gruden and his coaches have created an environment where Doss is comfortable asking these questions. This could be Doss’ personal make up – or a combination of his personal make up and the environment Gruden has created – either way, this is a great thing.

Gruden tells players exactly what he wants and expects from them. He tells the backup quarterbacks that they need to bring more energy and confidence into the huddle. He stresses that when these quarterbacks exude confidence, it matters to the others in the huddle.

When other coaches, at any level, watch this program, they may focus on Gruden swearing and yelling. They may see Gruden as a tough old school coach, unfortunately they may only copy the yelling and swearing. This behavior comes from Gruden’s passion and his anger flares up quickly when things are not done the way he wants them to be done.

Too many coaches only swear and yell and do not praise the players as Gruden constantly does. We have seen this type of behavior in many episodes of Hard Knocks over the years – coaches who yell and threaten but do little teaching and give little praise. These coaches think they are being tough. They fail to notice that their players do not improve and blame this lack of improvement on players not being tough enough.

The other standout from this episode is Defensive Line coach Brenston Buckner. When the players are having problems in the first day of scrimmage against the Rams, Buckner gives clear, firm instruction. He says: “You get lower than him.” “It’s never about them – it’s about what we do.” Only then does Buckner add; “If you keep that up you won’t play for the Raiders – we have a standard here.” What is very important to note here is that Buckner states what he expects first. In previous episodes of Hard Knocks we have seen coaches only emphasize that the players will be cut – they do not focus on what the players need to do.

During the second day of practice against the Rams, Buckner is very vocal in pointing out when the lineman do something right. He says to Clelin Ferrell: : “There you go.” Like Gruden, Buckner will criticize what the player is doing, or not doing, without taking the criticism to a personal level. This type of coaching builds confidence.

Before the preseason game against the Rams, Gruden says: “Show us you know what to do and then show us that you have the discipline to do it play are play after play.” The key word here is “us.” The coaches seem to be working as a unit with no dissension noticeable at this time.

During the preseason game we see both sides of Gruden with backup quarterback Mike Glennon. When Glennon leads the team on a scoring drive, Gruden says: “Hey Mike, that’s good football right there, good job on third down.” Then later he yells at Glennon after he throws an interception. Again, it’s the combination of both the praise and the yelling that is important to notice.

In the press conference after the game Gruden shows his support for Anthony Brown: “I support this guy, we’re supporting him.” When addressing the topic of cutting players, Gruden says: “It’s gonna be hard to makes a cut here.’ “You’re rooting for them like they’re your kids.” Again, everyone knows cuts are coming. Gruden does not use the possibility of being cut as a threat. These players do not fear that Gruden will “throw them under the bus.”

Overall, all the things that Gruden does helps build team unity. The coaches are united and he is working to unite the players.

This team unity will be very important after the first four games. There are players who will not be available for the first four games. And, the Raiders have many young players. If the Raiders have three or four losses after these first four games, this team unity is what can help the team succeed and not give up. An example of this comes from last years Hard Knocks team – the Cleveland Browns. Notice how different the Browns played AFTER their coach was fired. The same players played at a much different level.

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Hard Knocks Oakland Raiders 2019 Week One

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.

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Hard Knocks 2018 Browns; Final Episode

It is important to note that former first round draft pick Corey Coleman was cut by the Buffalo Bills. The Bills will pay Coleman over three million dollars to not be part of the team. Most likely, there are some issues going on that are not being made public. Obviously the Browns just wanted to get rid of him – and now the Bills have come to the same conclusion.

Before I get to the details of this episode, let me say more on Josh Gordon. We have not seen much of Gordon on Hard Knocks. Here are some of my concerns about Gordon. If he has done the hard emotional work in order to say clean and sober, he would not be physically ready to play. He probably went to treatment and tried to stay in shape and do treatment too. While it is possible to stay in shape and do treatment, it is very unlikely that someone could do treatment and be ready to play in the NFL – even someone of his caliber. What I mentioned two weeks ago seems to already have happened. Though he may be ready to play in the first game, his hamstring is bothering him.

It would be best for the Browns to wait till next year for Gordon to be ready, or trade him. Many people would look at Gordon’s situation and figure that “he has learned his lesson.” Thus, they think he can just quit using. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Probably the worst three words ever uttered about drug use are “just say no.” For someone with a long history of using, getting clean and sober is a massive task. They may be able to stop for a brief period of time, but this does not last.

Unfortunately, Antonio Callaway falls into this category as well. I do not expect either of them to finish the season. Again, the Browns do not seem to be aware of this impending disaster.

Much of this episode focused on Devon Cajuste. In his conversation with Senior Offensive Assistant, Al Saunders, Cajuste said: “I feel last week was big jump for me.” He is referring to the blocking lesson he got from Tight Ends Coach, Greg Seamon. Saunders, referring to the change in Cajuste’s blocking, told Cajuste: “It was huge.” “And this weeks practice was outstanding.” “Being you is good enough.”

This was a great interaction. Cajuste has clearly been practicing his new blocking technique. And although he does get cut, he has clearly improved as a player.

Nate Orchard also ends up getting cut. Here in the final week, Orchard is getting some pointers from Myles Garrett. Orchard should have getting this kind of help from someone all along. If not from Garrett, then from one of the coaches. Athletes improve under great coaches. Compare the improvement of Orchard to the improvement of Cajuste in these five weeks of Hard Knocks. Orchard did get better. However, the coaching Cajuste got made a huge difference in his improvement.

My guess is that the Browns win about four or five games this year.

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Hard Knocks 2018 Browns; Episode 4

In this episode we some great coaching by Tight Ends coach Greg Seamon. Seamon is teaching Devon Cajuste proper blocking technique. It is important to note that Cajuste played for four years at Stanford and that this is his third NFL training camp – yet he does not execute proper blocking technique. Not only does he not execute proper blocking technique – he does not even know how to do – what he should be doing. Here is the common mistake in all levels of sport – there is little, if any, proper instruction. Players are expected to know or just perform. Many athletes get by because they are bigger, stronger or faster than their opponents. When these athletes move up to a higher level they often struggle. They don’t develop their skill set. We often hear coaches in the Hard Knocks episodes threaten a player that they will be cut. There is often little teaching and instruction.

Seamon shows Cajuste that he has been trying to block with his arms and emphasizes that he needs to use his whole body in the blocking process. He points out to Cajuste that he needs to get into the proper position and engage his hips, legs, core and lower back into the movement of the block.

Seamon’s then has tight end Darren Fells demonstrate the proper technique to Cajuste. Fells does and outstanding job by showing Cajuste how to take the first two steps to “set your base.” He then shows Cajuste how to execute the block. Next, Fells has Cajuste demonstrate the technique. Fells then shows Cajuste what he did wrong – and what he needs to do to get into position to be able to “get locked and then explode.” Notice that when Fells demonstrates this to Cajuste – Cajuste seems shocked by the power that Fells is able to exert by using the proper technique.

Then in the preseason game we see Cajuste apply these lessons in the game. He clearly was working with Fells, others, or alone to improve his technique.

This whole demonstration is one of the best examples in any Hard Knocks episode on coaching/teaching. Fells could easily have a future as a coach.

Compare this work with Cajuste to the other comments we hear in this episode. From Bob Wylie: “Don’t cut yourself, you only get so many chances, take advantage of every chance.” From Josh Gibbs: “Action without results is nothing.” These statements are true. However, in Cajuste’s case he did not know what to do – so it’s not about being tough, or trying harder- it’s about learning what to do and how to do it. In order to learn, players need to be shown and taught exactly what is expected of them.

Even if Cajuste gets cut, he has improved as a player.

In the preseason game against the Eagles, the Browns force four turnovers. However, they only score three offensive points in the game. Not signing Dez Bryant, or another quality receiver, will be a huge problem for this team. Both GM John Dorsey and Head Coach Hue Jackson seem to think that Josh Gordon will be back to help the team. They seem blinded by Antoino Callaway’s talent while choosing to ignore his off the field issues. Not only is it unrealistic to expect Gordon and Callaway to contribute for a full season – it is dangerous. This allows the opposing team to only focus on Jarvis Landry.

Todd Haley is very passionate in the preseason game. It is impressive that he apologized to Jarvis Landry for yelling at him. It is obvious Haley is feeling the stress and pressure from not having the offensive weapons he needs to succeed.

The morning after this episode was aired it was announced that outside linebacker Mychal Kendricks is facing criminal charges and his career may be over. He was then cut by the Browns. Should the Browns have taken a better look at Kendricks’ off the field behavior? John Dorsey released a statement saying the Browns did “due diligence.” Perhaps they did – in the case with Antoino Callaway they did not appear to do any diligence. The police officer said he smelled marijuana when he pulled Callaway over at 3:00 am. The Browns seemed to blindly believe Callaway when he said he did not smoke.

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Hard Knocks 2018; Browns Episode 3

In this episode we see more examples of poor communication by the coaches. Too often coaches comment on what went wrong – instead of what they wanted to see.

Notice Todd Haley’s comments to Carl Nassib: “That’s not smart, pulling him right into the quarterback.” “It’s not smart – it’s not a smart thing – you pulled him right into the quarterback.”

Haley does not say what Nassib should have done – or show him how he should have done it. Haley could have showed Nassib the proper technique he wanted to see. Instead he basically tells Nassib “That was a dumb play.” This can also be interpreted as he is saying to Nassib: “You are dumb.” Yes, it may have been a dumb play – but to keep Nassib from repeating the same mistake over and over- he needs to be corrected on the spot, and shown exactly what he should have done and that he understands what to do in the future. The next play Haley says “You did it again.”

This is an example of what is called a “teachable moment.” Yes, it takes time and specific instruction, but it is how coaches get players to improve and perform the technique properly. This is the kind of instruction that cuts down on mistakes and creates discipline on the field for the players.

Compare Haley’s comments to Nassib with Bob Wylie’s comments when coaching the offensive line. Wiley is having the offensive line focus on keeping a low center of gravity. He has the players practice under a structure that keeps them from standing up. Any drill that forces the athlete to preform the technique properly is great. The players can’t stand up – if they did, they would hit their heads on the top of the structure. Wylie has come up with a drill to force them to keep a low center of gravity. He then instructs them: “Short steps.” “Short steps are better than long steps.” He shows clips of different animals and says “play with you knees bent on the instep.” Wylie teaches and shows them exactly what they need to do.

Defensive Coordinator, Gregg Williams is the same as always – he yells with no specific instruction. At halftime of the preseason game he simply says: “How do you want to look?” Williams constantly blames the players when things go wrong – yet he seems to take credit early in the game when the defense is performing well.

Why do I focus on these examples? Notice in the preseason game, although the defense plays well at first, they have costly penalties. These penalties come from a lack of discipline. Discipline starts with the coaches. A good coach is a good teacher and commutator. A good coach is a firm disciplinarian in practice. This discipline in practice carries over into games.

Notice that the serious penalties in the preseason game against the Bills were on the defense. On 3rd and 14 they have a penalty and late in the game there is a roughing the passer penalty. The offensive line did not seem to have many – if any penalties. This is because of the discipline they have in practice.

As Todd Haley says after the Browns lose to the Bills: “That’s what we get.” “That’s how we practice.” “That’s what we deserve.”

Head Coach, Hue Jackson seems to put it blame on the players when he says: “The discipline of this team has to get better.” He refers to self inflicted penalties and says: “We have to get better.” These comments needs to be said to the coaching staff more than to the players. It is up to the coaching staff to demand this discipline in practice daily and instruct the players in what they want to see at all times.

From a psychological standpoint the Browns need to sign Dez Bryant. Dez Bryant could be worth three or four additional wins for the Browns. Dez looks to be in much better shape than Josh Gordon. It looks like Gordon is about ten pounds overweight.

The decision not to sign Bryant could be a very important pivotal point for this team. Gordon has missed 43 of 48 games. It’s reasonable to expect that he may be suspended again this season. It is quite possible that Gordon gets injured trying to get into shape very quickly. The Browns don’t seem to understand the depth of Gordon’s issues. These decisions, like drafting Corey Coleman in the first round and then trading him the next year, as well as the whole Johnny Manziel experience add up to create many problems. These off the field decisions create on the field problems.

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Hard Knocks 2018 Cleveland Browns Episode 2

A lack of personal responsibility is the theme from this episode. Corey Coleman shows no personal responsibility. He clearly is not playing well, yet he takes not responsibility for his poor performance.

What is concerning it that Coleman was a 2016 first round draft pick. Teams need to really evaluate a players personal and psychological make up before investing millions of dollars in them. Teams are often blinded by talent.

Coleman’s statement to Hue Jackson is very concerning: “Why am I running with the second team?” “If you don’t want to play me, why don’t you just trade me?” In addiction treatment we suggest people look at “What is my role in this situation?” Coleman does not see his role in his demotion. He does not seem to connect the dots – that his poor performance, lack of effort and lack of improvement are behind his demotion.

Additionally, the Browns organization needs to look at what was their role in this situation. In therapy, we often suggest that people look back on a situation, job, or relationship and ask themselves, “What were the early warning signs that there were serious problems?” The Browns need to learn from this situation. What were the early warning signs that Coleman would not pan out? What could they have done as an organization to help make changes along the way?

The same situation could be developing with Antonio Callaway. GM John Dorsey and Coach Jackson want to believe that Callway had not been smoking marijuana when he was pulled over at 3:00 AM. They expect that now he is the NFL, he should just stop smoking. Perhaps Callaway has stopped, but this is doubtful. Will the Browns look back on this situation in a few years and see this as a continuation of the problems that caused Callaway to drop from a first round pick to a fourth round pick?

Gregg Williams during the preseason game displays the same behavior he did with the Rams in 2016. He yells and threatens, yet never gives specific instruction or examples. He does not take any personal responsibility for the defenses poor performance. He is not asking himself what he could have done differently that could contribute to a better defensive performance. We will see more and more of this in the weeks to come.

The cancer that was evident in the first episode is a bit less this episode. The patient is a little better, but the cancer is not gone by any means.

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Hard Knocks 2018; Cleveland Browns Episode One

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.

If you look closely there is already something wrong in the first couple minutes of this first episode of Hard Knocks. Why was Nick Chubb, the 35th pick in the draft, not met by someone from the Browns organization at the airport? It looked like there were three people there to greet Baker Mayfield, yet Chubb was standing there waiting for his luggage like everyone else.

Obviously, this may be seen as a minor detail, yet it is noteworthy. It would have been simple to have ANYONE from the Browns at the airport to greet Chubb, help him get his luggage and escort him to where he needed to go. Think of the difference it would have made to Chubb if even one of the staff members high school kids met Chubb wearing a Browns shirt and hat, said “Hi Nick, welcome to Cleveland, I will take you to the baggage area, and then drive you to the practice facility.” A greeting like this would have made Chubb feel he was being treated as a professional. He seems to be glancing around and wondering what is going on. Look at Chubb’s non verbal communication – he seems to be saying “Is someone here to meet me?” This seems to progress to “Why isn’t someone here to meet me?” These subtle things add up in the creation of a professional environment.

I know nothing about Josh Gordon, but having worked in substance abuse treatment since 1995, I would suggest the Browns cut or trade him. This may sound harsh, but someone who missed 43 out of 48 games has had plenty of chances to make the changes in his life that he needs to make. It would be better for the team to move on without him. This seems to be the same mistake that the Browns made with Johnny Manzel.

It sounds like Gordon is still in treatment. I would suggest that the Browns need him to be clean six months to a year before including him with the team. It is very hard for professional athletes to make the serious, hard and complex changes that are required for sobriety, and bringing him back without him having long term clean time – not only will not work in the long run – but is not best for Gordon personally. This seems to be a replay of the same type of story every year. Addiction is a beast that destroys lives and kills people. Knowing what someone needs to do – and doing what they need to do – are two completely different issues. The coaches seem to think that Gordon has learned his lesson and will be fine.

Head Coach Hue Jackson’s comments to Baker Mayfield during practice are great. Jackson is clearly talking about what he wants to see – and the progress he sees in Mayfield. Statements like: “That’s improvement,” and “Way to stay in there.”(referring to Mayfield staying in the pocket longer) are great. Also it is impressive the way Mayfield encourages and talks with the other offensive players. Again, this is one of those little things that really add up to help create a good psychological environment.

Jackson also talked with Mayfield alone and suggests he “Start his career how you want to.” He is suggesting Mayfield come in early, as Tyrod Taylor does, and do some extra work. It was nice that this was done individually in a way that is non-confrontive.

I have real concerns with Gregg Williams, the Defensive Coordinator. When I look back at my Blog from the Rams in 2016, I pointed out that as the Rams Defensive Coordinator, Williams never seemed to teach or instruct, he yells and says things that anyone can say, like: “Impose your will” and “Trust others to do their job.” Basically he says to the players, that he was “An asshole” last year cause he had to be – that they made him act this way – and he will not be that way this year – unless they make him act that way again. Already it seems that Williams is acting the same way as he did in 2016. He does not take personal responsibility for the psychological environment he is creating.

It will be interesting to see if Williams has changed at all since 2016. Many people in life either blame others for their behavior or say “That’s just the way I am.” With too many people there is little or no personal growth. Has Williams coached for 30 years? Or, has he coached one year 30 times?

The only player on the Browns I am familiar with is Jarvis Landry. Landry went to LSU. He was at LSU at the same time Odell Beckham Jr was there. I remember videos that the two of them made of the many hours they practiced not only one handed catches, but catches in various positions, such as lying on the ground, or over their heads. They would both spend hours with a ball machine practicing catching the football in a variety of ways. Many people look at Landry and focus on the end result – he is great at catching the football. It is clear to me this is a skill that he has worked very hard to develop in the past ten years or so.

Once again, I point out the same thing that seems to come up every season with Hard Knocks series – Why is Landry working out by himself? Why aren’t ALL the other receivers in there working out with him? Landry and Beckham taught themselves to make these one handed catches – it probably took the Malcolm Gladwell 10,000 hours of experience. As we see later in the episode, many of the receivers are dropping passes. Where are the coaches in all this? How come they are not having the players doing drills to work on catching the ball?

There are two sides to this issue- the players could be doing more on their own, and the coaches could be instructing the players and running the players through catching drills.

Other than from Jackson, there was little – if any- specific instruction from the coaches. The coaches made comments like “How can you miss?” Referring to a missed block on Myles Garrett. Garrett is perhaps the best pass rusher in the NFL. What the coach should be doing is teaching the player how to block a player like Garrett. How will that lineman do when he is faced with a great pass rusher? The coach needs to help the player to work on developing his skill set. He needs to TEACH and SHOW the player what to do. Everyone knows he needs to block Garrett, but without specific instruction the player will not improve.

The coaches comments “Where is our intensity?” And “We are way too soft,” are statements anyone can make. These are general statements, and are not helpful at all. The coaches need to single out the player and point out what they are doing, what they need to do, and exactly HOW they need to do it. Again, this is like a boss telling an employee to “do a better job.”

Compare what the coaches said during this whole episode to what Willie McGinest said and did in less than one minute after his interview with Myles Garrett. McGinest instructs Garrett on a couple of different moves and suggest Garrett “keep adding.” This is the best teaching example in the whole episode. As I stated in 2016, some of the best instruction in all of Hard Knocks came from Mike Singletary working with the linebackers for the Rams. McGinest does the same type of instruction with Garrett. Here is an interviewer doing great coaching. Think about it, if Garrett can improve his skill set, so can every other player on the team.

The comments from Jarvis Landry to the receivers and from Christian Kirsey to the other linebackers were great. However, these comments should come from coaches – not players at this stage of the season. The coaches need to set the mood and the tone for what they want to see.

There already seems to be a deep psychological fracture with both the players and the coaches about the issue of players not dressing out for practice. This is very serious and will only get much worse and create very deep problems on this team. Landry was concerned with players not practicing, yet Jackson says he held some of these guys out due to fears or injury. Again, the players may not have been able to participate fully in practice, but perhaps they could have done something, like practice catching footballs in different positions.

Additionally, when both Running Back coach Freddie Kitchens and Offensive Coordinator Todd Haley express their concerns about players not practicing, these concerns are not addressed by Jackson. It seems clear from the body language of all the other coaches – that they all agree with Haley and Kitchens. Jackson needs to handle this situation better – rather than just saying that it is his call. He could do a better job at making the coaches feeling heard – and looking at other options. Kitchen’s suggestion that the players dress out and not participate sounds very reasonable. He is concerned with the overall message this sends and the psychological environment this creates when some players are practicing and other are standing around in street clothes watching. These are both excellent points.

Many of the points I have made in this first episode may seem like minor points. This point is cancer. This will destroy the team psychologically in the long run. Some players will quit trying as hard, others will take a more self protective approach. The coaches are already upset with the situation and Haley seems to be speaking for all the coaches. This means the assistant coaches have already talked about this issue on their own, and Jackson does not seem to understand the depth and seriousness of this issue.

Clearly, Jackson’s point is well taken, he needs to keep the players as healthy as possible for the long season ahead. Also, the coaches point is important – How are we going to get better if the players are not practicing and working on improving? There needs to be some middle ground here. This issue will reach a boiling point, and could destroy this team by mid season.

My prediction in the next two episodes – Gregg Williams will yell, point out that someone is going to get cut if they don’t change, yet not give meaningful instruction, communication or direction to his players.

Overall, there are many serious concerns about the Browns. This team should not be talking about championships, winning the division or anything like that at all. In addiction treatment we have people focus on doing “the next right thing.” If the Browns focus on doing the next right thing – good changes can happen – if not – it will be another long season for the Browns – because untreated this cancer will spread and destroy this team.

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