My goal here is to look at the communication between the coaches and players – and the communication between the players and coaches. I try to break down the communication the same way that replays are broken down in slow motion. When viewing a play in slow motion, one can often notice subtle differences that end up making a big impact on the overall outcome.
From a communication standpoint the second week of Hard Knocks with the Rams was much like the first. There is very little, if any, specific instruction going on. Coaching is about teaching. Even professional athletes need to be taught. The term I use in therapy, working in addiction, and with my college students is “working on.” What is a person “working on” about themselves in early recovery from an addiction? What is a student “working on” to make them a better student? What is a person “working on” to make them a better person? And what is an athlete “working on” to make them a better athlete?
For athletes “working on” is an easy concept to grasp. An athlete is always “working on” something – like strength, endurance, technique, speed, recovery, flexibility or their diet. These are just a few concepts. The better athletes are always trying to improve. An example was in Hard Knocks last season when J.J. Watt stayed after practice working on his rushing technique. Here is one of the best pass rushers in the league and he is staying after practice to work on his technique. Likewise, in these episodes it’s obvious that Jared Goff is working on some of his throws.
More often than not a coach is needed to work on technique. As I say in my book, “practice does not make perfect- practice makes permanent.” A coach needs to guide and instruct athletes with their technique. Otherwise the athlete will just keep making the same mistakes over and over. How this information is communicated has a huge impact on the athlete. Does the coach simply say: “That’s wrong – do it again.” Or does the coach teach the subtle nuances required?
Here are some examples of “no specific instructions:” As you read these, think – what is the specific point the coach is trying to get across?
Dennard Wilson; Defensive Backs Coach: “Play with swagger, talk the talk and back it up.” There are so many coaches that talk in generalizations like this.
Mike Waufle; Defensive Line Coach: “We’re not tough enough mentally.”
Brandon Fisher; Defensive Coach; After Dez Bryant scores a touchdown. Sensabaugh asks him: “What do I need to do right there?” Fisher’s response: “You just gotta play him.” Fisher offers no solution.
Gregg Williams; Defensive Coordinator; “Win close games is how you win championships.” Also at halftime of the Dallas game: “The veterans are playing bad.”
Chris Weinke; Quarterback Coach – to Jared Goff when working on a passing drill: “You can’t take a long stride.” This statement is not horrible – something more effective is to tell him what he should do – not what he should not do. Many coaches make this mistake. A more effective form of communication might be “Short step,” or “Quick set up and release.” In the preseason game, when Goff’s first pass is an interception – notice Weinke does not tell Goff what he could have done differently, he simply says “put it behind you.” This is true – but learning what he could have done to avoid an interception (and perhaps a potential injury) would be much better.
Mike Waufle did offer small parts of specific instruction to Ian Seau when he said “both hands together.” However, much more instruction was needed here.
The best communication came from Rob Boras when he told Jared Goff during practice: “You told them not to rush, lead like that.” Notice this is a specific, direct communication praising and reinforcing what Goff said to the offense.
Although the Rams won the game, think back to the Dez Bryant touchdown. The defender did not know what to do and the coach did not know what to do either. Had this been a regular season game Dez Bryant probably would have had a huge game.
By winning the game the Rams coaches may not see the need to change much – this would be a huge mistake. Even though this team has some really great players, I still don’t see how the Rams could have a winning season.