Thursday, August 14, 2008

New head coaches aim to change culture

USA Today had a good piece yesterday on four of the NFL's new head coaches, the challenges they face, and what they're doing to help turn their teams around.

A few things in the article really jumped out at me:

Emphasis on changing a losing culture: Said new Falcons coach Mike Smith (pictured above) : "When you change the culture, you have to change people's behaviors. And when you change behaviors, you change their habits." Added new Dolphins coach Tony Sparano: "Everybody in this building — administrators, everybody — we've told about changing the culture. It can get easy to get comfortable losing and easy to say, 'It's not my fault.' When I look at it and see the team starting to come together and starting to form a personality and maybe the personality it's taking on is a little bit of the head coach, I start to say, 'Hey, we really are doing this.' "

More than X's and O's: As assistant coaches, they could focus almost entirely on coaching. Now, as head coaches, they're dealing with daily media interviews and decisions about pre-game meals and road-trip itineraries. Said Coach Smith: "We're putting in new verbiage for the offense and defense. I'm still trying to figure out who's on our roster. "[Administrative detials are] important to our support staff, but it's the last thing on my mind."

Applying what you learned under head coaches: "[New Ravens coach John] Harbaugh knew exactly how he would run mini-camps, organized team activities, training camp and practices. He borrowed from Andy Reid's system with the Eagles." Said Coach Harbaugh: "How much we practice third-and-long, how much we practice first-and-10, blitz stuff, that's what I learned from him."