Simplexity: An Approach to Re-Engineering Your Offensive and Defensive Structure (Part I)
By Scott Mueller, Offensive Coordinator, Washington University in St. Louis
A few weeks ago a former player and current scout for one of the top organizations in football stopped by to catch up. We had an interesting conversation that I’d like to share with you and provide you with some food for thought. He asked me directly, “Is football becoming too simple? Are offenses and defenses getting too watered down?” He added, “…some prospects we initially target for the next level are not developed in the most general concepts of football…everyone runs fast, everyone can jump, the Wonderlic only reveals so much…players are often not trained in the most basic fundamentals of the game…we track guys all the way back to their high school programs to better understand their background…if we look to bring a guy into our organization knowing it will take extra time to lay the basic foundation for a player to become league-ready mentally we often go in a different direction.”
He made these observations based on what he has seen in the college ranks but these apply to all levels (with the exception of the guys who compete on Sunday). Some of you may agree with what he said. Some of you may challenge his perspective. I challenge you to look at the structure of what you do with your systems regardless of the level that you coach to improve their, “Simplexity.”
Is football becoming too simple, too dumbed down? Yes and No. One of my mentors early in my career told me that there are only two constants in coaching: 1.) change – with the only thing varying being the speed of that change, and 2.) as a professional,you should always be searching for the best ways to put your people in a position to be successful. Many coaches refer to the all of the change with new rules, technologies, tempo, RPOs, or the next, “hot trend.”
While these changes are important to note there is often other change overlooked in programs. I’ve been a coordinator for seven plus seasons. During that time I’ve had nearly 20 different assistant coaches work with me and have fielded nearly 50 first-time starters. This amount of change is the norm around the country. Your system has to be simple and adaptable to meet these demands of change while ensuring individual and program success. Simplicity is key.
If installs, playbooks, scripts/schedules and coaching progressions have unnecessary terminology, “coach-speak,” techniques you don’t use, concepts you won’t run, drills that don’t convert to game day, then why put it out there for your coaches and players? If you look at the big picture, ask yourself if your system is structured cohesively or is it a bunch of add-on parts of the, “hottest trends?” We only have X amount of time with our players regardless of level. Work backwards. What outcomes do you want and what are the quickest, most consistent processes to get there? To take it further, what is the actual information that is communicated? How do you communicate that information?
It shouldn’t matter if you are developing players for the youth or professional level, all facets of your system should be streamlined and simplified in content and delivery. To make the argument against our alum that started the original conversation, I’d say that some professional coaches are the biggest culprits of over-complicating things. Maybe they should take note and mimic some of what their peers have done at lower levels with their approaches. Simplifying what, why, and how you coach the fundamentals of your system is comparable to that of a professor or teacher evaluating curriculum. This method can potentially be interpreted as watering certain areas down but know that this process is also just one piece of the puzzle. Without the next phase, simplifying only improves efficiency in how you go about things.