I love Hard Knocks!! Hands down, it’s my favorite TV show. It used to be CHiPs with Ponch and Jon, but transitioned to Hard Knocks the first time I saw this dynamite insight to NFL football.
I’ve never had HBO, so I’ve always had to wait until the following year when it comes out on the NFL Network. Now, the good thing about the NFL Network version is that they clean up the language, beep it out, etc. I’m not a fan of cussing, and boy do the Houston Texans Coaching Staff have the mouths of sailors! But this year I have HBO, so I get to watch it live!
I thought it would be cool to summarize 5 Coaching Nuggets From Hard Knocks after each of the episodes.
These are the 5 take aways from Episode 1.
1. HAVE A VISION!
The first episode starts with the Houston Texas new Head Coach Bill O’Brien addressing his coaching staff. They are sitting around a conference table in the coach’s meeting room. He said “This organization is 96-126; nobody talks about the Texans because nobody thinks we will win. Enough is enough.”
Obviously, 96-126 isn’t a very good overall record by any means! And Coach O’Brien wants to change the mindset, change the winning. It all starts with the vision of the head man. As the Head Coach, you’ve got to have a vision, and inspire your troops with that vision.
2. BUILD ORGANIZATIONAL PRIDE
I don’t know that I’ve ever heard the term “Organizational Pride” but I like it! What I mean by this phrase is having pride in one’s organization.
I love this scene. It happens in the team meeting room, and Coach O’Brien is seen asking the rookies who different people in the organization are.
“Who is the COO (Chief Operating Officer) of this organization?” he asks one rookie. Luckily, the rookie nails it!
He then asks another rookie “Who is this guy right here?” He says this pointing to a 6 year vet. I love it. It’s getting your teammates to know one another, and to have pride in their organization, not just their team. This is important for coaches to do. Get them to buy in to your school, your school district. The more pride your team has in your school, the harder they will play, and the more they will appreciate what they’re doing at the end of the day.
One thing I’ve always done as a Head Football Coach during Training Camp is get the Principal, the Athletic Director, even a School Board Member to come to talk to the team. It’s an important connection to make. I really loved this scene when Coach O’Brien talks about the different people in the organization, and how it’s important that “you know who is signing your checks.”
3. HAVE A COMPETITIVE ROSTER, THERE WILL BE INJURIES
Another scene shows a simple kickoff team drill. In fact, the guys aren’t even in pads, so it is a non-contact drill. Freak injuries are going to happen, you better be prepared! Unfortunately, a rookie linebacker tore his ACL on that kick coverage drill. He will be out for the season. What a bummer for that person.
Then, we see that Arian Foster, the Texans star offensive player, injured his groin. The trainer walks up to Coach O’Brien in the middle of the field, and tells him. Coach drops a few F bombs.
But then he addresses the team and said “Injuries happen every day, that’s why you have a competitive roster.”
When I was a young Head Coach (27 years old), one of the biggest mistakes I made was not getting my backups enough reps. I was so focused on my starters getting better, and adapting to some new things. I’ll never forget our scrimmage, and we had a tight end go down. We didn’t have a back up who had ONE rep during training camp. That was a moronic move Fore!
4. BE ORGANIZED, HAVE CHECKLISTS!
The Texans flew to Virginia to practice vs. the Washington Redskins for three days. It’s always nice to get out and hit somebody else!
Well, they get to Virginia, and then realize that the equipment staff forgot the quarterback’s jerseys. I just wonder how that happened? To me, it’s crazy that happens at the NFL level, but I suppose everybody makes mistakes right?
One of the QBs actually said “Man, I don’t look good, I don’t feel good.” That’s what we get these days as coaches: players have to have the best uniforms: look good, play good. I wonder Dick Butkus thinks of this?!!
Here is an article I wrote on what I believe are the two most important characteristics of Head Coaches, one being organization.
The first away game I ever had as a Head Coach (at a school in California) was over in Hawaii! Talk about a long road trip right out of the shoot! I forgot three CRITICAL things that first road trip: helmet air pump, kicking tees, white board markers. Luckily, the host school helped us out! But on the airplane trip back, I sat down and made a list of EVERY SINGLE THING a football team needs for a road trip, and I set up a routine for our road trips.
Every Thursday after practice, I would get my staff together, and we would literally go through that list, and not check off the item until we saw it packed! This was a tremendous help. If you don’t have an equipment manager taking care of this stuff, you have to do something like this to make sure you don’t forget anything!
5. SHOW YOUR EXPECTATION
Coach O’Brien is brand new to the Houston Texans, but not brand new to the NFL. He spent some time with the New England Patriots where he learned from a tremendous organization. He learned how to win. He learned how to create expectations.
There is a great scene from this episode where he SHOWS his players the expectation. He does this using film. Obviously, with Hudl, most of us have our kids watching film all of the time. But how many times do you remember to point out the GOOD stuff, the GREAT stuff? “This is how you do it.” That’s a great phrase to use.
He shows a great play by J.J. Watt, their team defensive leaders. He has a strip sack of the QB in an explosive play off the line of scrimmage. And he says “Now listen, THIS is the expectation I have of all of you.”
I think it was a great point for all of us coaches: SHOW your expectation, don’t just talk about it