What Does A Great Head Coach Do?

What do great head coaches do that other head coaches don’t?

One of my favorite Twitter follows, NFLosophy had some interesting thoughts about coaching and development of players and I thought it was a good discussion. You can click on the link here, but here’s where it starts:

I’m going to blockquote the tweets that I thought were pretty relevant for this discussion, but the whole thing is worth reading.

Here’s the thing: It’s not a coincidence that the best coaches are more successful with translation of size/speed/athletic guys to the NFL. It really didn’t matter if Parcells’ team was smaller or bigger, he was going to coach the daylights out of them & they’d be good. So yeah, the likes of Parcells/Belichick/Walsh can draft size/speed/athleticism & be more successful than others simply because of coaching. It’s not that the great coaches were great at scouting, they’re just really good at coaching so it made them look like they were good scouts. Or they’ll take good athletes and turn them into “football players.” Good coaches can take misses and turn them into special teamers. Teams hit less than 50% knowing what team they’re scouting for. This is one of the things that makes predraft scouting for media so tough. Media has a damn near impossible job scouting a player without knowing who will be coaching him. And that could change everything. I’ll finish with one more thought . . . Those great coaches, go back and look at their staffs. They were all stacked with position coaches/coordinators that ended up being good HCs. Coaching staff is the most important part of an organization, IMHO. Can create opportunities & cover deficiencies with coaching/development.

There’s a lot to unpack here and of course the obvious is pretty simplistic: coaching matters.

  • We’ve talked about this ad nauseum, the idea that the more you pay coaches, the better the players will be. I’ve always thought that coaching matters. Wanna know the reason why Texas Tech hasn’t had a bad quarterback in 15 years or whatever? It’s because whoever has been the offensive coordinator has been pretty danged good. From Mike Leach to Neal Brown to Kliff Kingsbury. And say what you will about Brown, but in his first year as a head coach at Troy, they went 10-3. Kingsbury has got to be one of the more brilliant quarterback coaches there is and it isn’t a coincidence that his quarterbacks almost always succeed.
  • This also harkens back to Leach’s coaches and the litany of assistants who ended up as head coaches or coordinators: Dana Holgorsen, Ruffin McNeal, Art Briles, Seth Littrell, Sonny Dykes, etc. Just a ton of talent.
  • Time will tell with the assistants that Kingsbury has hired. I know that he gets a bad wrap, but I do think that Eric Morris is destined for a head coaching job. I also tend to think the same thing about Zac Spavital. I also like Emmett Jones and his drive. It take time for these things to play out and it will take time to figure out what these guys are destined to be.
  • The interesting part that I had never considered is that good coaches can turn parts and pieces into serviceable parts and special teams players that contribute in some form or fashion. I don’t think Kingsbury has done that. I don’t typically criticize Kingsbury, but this is why he needs to be a walk-around head coach a bit more. Maybe some of that coaching to turn quarterbacks into studs can rub off on some of these other players. I think it’s more than that if I’m being honest, this is where Kingsbury needs to become a better head coach.
  • If Kingsbury wants to be one of the best head coaches, he has to do what Walsh and Belichick and Parcells did, which is be masters of the entire craft of football. Want to know Belichick’s coaching history? Special team’s coach, receivers coach, defensive assistant, special teams coach, linebackers coach, defensive coordinator and then head coach.
  • But maybe teaching players to be the best quarterback does translate a bit. There’s something there that he does that can translate. Maybe it is the relentless pursuit of perfection from his quarterbacks or demanding that every repetition from each player be as perfect as the next. Kingsbury can do that. And when Hocutt said that he wants him more involved as a head coach, I think this is what we’re talking about.
  • But more than that, I think Kingsbury has to figure out to get the most out of his players. He knows how to do this with quarterbacks, he needs to figure out the equivalent with fringe guys that maybe wouldn’t contribute otherwise. Get the most out of those guys.

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