I did a little twitter rant yesterday.
Take it from someone who is learning this the hard way — extreme results require extreme actions. You can’t change “a little” and think that’s enough for a completely different outcome. Sure, it might affect the outcome by 10-percent. Maybe 20. But the rest? That 80 or 90-percent?
You’re wasting time. Spinning wheels.
I have never played football (except that one time, at band camp) … I’m smart enough to know what I DON’T KNOW. I’m not in the trenches on Sundays and I can’t speak to what guys go through internally. I’m not allowed in meetings or closed-door discussions. I simply talk to a lot of players, and former players, on a daily basis, and that was the genesis for my rant. Allow me to explain:
***** The word “leader” gets thrown around a lot. Leadership cannot happen off the field if it doesn’t happen on it. You can have a player who is so wise, who really works hard to get other players up to speed and tries to look out for the good of the team … but guess what? If he’s not KILLING IT on the field, then do you know what he is?
He’s a hard worker. He sure works hard.
And that’s it.
If a player is going to “talk” and try to motivate, he’s going to have a heck of an easier time getting guys to listen if he’s playing like a beast.
Playing like a beast accomplishes two things: One, it ups the level of excellence and expectation (duh, Annie) … Two, it leads through action OFF the field. If a guy is playing like a beast — (and that might be reflected in hustle and urgency, not necessarily in stats) — the guys learning from him absorb his work ethic, how he takes care of his body, what he does to stay mentally and physically ready. And that breeds FUTURE GENERATIONS of beasts. A guy is much less likely to slack off if the player he respects at the locker next to him is the model of how an athlete should prepare and conduct oneself — that goes for how he acts in front of the media, in front of fans, how he plays through injury, how he takes coaching and critiques … all of it.
If there are a bunch of players who are all striving for that … it’s an inner competition, always. No one wants to be the weakest link.
A team that does not have enough of these kinds of players lacks motivation and leadership. Motivation comes from a lot of places, but that’s one. On top of that, a locker room that is veteran deficient makes all of that much tougher.
Who you surround yourself with becomes what you know.
***** Motivation is a slippery slope. It’s also a word that’s thrown around a lot. Even if it’s subconscious, guys need motivation. Most people do in some shape or form. So, as a coach, if you’re not an effective motivator, that will eventually reflect itself on the field.
What’s worse than not being an effective motivator? Thinking you are when you’re not.
The best external motivation comes from great play (see above) … If you don’t have that, you better surround yourself with the right pieces and personnel to get a team to perform at an above-average level.
***** Culture. Listen … People are afraid of change. It’s inherent. It’s a fact. So while someone may say, “Hey, look at me! I changed!” … In reality, they put on a blue shirt instead of a pink one. YES, it’s change. It’s an action. I applaud any personal change because it’s tough. But in a business … In a business, for change to happen, it usually has to happen at the CORE. If you tiptoe around it, you just — again — waste time. For big and bold change to happen, it usually requires a CULTURE change. It requires the entire organization, top to bottom, to have a shift in thinking. A new normal. Not just SAYING it, but really feeling it and doing it. That is TOUGH. That can hurt. That can require a lot of uncomfortableness from people who like being comfortable.
It can also take time. It might inch forward, sputter backward and then leap forward again.
But what’s worse? A year or two of that versus decades of doing the same thing and expecting a different result?
I’m not saying you have to clean house or fire people or go all crazy. It can be more subtle than that. Sometimes, it’s just admitting what you’re NOT, admitting what’s MISSING, learning from mistakes and from competitors who are succeeding where you’re not, taking a deep breath and going from there. But the first step is to honestly see what’s not working. If you can’t see that … hire someone who can. Not someone you’re comfortable with, or this pattern will repeat.
Not sure if this post is about football or life anymore … but the two sure can parallel one another, huh?
Until next time, peeps.
Last week, I went OFF the field with Chargers running back Fozzy Whittaker to meet his alter ego, Captain America.
Yessir! Captain America. Fozzy has felt a connection to Captain America since his college days in Texas, going as far as to say he actually considers his identity to be Captain America and his alter ego, Fozzy. 🙂 The story behind it is great — Before Captain America was Captain America, the comic book hero was a scrawny dude who was dismissed time and again because of his small stature. But he had HEART. Fozzy likens himself to Cap, saying he may not be the biggest or strongest, but his heart will win out every time.
Come on. How can you not love that?
Teammates Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead were quick to compliment Fozzy, saying he has a great attitude and fierce work ethic. He’s acclimated to the running backs room nicely, they told me. Mathews added that in the offseason, as soon as Fozzy was signed, he was by Mathews’ side working out with him.
One more Fozzy fact? The guy has a master’s degree in kinesiology. A master’s degree! Two snaps, Fozzy.
At last, Mike McCoy found his best 53 players.
At least for now.
Here’s the vloggy vlog on the roster cuts made today.
I’m a sucker for the enshrinement speeches during the NFL Hall of Fame ceremony. Usually they are full of wisdom, humility, humor and GREAT football anecdotes. I could listen for days about the adversity and the triumph and the “old times” when “Coach Lombardi told us to …” (I mean, Dave Robinson can say that phrase! Come on, that’s awesome) … It’s just a great glimpse into the roots of the game and how some things are SO different today and yet, of course, so eerily similar.
Head coach Bill Parcells entered the Hall of Fame last Saturday, and in his speech, he talked about the locker room. Since many of you will never actually enter an NFL locker room, I thought I’d use some parts of his speech to give you a peek inside, based off my experience with the Chargers.
“[Steve Young] said that the locker room is a great laboratory for human behavior. When he said that, it just kind of hit me. I said, you know what? This guy’s right. This guy is absolutely right.”
Amen, Bill. It is. It’s as if a scientist took a swab of the general male population and then put it under a petri dish for study. Some players are gregarious, while some are quiet and stay turned to their locker most of the time, on their cell phone; some players keep very neat and organized lockers while others have lockers that would make their mothers weep; some guys throw stuff on the floor and let other people clean it up, some find the trash can. That sort of thing. It’s a place of contrasts. You have all kinds of ethnicity, upbringings, weights, sizes, intelligence levels, etc., and somehow they all mesh into one brotherhood because …
“The only prerequisite for acceptance into that locker room is you’ve got to be willing to contribute to the greater good, and if you are willing to do that, you are readily accepted. If you’re not, you’re pretty much quickly rejected.”
Two case studies for this: Manti Te’o (accepted) and Jared Gaither (rejected). ‘Nuff said.
Now we’ve got some rules and regulations in the locker room. But they’re not written down. But after you’ve been there just a couple of days, you know what they are. If someone should deviate and violate those rules, you find out that there is a judge and jury in that room and they act decisively. Their decisions are final, because we don’t have any appellate courts in there. Okay.
I remember last season, when a rookie divulged to the media that coaches told him he would be starting Sunday after an injury occurred to a veteran at his position. He was just being honest. He didn’t technically do anything outside of the rules. Within minutes, another veteran pulled him aside and quickly schooled him on what to say (or not say) to the media before the coaches had officially made their decision. That’s just a small example of how, like Parcells says, there are unwritten rules. Guys are protective of each other and protective of their space, as they should be. It is THEIR SPACE. Us media are just visitors, like guests in a house where we never feel totally comfortable. Because it’s not. your. house. It’s home to the players. It’s business to the media. It’s not a place to “hang out” or plop on a couch (especially females … well, the ones who are professional. That’s another post for another time).
Now we’ve got a wide range of emotions in this place, ladies and gentlemen. We’ve got happiness, we’ve got humor, practical jokes, hilarity, success, achievement.
Ohhh, yes. Especially in football, where losses ache for a week, and players live in a glass house of emotion. A bad practice, a bad play, a fumble, a missed tackle, a mental mistake — All of those contribute to very testy players. Not always, but usually. And you can’t blame them for that, really …I mean, this is their job. Some are more sensitive than others. As a reporter, you have to have tough skin. You can’t take things personally.
There are hilarious moments too … There were a lot of those when Jacques Cesaire and Antonio Garay were in that locker room. Chairs were always being flipped, things were shot across the room and practical jokes were popular. It’s a place where Philip Rivers will blast his iPod and you’ll hear mostly country (including some Taylor Swift … He says his daughter likes it, but you’d be surprised how many guys in that locker room know all the words to Miss Swift’s music) … and then the next day, some hard core rap will be playing and five players will be dancing in the middle of the room.
Then we’ve got that momentary time of exhilaration where you hoist that championship trophy over your head, and I don’t know what happens, but some mystical blood kinship is formed, and although it’s a fleeting moment, that kinship lasts for the rest of your life.
No, Bill. The Chargers don’t know about this magical moment. Trophy? Blood kinship? What?
Now, on the other side of that locker room there’s darkness. There’s defeat. There’s despondency, there’s pain. You see those players carrying those IVs on to the aircraft after a mid-summer or early season game in a hot weather city, and they’re carrying their own IVs on to the plane and the trainers are rushing to pack them in ice, and they can’t sit in their seats because they’ll cramp up, so they’ve got to lay in the aisle. Ladies and gentlemen, they don’t put that on television, but I was there to see it. There is pain. There is injury. There is tragedy, and even death.
Geez, one just has to think about Kris Dielman. Suffered a concussion, kept playing, got on a flight, suffered a seizure. It’s a warrior sport. It’s for warriors. Every time I enter that locker room, guys are bruised and banged up and wrapped with ice packs. I respect their hard work and I feel lucky to have the privilege to watch these players prepare and practice and put it all on the line. Day in and day out, to get a glimpse into their extreme focus, discipline and mental strength, as well as their utter disappointment or exuberant elation … Well, it’s almost like being let in on a secret.
After watching Saturday’s ceremony, I went back and watched Michael Irvin’s speech. Man, I love that speech.
In light of recent news events, I thought what Irvin said here is extremely telling:
We had the best, and I’m telling you the very best, and I’m willing to take an argument with anybody on this, strength and conditioning coach in the world. His name is Mike Warsick. He has six Super Bowl rings. Six, people. Twice he has won three Super Bowls in four years, once with us and now with the New England Patriots. So if anybody wants to take an argument, I am a debater. I am here and ready.
Mike Warsick, you are, man, the very best. You put me back together from that knee injury. As we always tell each other when we say good bye, MissPaw (phonetic), which means may God hold you till we see each other again.
Who thanks their strength and conditioning coach anymore?? I mean, to put him in your enshrinement speech and gush like that?
There have been at least a dozen season-ending ACL injuries in the NFL since the start of this year. Chargers wide receiver Danario Alexander is the latest victim. The Chargers alone have had three ACL injuries since May. The season hasn’t even started yet. NOW … These have to be coincidental. There’s no rhyme or reason to the rash of league injuries … Different teams, different coaches, different practice styles, some are veterans, some are rookies, etc. But I will say that, in talking to players throughout the years, there is a limited knowledge of how to take care of their bodies. Some guys know how. Others don’t. Some get complacent over the years. It seems so simple, right? These are professional athletes! But it’s not that simple. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.
I leave you with Mr. Michael Irvin, whom I had the pleasure of interviewing a few years back. He made quite an impression on me.
Look up, get up, and never give up.
Final Vlog from Chargers minicamp. I talk about the depth on the defensive line, what the offense is looking like and more.
Plus, my beautiful drawings. 😉
I talk about the Antonio Gates/Manti Te’o matchup (which came to fruition today during practice), plus I give you the lowdown on the secondary and what practice is like.
I thought I’d bring the Vlog back. Why not?
(Are they even called “Vlogs” these days? Is that so 2005?)
I plan to draw a lot in my Vlogs now. You’re really going to see my artistic ability shine through in these things.
In this Vlog, I talk about the first day of Chargers minicamp, Manti Te’o and the media hoard, a little Pagano, and some Padres. Check it out. What do you think?
So, I had a goal to run a half-marathon.
And I achieved it.
I’m proud to say that I ran the Rock-N-Roll Half Marathon on June 2. I trained hard for it. I followed a program that had me running 3-4 times a week, including long runs on the weekend (which I never missed, even while on the road). I had only one goal during the actual marathon: To NOT stop. I didn’t want to walk. So I didn’t. I jogged — sometimes really, really slow — until I crossed that damn finish line.
Notice the hair. The hair is a WRECK.
All of this came about last year, when I did a video on Bill Johnston (Chargers PR Director) and his daughter, Hayley, who run the marathon each year to help raise money for Huntington’s disease, a degenerative brain disease that affects their family. Last year, I told them I’d be back the following year to run with them … and I kept my promise.
Not only did Hayley and Bill run this year, but they ran while pushing Ramona. I can barely write that without tearing up. I mean, 26.2 miles is tough enough for anyone … but imagine doing it while pushing a stroller that weighs about 150 pounds. It’s unbelievable.
Watch this video … but grab a box of tissues first.
I’m so proud to have been part of Team HD. It was an amazing experience and as cliche as it sounds, it taught me a lot about myself. I had never run more than five miles before this little adventure — (and I only did THAT once) — so it was grueling for me and definitely a challenge. But I did it … and now will be cheating on running with a little elliptical for a while, which makes my knees very, very happy. 😉
A HUGE THANK YOU to all the people who supported me in this quest and donated money to help find a cure for HD. You guys are AWESOME!!!
The Chargers fired their strength and conditioning staff today. After an influx of muscle injuries the last few years, this firing seemed inevitable, although it was reported that Mike McCoy simply “had his guy” that he wanted to bring in, and the firing of the old staff was the result of McCoy pulling rank (as he should … I mean, he’s the head coach).
Soooo … that prompted a lot of Twitter fire (with many rejoicing that the change had finally been made) … and I said this:
Let me elaborate.
I hear a lot that NFL players should just KNOW how to keep their bodies in the best shape possible because they are “elite players, at a professional level” … Yes. They are. But keep this in mind: These are the guys who were the top dogs in college. They were the business. Most of them just had this raw talent, and they were the best of their class growing up — the most athletic, the most versatile, the most productive. They didn’t “train” … they didn’t need to train. They were the kings.
Enter the NFL … where everyone is a king.
Now you have these players, who were always top-notch at their respective school because of their God-given talent (again — MOST. Not ALL.) … And they don’t know what to do, now that they’re surrounded by all kinds of players who are just as good — (if not better) than them.
They are getting older. They are training harder. Now, this is a job. If they aren’t good enough, they lose the job. If they get hurt, they may lose the career. They’re trying to one-up the guy next to them. Each player is looking for the best way to beat the other player … Some go the method of hard work, some go the method of quick fix, some look to veterans, and some are paralyzed with indecision, or, sometimes, lack of motivation. It just depends.
My point is, now they have to figure out how to train. How to eat. How to have longevity in this league. How to sustain injuries and come back fiercer. They didn’t have to do this before.
So when someone says “they should just know how” … Why? Why should they just know how? This is new territory.
Plus, each player is different. What works for one player isn’t necessarily going to work for another. Some players choose to get a personal trainer … others just work out at the facility … others team up and create a plan … and some just go at it solo.
Most players that have found the *right* trainer make leaps and bounds from one year to the next.
Okay — that was my tangent. Now consider the strength and conditioning staff of the team:
The team has just made an investment of millions of dollars into their roster. They BETTER get the best strength and conditioning staff around to maximize that investment. Whoever is tasked with being a strength and conditioning coach at the highest level in football better be damn good.
Being a strength and conditioning coach in the NFL is tough. Not only do you have 10 position groups to worry about, you have a variety of bodies, plenty of baggage as far as injuries go, different pain thresholds and different needs. Also, under the new CBA, coaches can only work with players for a certain number of hours each season.
Here’s my last point:
The game has changed. Football has become less about brute strength and more about technique, athleticism and finesse. Players need to condition themselves to handle the wear-and-tear of the game, while continuing to improve and one-up their skill level. Every year, a new crop of athletes is drafted that are faster, stronger, more agile. If a player (or a coach) isn’t continually trying new techniques to GET THE MOST OUT OF HIS PERFORMANCE, a player is already regressing.
Doing the same thing, over and over, will only get you so far.
That’s not to say that someone should be trying yoga one week, boxing the next, walking on fire the third. That’s simply to say the best program (that players tell me, anyways) is one that is based in a good foundation (strength training that keeps them fast, agile, fluid and flexible) as well as a combination of exercises to challenge their body and supplement their performance. It’s not about how heavy you can lift. Every single thing a player does when he trains should show itself on the field. There should be a method to the madness.
More and more teams are bringing in coaches (either temporarily or long-term) that specialize in something — like yoga or martial arts — to help certain guys get an advantage.
I’ve had several players tell me they aren’t sure what to do when it comes to training, or that they simply train themselves, or that former strength and conditioning coaches aren’t hip to the changing game, so they focus on old techniques that may end up causing muscle strains.
Make no mistake — players are paid professionals. If they don’t know something, it’s on them to figure it out or to get their bodies to peak performance. But sometimes, the tools a team provides are sub-par. We’ll see how how the new staff shapes up.
So, it finally happened.
The Chargers hired a new general manager — Tom Telesco — and a new head coach, Mike McCoy.
Both are 40. Both are assuming their respective positions for the first time.
It’s definitely a new direction for the Chargers, a deviation from AJ Smith and Norv Turner. It’s a “youth movement” — a lot of emphasis being placed on energy and enthusiasm … two words that wouldn’t necessarily come to mind when talking about the old regime.
Still, there are similarities. Smith wanted to draft and develop … and did, until he seemed to lose the magic touch. Like Turner, McCoy is mostly even-keeled on the field and keeps his emotions in check. If you’re looking for histrionics, you won’t find them in the new Chargers coach.
That’s kinda where the similarities end. 😉
Telesco and McCoy are very engaging, friendly and likable. They welcome questions and they patiently chat with media. Sure, the honeymoon will end soon and both will pull back. But even when they do, there will still be a change in culture.
I like both hires. I’m not a prophet. I can’t see into a crystal ball and tell you all it will work out. But, both Telesco and McCoy seem ambitious, motivated, intelligent … and perhaps most importantly, on the same page as to how the organization will run.
Here are some takeaways from yours truly:
- McCoy commands a room. He isn’t dramatic or loud, but he definitely has a presence. He draws you in. He also seems very no-nonsense. Friendly, but succinct. He knows what he wants.
- There is a big push for cohesiveness. Spanos, Telesco and McCoy all talk about it … Getting the WHOLE organization to work together for the greater good. Seems simple, but it was missing.
- I can’t overemphasize how much “family” has been used by both Telesco and McCoy. Both cite the “family feel” as reasons they chose the Chargers organization.
McCoy, especially, said this:
Family is huge to me. I wanted to go somewhere that you can welcome your family with open arms. Come in here and understand that we all work our tails off. We work a lot of hours as football coaches. Players work extremely hard but understand that there are certain family values also.
And Dean Spanos said this:
We want to create a family feeling around here and maybe that’s been gone the last few years. So you lose it every once in a while and you forget what it was all about and it’s sort of refreshing to think that we’re going to get back to that.
- McCoy was the final candidate the Chargers interviewed for the head coach position. He was lucky number 5. He said he knew within minutes that the “right fit” was with the Chargers; so much so, that everything was fast-tracked and the Chargers cancelled an interview they had with Bruce Arians (Colts offensive coordinator) the following day. Here’s the kicker: Had the Broncos not LOST the playoff game to the Ravens, the Chargers may not have waited for McCoy. They wanted to hire someone this week. Soooo … it’s kinda funny to think that the future of the organization could have been DRASTICALLY different had the Broncos won. Time will tell whether fans will celebrate that loss or not … 😉
- McCoy, who re-tooled the Broncos offense for Orton, Tebow and Manning and who coached Carolina QB Jake Delhomme to a Pro-Bowl and Orton to his best year — (not to mention Tebow to success) — seems to have a knack for figuring out how to get the most out of his players by focusing on what they do best. Building a style around the PLAYERS instead of trying to mold the players to a certain style. He says it right here:
You have to do what your players do best. I’m a firm believer in that. Every play on paper is a touchdown. Every run is a 10-yard gain, if not more. We are going to analyze our football team from this point on and figure out through OTAs, mini camps, training camp, what do our players do best and let them play. I’ve got no problem calling the same play 10 times in a game. If they can’t stop it and Philip can pick them apart running that play, we will run that play time and time again. I think that is our job as a football coach, is to find out what our players do best. The players are going to give us a lot of input. We don’t have all the answers as coaches.
- Telesco said McCoy came to the Chargers “prepared for the job” … The conversation sorta turned into a dialogue on what they would do to improve the team, instead of a formal question-and-answer interview. Says Telesco:
He was one of the most polished first-time head coaching candidates I’ve ever seen … Some people come into an interview prepared for the interview. But he was prepared for the job … He’s a leader of men. He was a quarterback in college. You could kind of see the toughness in his eyes when he talked to us. He’s a teacher who can communicate with all different backgrounds of players and all different levels of experience. He’s a motivator as a coach who can get guys to play their best at critical times. Those are the kinds of things that we were looking for and it just started to come out naturally.
One of the things I liked about McCoy (and I’ll be curious to see how he executes this) is his attention to detail. He said he and Telesco will devise a plan — everything from the training camp schedule, to when they will leave for a road trip, to what the players will eat. I like that. I know it seems like every player should be able to make the decision of what to eat, or how to train, or when to sleep, but, uh … that’s not the case. Some guys can … But some guys can’t. They have never had to. They leave college (where they were the best on their team and got away with bad habits) and they get into the NFL and they just don’t know how to take their LIFESTYLE to the next level. So, I’m hoping McCoy focuses on that. I think details make all the difference.
Time will tell.