For possible answers, I turned to Inside the Pylon’s own Dan Hatman, former scout and current director of The Scouting Academy, for some insight and possible solutions. The qualities that make a good coach are often debated, and sometimes these debates can get heated on various forms of social media. Hatman himself has put his thoughts on twitter through a series of tweets that list what makes coaches good, as well as application through some examples.
Coaching abilities. Not all check every box
1) Head Coaching
3) Play design
4) Position technique
— Dan Hatman (@Dan_Hatman) September 12, 2016
With these maxims in mind, here is my Q&A with Hatman on how the NFL could improve the level of play in the league.
SE: Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions on this topic. For several years you had a bird’s eye view so to speak on the topic of good coaching. My first question is about development on coaching. As a Tennessee fan, the topic of how long is enough for a coach to develop is not surprisingly on my mind. Is there an answer to that question?
DH: I believe that the coaches that are superior in player development are those who have a substantial understanding of the fundamentals necessary to carry out the assignments asked, have the ability to teach those fundamentals and the concepts they apply to and those who can show the player exactly how what he is doing will bring him success within the scheme. We all respond to those who can show us how they can make us better. Many can tell you what to do, but fewer can show you how to do it, prepare you for what to expect and allow you to maximize your ability. That is a special blend and not something every coach I’ve interacted with brings to the table. So in regards to time necessary to develop someone, I don’t believe it is standard. Some coaches bring players along faster and some players respond faster. Development curves vary greatly. What we end up trying to establish is which coaches get the majority of their players towards the top (or to the top) of their development curve. We should look for trends, not outliers here.
SE: Of the good coaching qualities you list, is there one that stands out above the others? Related to that question, are those qualities delegatable, and what role does it play in coaching success or lack thereof?
DH: In regards to player development, the ability to develop technique and motivation come to mind. You need to get the player to believe in himself and his ability to execute what you are asking him to do. We highlight overall management and play design/play calling and clearly for the ability to leverage your players on the field, that is important. But you can design fantastic plays, but if you cannot teach your players how to execute them and only ask them things you can teach them to do, your design is not as impactful.
SE: How important is being a coordinator or assistant to the success of becoming a head coach?
DH: I’m torn on this. I understand that a Head Coach having experience calling plays can help them to hire and manage play callers. That said, I believe we artificially limit the Head Coaching pool by focusing only on play callers and it hurts the product. I believe (and the history of head coaches shows) that some people are fantastic coordinators, but when they have to run the whole show, things fall apart. I think GMs/Ownership really need to set up specific qualifications for Head Coaching and I would argue playcalling is icing on the cake, not the cake itself.
SE: Great information as always Mr. Hatman. Might I ask you about the buddy system and its impact on coaching? It might seem simple but for women and minorities, it is often not. How do those who are not part of the buddy system break down barriers and get noticed?
DH: The hiring cycles, and especially the timelines of those searches, do not allow for nationwide, long-range searches for the best possible candidates. Some are locked into contracts elsewhere, some you cannot afford, others you may have crossed paths with earlier and bad blood exists. So for those in a hiring position, you almost always have a short list of people you have worked with or know about who interest you. The smarter decision makers are always on the lookout and leverage their network to source a wider range of candidates. So for those looking to get noticed, you have to convince a decision maker you have the tools to do the job. That requires understanding enough about the hiring process to know who the advocates are, where teams look, and what the trends are. You can position yourself through clinics, advocates, the media, etc, to highlight what you bring to the table.