Sunday, February 24, 2008
It’s Sunday morning and I have my big meeting with Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress at 7:30 A.M. Coach Childress wants to meet with me because he loves innovation & technology. My understanding is he is always looking for new technology or a better way to teach the players .
My Power Point Presentations are different from everyone else’s because I use action figures with various colors schemes that move around. My Punt Cover and Kickoff Cover Players actually move downfield and execute their coverage assignments.
For example, when I click a button the Wedge Buster's on Kickoff Cover will actually move downfield and hit the proper spot on the wedge. I have also designed a Punt and Kickoff return package. All postions are color coded.
As a teacher, I learned long ago the kids learn best when colors are involved. Football players at all levels are just Big Kids.
Raven’s Head Coach Brian Billick was heavy into technology and I developed the initial concept for this package when I worked for the Ravens.
When Coach Childress arrives, I first show him one of my Special Teams motivational presentations. I get his attention quickly. He’s says he already sees how he can use this format in front of the entire team. I then show him the Punt , Kickoff, and return packages.
He say’s I’ve seen enough. We’ll talk more next week.
After this meeting, I walked out to the lobby of the Dome where the National Media was camped. Almost 650 credentials were given out to various media representatives by the Combine, which included Pat Kirwan.
Pat does a nationally syndicated radio show with Sirius Radio, channel 124. I pull him off to the side and we talk for 20 minutes, and I pitch him a couple ideas about Punting and Kicking that might work for his radio show. Pat's eyes light up!
He motions for his producer, Sean Butler, to join us. He tells Sean that he wants to set me up on his show to do a weekly spot on Kicking and Special Teams. We agree to work out the schedule in the near future.
I feel like I just won the Lottery!
Imagine being able to share with a national audience my passion and knowledge of Kicking, Punting and Special Teams.
I, and many others, believe this part of the game is GREATLY overlooked. To think I might be able to give it additional exposure through this radio opportunity is pretty neat.
I call my wife Michelle and she is so happy for me. She’s my biggest fan!
Most people don't realize the wives of coaches feel their husbands ups and downs in regards to their wins & loses, work schedules and job insecurities. Michelle has been a big help in getting my new consulting business up and running. The truth be known, she’s in charge of keeping me organized. She does a heck of a job.
In fact this weekend while I am at the NFL Combine, she’s working on a letter that is going out to all the Division 1 College Coaches. She is always working on something that helps improve my game (business).
Michelle is the Head Coach on this team!
But the great conversation about the radio program opportunity was not to be the end of my ‘networking’ day (even though I only had a few more hours to go before I had to catch my flight home).
I head back into the Dome to work the bleachers. The people I talked to during that ‘very’ short period of time was; Chargers Head Coach Norv Turner; Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy; Chargers GM A. J. Smith; Titans Head Coach Jeff Fisher; Seattle’s Head Coach Mike Holmgren and Patriots GM Scott Pioli.
I handed out my business cards and brochures. Everyone I talked to was courtious and very nice. Two of the Head Coaches said they’d call next week.
I hope they follow thru!
At this moment, I feel like one of the players who came here to be reviewed and drafted by an NFL team.
I mean I spent four days here ‘showing my stuff’ to as many people here as I could. This included Coaches, GM’s, Players, and just about anyone else I could get an audience with.
And now, like the players, I’ll just have to wait and see how many teams are interested in ‘drafting’ my consulting services!!!
It’s 3:00 P.M. and I am finally heading home. All I can say is, mission accomplished. I feel great!
Isn’t NFL Football great!!!
Stay tuned for more from the Coach Zauner Blog
My strategy for today is to network (what's new!). My goal is to visit with as many Head Coaches, GM’s and Personnel Directors as possible, in an effort to introduce them to my new consulting services.
At 8:00 A.M. I headed over to the RCA Dome. I worked my way through the crowd to the Dome where all the action was taking place. The place was packed with Team Owners, Head Coaches, GM’s, Personnel Directors, Assistant Coaches and Scouts. If you have Direct T.V. you can see it on channel 212 Total Access. It’s the 'Who’s Who' in football.
My first priority was to find Saint's Head Coach Sean Payton and Charger Head Coach Norv Turner. I wanted to follow up on previous conversations I had with them.
In the next seven hours I worked my way around the Dome and had conversations with a number of people including Redskins Head Coach Jim Zorn; Saints Head Coach Sean Payton; Rams Head Coach Scott Linehan; Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy (with whom I worked with at the Vikings back in 1994) Detroit Lions GM Matt Millen; Browns Head Coach Romeo Crennell; Atlanta’s Head Coach Mike Smith and General Manager Thomas Dimitroff and three of K.C. Chiefs top brass including Head Coach Herman Edwards, President Carl Peterson, and Director of Football Operations Lynn Stiles.
This was a VERY busy day. It yielded VERY positive results. I received excellent feedback from most of the people I talked to. In fact, I'll be working with some of the coaches I talked to over the last few days. My guess is that others will want to use me as a resource 'down the road'.
It’s interesting that now, since I am no longer looking for a Special Teams coaching job, it seems much easier to approach and talk to all these Head Coaches. I'm glad it is easier. In years past, I was a little concerned about being to 'aggressive' in asking people to meet with me. I wanted to meet coaches, but did not want to seem intrusive.
In fact in the coaching world, there is a label that is given to coaches without a job, who sit in the lobby and wait (or lurk) for any prospective Head Coach in order to talk to him about a job. They are appropriately called part of 'The All Lobby Team'.
And it came to my attention on Saturday that my 'enthusiasm' to meet and talk with coaches may have gone a bit overboard (from time to time), when Carolina’s Cheep Chryst, who is a long time coaching friend, yells at me! “Hey, Coach Z, you made the All World Team today. Chuckling to myself I had to reply "was I that obvious"?
Well, I hope all the coaches I talked to realize how much I appreciate the time they took from their busy schedules to talk with me. However I am confident enough in what I have to offer, and believe it was a good use of their time. I hope they feel the same.
Around 9:00 P.M. Saturday night and I went over to the Westin and Marriott Hotels to check out the action. Most of the Coaches were doing their due diligence and were doing player interviews over at Train Station Hotel.
After an hour, I decided to go home to the Hyatt Hotel - my home for the last three nights - and call it an early -but successful- day.
In the lounge of the Hyatt I saw several national sports writers watching the big basketball game between Tennessee and Memphis. These writers have covered the NFL for many years and were having a great time. They were talking trivia so I decided to get involved. "OK how many Special Teams Coaches in the NFL eventually became NFL Head Coaches?"
There was silence.
One Guy shouts out "Dick Vermeil". Another yells "Marv Levy". And still another confidently answers "George Allen".
I reply, "yes...yes...and no!"
George Allen, who I coached for in 1989 at Long Beach State, hired the first ever Special Teams Coach in the NFL, and that was Dick Vermeil. However, Coach Allen never really coached Special Teams.
And just to add to this trivia list we came up with: 1) Dick Vermeil, 2) Marv Levy, 3) Frank Ganz Sr., 4) Mike Ditka, 5) Bill Cowher, 6) Bill Belichick, 7) Dennis Green 8) Ken Whisenhunt and now 9) John Harbaugh.
If I missed any names, I would like to know who they are. You can get into this little triva game by e-mailing me the name(s) at firstname.lastname@example.org If your name checks out, I'll post it to my blog and give you credit for the information.
The basketball game ended with Tennessee winning. It is now time to retire.
Next up, and early morning meeting with Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress at 7:30 A.M. We'll see if my final day here at the Combine is as productive as the last three days I have spent here.
I'm hoping it will be.
Stay Tuned to Coach Zauner's Combine Blog
Friday, February 22, 2008
After a couple hours I proceeded over to the RCA dome where the Kickers, Offensive Linemen and Tight Ends were being highlighted. As I walked thru the hallways at the RCA Dome I met many of my old coaching friends and acquaintances. As a matter of fact, I saw Joe Bugel who is one of the all-time great Offensive Line Coaches in the NFL for several great Head Coaches which include Joe Gibbs. We both live in Fountain Hills, Arizona and live about a mile apart.
A round of golf is definately in our near future.
It was about noon, so I decided to grab a quick sandwich. In the sandwich shop, there was Scott Studwell Director of College Scouting for the Minnesota Vikings. It's hard to go anywhere here without seeing someone I know, or someone I'd like to meet.
Scott and I go way back, when I was the Special Teams Coach for the Minnesota Vikings. We sat and had a great conversation about our Viking days together. We were soon joined by Carolina Head Coach John Fox. The three of us talked for about 30 minutes about various subjects.
Scott asked Coach Fox, "what are you doing over here so early"? Coach Fox replied “I like to watch everyone and kicking is a part of it”
I like it when Head Coaches pay attention to the Kicking Game. Way to go Coach Fox.
We then started discussing the topic of, how does the combine decide which punters and kickers get invited to the combine. Scott explained the process. He said it had to do with votes.
Last night at our dinner most of the Special Teams Coaches didn’t understand the process either. However, there was one general consensus, expressed by many of the Special Teams Coaches there, and that was, whoever is deciding or voting on the combine kicking personnel, was not doing a very good job. And I expressed that to Coach Fox and Scott Studwell.
It was time to get to the dome for the 1:00 P.M. kicking workout!
This is my 15th year checking out the talent at the Combine, so I am understandably curious what the talent pool will look like this year.
Head Coaches, Special Teams Coaches, Personnel Managers, and Scouts were seated all around the RCA Dome with stop watches and clip board with charts in hand waiting to see this year’s group. They started with the punters. 1st Punter, 2nd Punter, so on until the last punter.
The two combine long snappers, snapped balls to the punters. The punters tried to hit four of their best punts down the middle with good hang times. They then tried punting three balls directionally, 1st to the right and then to the left. Each player punted a total of 10 balls.
Everyone was charting: get offs, hang times, and distances.
The Snappers were being timed for speed of snap and accuracy. This group as a whole, struggled! Kickoffs were next. This was a combination of punters and kickers.
Each player kicked 5 balls, straight down the middle of the field, trying to get their best kickoff. Distances and hang times were recorded. Next, each player tried to directional kickoff 3 balls to the right and then to the Left. For the field goal kickers that don’t have a cannon of the leg, this is their chance to show coaches that they can kickoff with accuracy to the corner and pin a Devin Hester or Josh Cribbs Pro Bowl type return man into the corner.
The Last group was field goals kickers. They started with the elevation drill. I hate this drill and I have expressed this to many coaches and Combine personnel. This is stupid drill! Most of the kickers change their field goal technique just in order to get the ball up quickly and to be successful during the drill. I will never let any of the kickers I've coached do this drill!
I personally would give the kickers more field goals, and throw out the elevation drill. My thought is that Kickers and Punters should NEVER do any drill that might give them bad muscle memory.
The kickers now start kicking field goals with a snap and hold. There is a 10 foot net put at the line of scrimmage that the kick must clear to go thru the goal post. This is to simulate the defensive line getting their hands up to block a field goal. Each field goal kicker takes 3 kicks with a snap and hold! They start on the left hash, with a 30 yard field goals. They moved back in five yard increments and alternated hash marks, kicking 3 more field goals. The ended the day, with 3 kicks at 50 yards right down the middle. Each kicker get 15 kicks. The kicker from Louisville and Wisconsin had good days!
The two snappers did an excellent job snapping all day.
However, I didn't feel the same way about the Kickers and Punters. This was by far the worst group of punters and kickers the NFL Combine committee has assembled in years. This was not only my reaction, but also, the sentiments of at least 12-15 Special Teams Coaches and Scouts sitting around me. I have attended the Combine for 15 years, and some coaches have been in the league longer. In my opinion, there were only 2 or maybe 3 kickers, at most that have a chance to get into a NFL camp.
And I know many of the NFL Special Teams Coaches are very frustrated with the selection committee and the process, and they should be. Now many of the teams and coaches will be forced to spend thousands of dollars to go to various Colleges around the country to work with punters and kickers in an effort to find the talent that should have been invited to the Combine.
What a waste of money!
NFL coaches want the BEST! That's why they come here. But for some reason, when it comes to the kicking specialists at the NFL Combine, the evaluation process is falling short of that goal.
There’s vast room for improvement, but that’s just one voice speaking!
Friday night at the Marriott Hotel, I was talking to an agent, when Vikings Head Coach; Brad Childress came over to talk this agent. Coach Childress had worked with Jill Mc Bride’s father, Ron Mc Bride at the University of Utah a while back. Sometimes, it helps to be in the right place and the right time. I had not planned to talk to Coach Childress because they have excellent specialists. Somehow the conversation turns to Power Point, and Coach Childress’s eyes light up. He wants to know more about my power point package. It’s late and we agree to meet on Saturday or Sunday, when we have more time.
I had never met Coach Childress before, however, he seems to be a really a nice guy!
Stay tuned for Coach Zauner Blog at the Combine
Thursday, February 21, 2008
I received a phone call from one of the Special Teams coaches I met on Wednesday who wanted to get together for 15 minutes and view my Special Teams Power Point Presentation. On my way downstairs to the lobby of the Hyatt Hotel, I got into the elevator and there was Bears Head Coach Lovie Smith.
I introduced myelf and then was a bit speechless. But only for a bit.
We talked for the duration of the elevator ride and then continued our conversation down in the lobby for a couple of minutes. I mentioned that we had Robbie Gould in Baltimore for about four or five weeks on our practice squad and had to cut him. It was a very hard cut because during those weeks I saw the potential the young kicker had.
The Bears were smart!
The next season Robbie went on to his first Pro Bowl!
I also mentioned to him how I admired the way the Bears organization signs and drafts, and puts their team together with Special Teams emphasis. It was a credit to not only him but also the Pro Personnel Director Bobby De Paul! The Bears are coached by Special Teams coach Dave Toub. He does a great job coaching an excellent group of core Special Teams players led Pro Bowlers Brendon Ayanbadejo and Return Specialist Devin Hester.
After this brief, but enjoyable encounter I continued off to my meeting. There, my 15 minute Power Point meeting turned into an hour. The Coach was very impressed. He was going to talk to his Head Coach to see if we could create a consulting package for himself and his kickers. It was pretty exciting to get such a positve response. I was excited!
As the day continued, I saw 4 more Special Teams Coaches, and gave presentations to them. The responses were excellent! I was a busy and productive morning and afternoon.
To see an example of the Special Teams Power Point presentation, go to my website and click on the Special Teams button.
During the day I received a call from a college Special Teams Coach who wants to visit Scottsdale, Arizona to spend time going over kicking and the parts of the Kicking Game. Great! I enjoy giving clinics in my office (and it also means I don’t have to fly!).
I also had two more kickers call about lessons. Business is good.
It's amazing how the Internet and my website have helped in my new consulting business (more on this in a different post).
After a little R&R (that would be 'rest and relaxation' not 'rock-n-roll') I left to attend the annual Special Teams Dinner that is put on by the Super Bowls winning team’s Special Teams Coach.
This year it was Giants Special Teams Coach, Tom Quinn.
It’s great seeing the guys and exchanging stories and talking special teams. As always, it was a very nice function. About 80% of the NFL Special Teams Coaches attended. John Harbaugh, the new Head Coach for the Baltimore Ravens showed up and got a standing ovation. For many years he was one of the league’s outstanding Special Teams Coaches.
During all my conversations with people throughout the evening one question kept coming up, and that was 'how many games are won and lost by 3 points?'. It's a good question...and I think I'll have try and find that stat and post it here on my blog.
Later, in the evening I talked for several minutes with Eagles Head Coach Andy Reid. Andy was a player at BYU when I was Coaching Kicking and Special Teams there for Head Coach LaVell Edwards. It was great seeing and talking to Andy. He’s always been a great guy and still is. And now he is also a great Head Coach!
As I finished the evening and was getting ready to leave I ran into Atlanta’s New Head Coach Mike Smith. Mike and I coached together for 5 years at San Diego State in the early 1980’s and also, at the Ravens in 2002.
I am so happy for Mike. He’s worked his butt off over the years and it’s paid dividends for him.
He’ll do a great job in Atlanta.
Stay tuned for more from the NFL Combine here on the Coach Zauner blog.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
This has been a busy week for me as I have been getting ready to leave for the NFL Combine on Wednesday. It's going to be great to have the opportunity to see 'up close and personal' some of the new talent seeking their place in the NFL (and perhaps even NFL history!).
But as exciting as it is to think about those new faces that will be seen at the NFL Combine...I also have to wonder about all the eager faces that won't be there!
Today, I talked to three high profiled agents on the phone that handle not only NFL position players, but also some high profiled veteran kickers and punters. They also, have some kickers and punters that are draft eligible in this years draft in April ,and their players were not invited to the combine.
As we talked on the phone about these agents sending their specialist to me to prepare them for their Pro Day's at their Colleges in March, they all asked me the same question. "I can't believe my kicker wasn't invited to the combine. Did you see the list of kickers and punters selected?".
And they would continue, "Who, and how do they determine which kickers are invited to the combine?".
Well, it's a good question. Especially for those players who didn't who 'didn't' make it to the combine. And for the agents and coaches who represent them.
When I was a coach in the NFL I couldn't figure out myself. What is the criteria the combine people used to invite the punters and kickers to this event. They always said it was grades by certain area and regional scouts and combine people.
There was a always a wide variety of talent at the combine each year.
The funny part of this whole thing was when I would be on the road at many Colleges Pro Days, scouts would always ask me what I thought about a certain punter or kicker and they would always preface there remarks by saying "I really don't know how to evaluate those guys accept what my watch tells me!" Gary what do you think?
I think one of the things I will do this year at the NFL Combine is to attempt to gather more information about what it takes to 'make the cut' and get invited to this amazing event. I think this information could be helpful to many players, coaches and agents who would like to be represented there.
Thru the years I have seen so many kickers, punters and snappers make NFL rosters that have not been invited to the combine! I just wonder what the quality of talent is going to be this year.
Stay tuned to Coach Zauner's Blog!
Sunday, February 17, 2008
Shane is a strong legged punter that needs to improve on his consistency. We worked one a couple of fundamentals that I felt would make him a better punter. We worked the drop progression and the one step drill. We then progressed to the power zone punting technique. Shane was a quick learner!
By the end of the lesson he was hitting the ball with better hang times and more consistency. It was an excellent lesson for both of us!
Saturday, February 16, 2008
We worked to refine his field goal snaps. I showed him how to snap perfect laces to the holder. We also spent time on his long snapping technique. We worked on three things: 1) Snap, drop & Protect, 2) the Line Drill and 3) the Balls and Strikes Drill.
Tyler is a student of the game and picked up everything very quickly. He was a pleasure to work with and I look forward to working with him in the future and also watching him play on future Sunday afternoons.
Stay tuned to Coach Zauner's Blog!
Mike holds two NFL records:
1) Forty-one consecutive field goals and
2) he is the All-Time leading field goal percentage leader in the NFL with an 86.4 percentage as of Nov. 20th 2006.
During our two day training session last week here in Scottdale Arizona we worked on three things: 1) the one-step drill, 2) his field goal technique, and 3) his kickoff technique. We worked to improve not only his distance but also, his consistency on his kickoffs. We accomplished all three goals.
Mike was a pleasure to work with.
At the end of our kicking workout Mike punted a bunch of balls. I was amazed on how good of a punter he still is today. He punted as good if not better than many of the punters playing on Sunday. Mike had two great days of kicking.
Mike is too good not to be on one of the NFL teams. It's a real shame!
Stay tuned to Coach Zauner's Blog!