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Sunday, February 24, 2008

NFL Combine Day 4

Its Saturday morning and today the Offensive Linemen and the Tight Ends will be doing all their skills tests. The Snappers, Punters, Kickers and most Special Teams Coaches have left the NFL Combine to go home.

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 gzauner@aol.com 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.

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