Over the years

Over my 40-plus years of watching the Riders, especially during some of the lean years, I've flipped back and forth between wondering if the Riders are having problems because of schemes which I see as coaching, or player personnel, which I see as talent, effort, and ability. Sometimes during the back and forth of regular season, it looks like it's all on the coaching or all on the players. But other times it seems like it's some of each or even both. Sometimes it's kind of a cloudy thing that a person can't quite put their finger on for sure. I've decided that it's not always as clear cut one way or the other, so it could be either or both. I guess the guy that gets that figured out for sure could well end up being the coach of the century.

Another thing I've been wondering lately is this. Should a coach find players that can be adapted to his systems, or should the system be adapted to the type of players you have. I look at Calgary where they lost 2 dynamic corners and at least one dominant D-lineman, and they look like they've recovered from those losses pretty quickly. In this case it looks like Coach Jones has found the right kinds of players to plug back into his systems, and it's working quite well for them. Watching Buono in BC and Calgary over the years, it looks like he has mostly been able to plug in new players to their systems with a fair bit of success. That might not look like it's working for them as well lately, but over the longer haul it seems to have served them pretty well. In hockey, for instance, when a team is playing badly, they will often say that they can't get rid of all their players, so the coach has to take the fall.

One more thing. I sometimes look around at other teams that are succeeding with younger, newer coaches and coordinators and try to get a handle on what they are doing and why they are succeeding against older, more established coaches and coordinators. This new generation of young coaches seems to have a leg up on the older coaches who continue to believe that the old established systems are the only way to succeed. The new coaches seem to be able to outwit these older coaches because they are willing to adapt and try new things when the old tried and true stuff stops working. I hate to sound harsh, but it seems to me that established coaches who are unwilling to change or adapt their stuff should maybe be heading out to pasture. While this is away from football, I look at a country like Japan, with little land or resources and lots of people. They imported the raw materials and looked at what other countries were producing and selling and they found a way to make better products like cars and electronics by improving designs and finding production efficiencies. Just bringing this up because I see some parallels beween football and Japan in the sense of looking at what others are doing better to out-succeed their opponents whether it be in football or major business.

Those are my wonderments for the day. Am I way ahead ot my time, or am I way behind the times and totally out-to-lunch? I can handle harsh criticism ot total disagreement, so give me your thoughts and opinions on any or all of this stuff. After all, I'm just wondering.

My belief is you find players to fit the mold more so, unless doing a complete rebuild. The Riders, for example, have had success over the past few seasons, so they only needed players to come in and fit the schemes (offensively anyways). Now, I think they did that well, but suffered heavily from injuries in the receiving corps out of the gate, and have a bad offensive game plan. That is where the flips side of the coin comes in. DD is a great enough player that you have to build your team and game plan around him a bit...that is where they have largely failed. They do not want DD to "turn into Nealon Greene," so they force him into the pocket passing so he can improve his reading skills. Now, that has worked, and I can appreciate that, but they have totally abandoned his mobility instead of playing to one of his greatest assets. This pocket passing may benefit better in the long run, but at some point you need to just let him do his thing...don't write off an entire season and piss off a fan base to make him something else.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Riders had painful run protection last year, sloppy tackling and a porous secondary. The run stopping improved last year, and seems to be doing not bad now. The tackling is still bad a lot of the time, and the secondary is playing too loose. Now the secondary might look better if there was a pass rush other than when they blitz. Is that coaching or personnel? That, to me, is a tough call. Any secondary is going to look bad when the QB has no fear...doesn't hear footsteps in his head or see shadows that are not there. If there was a pass rush, perhaps the secondary would look good...who knows, and that is where they have failed bringing in the right talent for the job...it is either the lack of the right DE, or a bad DC. I believe it is one or the other, and since the D was not a pile better last season under Etch, I tend to think it is a player personnel issue, not so much Hall. Yes he is trying to make people fit his mold, and that is not working, but if you can not push a pocket, what mold will work?

I’m a firm believer that AS A COACH, you scheme to the talents of your players. There is no single best scheme that beats all others. The best play call in any given situation is the one that the opposition is the least prepared to deal with.

AS A PERSONNEL executive, you find players with a wide range of skills and talents, which gives your coaches flexibility in their schemes and play calls.

This is not necessarily to say that a coach should rip up all his playbooks and start fresh when he gets hired to a new team with a completely different roster. I think for the most part, a general set philosophy with a certain amount of flexible range in execution is fine.

You give two examples. The first is Stamps/Chris Jones. Now Chris Jones likes a lot of man coverage and the Stamps have replaced their man coverage guys with more man coverage guys. It looks very much like they’re recruiting to their system, and they may very well be. But I could also argue that the DBs that they have brought in are flexible players. I mean really, show me a player that specializes in zone coverage and I’ll show you a guy who just can play 1 on 1. See? 1 on 1 is a lot tougher to execute than zone, so a lockdown DB actually makes your coverage schemes more flexible. The Stamps can play man or zone. The Riders have to play almost all zone because they don’t have anyone who can consistently cover man.

You give the example of BC in the Wally era. Chapdelaine as on OC has been notorious for his rigid system. He has a system and you have to fit it and that’s that. He could have Pringle, Makowsky, Walby, Bonk, Lefsrud and Gorrell and he would still throw the ball 70%. Why BC has had consistent success is that whether it’s been Shivers or O’Bie, these personnel guys have always brought great flexible talent that could play in ANY system and of course the term any includes Chappy’s.

Thanks for starting this thread. This is great discussion.

If you can find the players to fit your schemes - great. But if you can't or if existing team members are not suited to your schemes and you want to win football games you have to be versatile enough as a coach to adapt. Our co-ordinators are too pig-headed and old school to adapt and the result is a 1-6 record.

yeah this is a good topic,

in the CFL you don't necessarily have the means to find who you need to maintain a certain system.

in the NFL a team's OC may run a specific offense and needs a specific kind of Running back or Receiver or O-Lineman. At the start of training camp he'll get his scouts to find as many of these players that fit his scheme and then determine who are the best to keep.

It's more difficult in the CFL due to the lack of selection to just get a Boyd or a Pringle or a Geroy Simon, or even an Allan Pitts. So a team like the Roughriders find a QB named Durant back in 2006. (I believe that was his first actual year) and they see potential in the guy. He doesn't play at all, yet he learns the the ropes, learns the game. sees limited action and comes back next season even more prepared.

how many Offensive Coordinators did the Riders have since then? Berry's schemes are wrong for Durant. He is trying to fit Durant into his Game book rather than use Durant's ability to the best.

just like Ricky Ray, those years that he won the Grey Cup he had a fantastic system, and they used it well.

then things changed, new coaches and Management and they tried to change the system and fit Ray into it instead of build around Ray.

This season they seem to have once again made Ray the focus of the Offense and built everything around him.

the Riders fail to do this and therefore they are now struggling.

there are truly great coaches, there are coaches that are good enough to win games and make their team competitive, and there are coaches who are good assistants but poor Head Coaches.

You just have to look at the names of those Great Head Coaches and see the kind of teams they've had.

Buono
Matthews
Trestman (he's pretty damn good)
Campbell

there may be more i'm sure but I can't think of them right now (please do add some and discuss)

Matthews very rarely had losing teams. I don't think his last season in Toronto was his fault at all, he just never got to build the system his way.

Buono knows how to build winners, he did it in Calgary and then again in B.C.

Trestman has been in Montreal for 4 seasons and he's had 4 winning seasons including 3 Grey Cup games and 2 Wins.

Campbell? well he only led his Esks to 5 Consecutive Grey Cups.... need I say more?

:thup: :thup:

Well back in 2001 when Hall took over as Riders DC it was a step in the evolution of defenses that he instituted. It was the 'keep the play in front of you and close' mentality, and they got guys like Morgan, McCalla, Ed Davis who played it very well. It was a reaction to the read heavy offenses of the 90s that 'took what the defense gave', so Hall's defense gave the short stuff first and reacted to take away as much of that too after the throw was committed (closing speed). It relied on front 4 pressure and heavy 2nd and long blitzing. It worked brilliantly and to varying degrees became a staple across the league. It's bigger impact was on offenses. Offenses changed radically with less long bombs and tons of 'dink and dunk' becoming rampant. If we are taking what the defense gives, and they give us the 5 yard out/hook/slant then that's what we'll take. That made the offenses predictable (the "Ricky Ray sucks all he does is dink and dunk!!!" reactions) making things even easier for the defenses. Defenses were dictating.

It's interesting that now Doug Berry is part of a movement with guys like Milanovich even Dave Dickenson somewhat this year that are swinging things back against these Hall/Stubler-type defenses. The Hall-Stubler zones stack vertically and the short zone can be very short sometimes, especially in 2nd and 5. If you stretch out the deep zones there can be a large gap across the field and this is what Berry has so blatantly exploited in 2010. By going deep early you stretch the gap in the zone layers and then you get the receivers to stop, curl or drag 15, 20 or 25 yards downfield with a huge cushion to the deep man. The Riders KILLED defenses last year this way, and Berry should be commended for that. Similarly the Alouettes have been doing this for a few years now just not so exclusively, they mix in more conventional things to not be so obvious about it. In fact Berry's 2010 scheme was perhaps too good (if that's possible) giving his receivers such a big opportunity to succeed that he probably made them look a little better than they really were. Riders had a great receiving corps last year but they still had more trouble in straight 1 on 1 situations (see Grey Cup - they got manned down) than say Richardson/Green/Watkins or Lewis/Rambo or even Geroy.

Defenses are now catching on, or at least have been onto it and are now catching up. There is a big movement on defense now for man to man coverage. Jam the receivers is big. Montreal likes man. Chris Jones in Calgary LOVES it. And the new guy in Hamilton (pardon the name escapes me) tutored under Jones in Calgary last year and loves it to. It stops the receivers from sitting in the zone gaps and it frees up linebackers and occasionally the safety too. It's harder to do though. You NEED guys who can play 1 on 1 against guys like Nik Lewis, Geroy and Jamel.

What's next to do if you're Doug Berry? Well I think he wants to run more because he has such a strong o-line and when the Riders have run, they have been impressive, but it's hard to run when you're down by three scores at the half. Combine that with 3 receivers on the 9 game and Getzlaf dropping half of the stuff thrown his way, I think Berry deserves a little slack, especially when you consider the numbers the offense has put up against Edmonton and Calgary, even Montreal.

Defensively, I don't think that Hall's scheme has much chance with no pass rush. No scheme really does. But I will say that Etcheverry KNEW he didn't have the personnel to play so conventionally. Etch is regarded as a genius (even by me) for his exotic formations and blitzes, but even with all that his defense was ranked 6th last year. Riders still had the worst front 4 pass rush last year. The pressure all came from blitzing. So while I can say that lacking front 4 pressure handcuffs any scheme, I do think that Etcheverry tailored a scheme (intentionally or not) that suited the personnel that he had and squeezed all the performance that it could from the players in uniform. If you were to ask if Hall's scheme gets less than Etch's with this defense I would tend to say yes. Basically, is Hall to blame for a horrible scheme and gameplan? No, there's nothing terribly wrong with the scheme. But could a more radical scheme improve things even if marginally, I say Etcheverry proves yes.

If they had Chick and Baggs Hall could play any scheme under the sun. If they had Bagg and Koch dressed they could probably play a wide range of gameplans.

Excellent, informative post. Thanks for the insight!

All good posts. I think we need to look at what successful OC are doing in this league (it's a passing legue really) and learn very quickly.

A lot of good feedback here. Thanks to everyone. As a general philosphy I like this approach where coaches will look around at what is working for other teams and try and adapt and incorporate some of the good stuff into their schemes to evolve their packages more. Of course it also doesn't hurt if they are able to create some of their own new stuff along the way as well. I realize that trends are going to change from time to time. The offseason should be a time when the better coaches can examine this and evolve new schemes or tweak existing schemes to stay ahead of opponents. Isn't that a big part of the art and science of coaching. It starts with a coach being willing to follow this process in order to maintain a competitive edge and continue to be successful on the field and in their career. Is this not the sort of thing that successful businesses are doing all the time to stay on top of their industry? After all, football is a sport, but it is also a business. Thanks again, everyone!!