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NFL Draft

TDN Scouting: Is Play-Calling Overrated In Coaching Evaluations?

  • The Draft Network
  • August 3, 2020
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It seems like the 2020 NFL Draft just happened, but we move fast here at The Draft Network.

Currently going through summer evaluations for the 2021 NFL Draft class, our scouting team of Kyle Crabbs, Joe Marino, Jordan Reid, and Drae Harris are meeting up every day to discuss prospects, traits, and concepts. New to TDN is a daily scouting roundtable where we go through and identify the most important points of conversation from that day’s meeting.

Recently, our staff began to go through their NFL assessments. After discussing quarterback situations last week, they flipped the script on Monday and began their conversations on current coaching situations. Here are some of the key talking points mentioned during the meeting.

Is play-calling overrated?

One of the most important points of today’s discussion was the assertion from our staff that play-calling is an overrated attribute for a head coach. Obviously, it’s still an important trait. But, as our staff was adamant in pointing out, the attribute is regarded too highly on a national scale.

“I think calling plays is the most overrated dynamic a head coach can have on their resume,” Crabbs stated to begin the conversation. “Having watched it specifically in Miami (with Adam Gase) and then bringing in the polar opposite of that with Brian Flores, who is more of a CEO type, that’s been the biggest difference for them. You can have as pretty of a game plan as you want to have, but if you can’t look a dude in the face, can’t have a conversation man-to-man with him, can’t connect with him, and you can’t get him excited to play for you or focus on what their job is, you’re done.”

Harris followed up on this rhetoric, mentioning why the leadership aspect of a coach is so much more important than being a strong play-caller.

“I think that’s one of the most underrated aspects of being a head coach,” Harris stated in regards to leadership. “It doesn't necessarily matter how he gets it done, but can he lead men?  There are lots of play-callers who aren’t good head coaches. Just because you are a great coordinator doesn’t mean you’re going to have success (as a head coach), because it takes a certain type of man to go into a locker room and pull different personality types together to inspire a team. It takes a totally different skill set to do that.”

Always Underrated

Although these coaches are still widely praised by the media, there were two coaches our staff seemed to be higher on than most: Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin and Minnesota's Mike Zimmer.

“I think (Mike Tomlin) is easily the most disrespected and underappreciated head coach in the game,” Harris stated when discussing the Steelers. “When you hear people talk about the best coaches, his name is rarely mentioned and it’s really unfortunate. He’s accomplished so much and he’s (still) only 47.”

As for Zimmer, Reid was nearly as complimentary, widely praising him for his ability to handle challenging obstacles that have been thrown in his way.

“I would fight for Mike Zimmer (in the top 10) just because I don't think any head coach has had to endure as much adversity as he’s had to face,” Reid stated. “From the Teddy Bridgewater situation to the Sam Bradford debacle and all of this other stuff, the QB spot for the Vikings has been a revolving door. Prior to Kirk (Cousins), he’s never had a starter in back-to-back years. The offensive coordinator position has revolved a lot as well, even going back to Norv Turner, Pat Shurmur, John DeFilippo, and Kevin Stefanski. As far as adversity and a person who can be a leader of men, Zimmer is right up there (near the top).”

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