Behind Closed Doors

The Panthers have filled all of the main coaching positions on the team after the transition from John Fox to Ron Rivera.  Mike Shula, son of Miami Dolphins HOF coach Don Shula, has been added as the QB coach.  The offensive coaches will begin implementing the new system immediately, in fact, they already have started.  How does all this work?  How do you “implement” something when the official off-season hasn’t even begun yet?  Well, it’s actually quite easy.

The existing players no longer have their playbooks and they don’t have the new one either.  The process is simple and while we all wait out the CBA stuff and wonder if there will be a free agency, the coaches are hard at work getting down to the business of getting on the same page.

It’s a tedious task that will define where the team will go from here.  Offensively and defensively the team is starting to take on a new image despite the same faces behind the face masks.  Day long coaches meetings will iron out new playbooks, signal calls, and audible systems.

And it all starts behind closed doors.

I can’t say with 100 percent certainty that this process is exactly the same for all NFL teams but I can say that at least two others and likely three that I am aware of have done this in the past.  It makes complete sense and seems to be a tried and true method of formulating a process.

Now that the HC has been hired and he in turn has hired his primary assistants, the team gets down to business formulating what will be a reflection of the Head Coach.   Let’s stick with the offensive side of the ball because this is an area that Rivera is not going to install his own mechanics.  He is a defensive coach and will stay closer to that side initially.

So Rivera goes to Rob Chudzinski and the two start formulating a playbook that is based on what Rob has already formed.  Most coaches, offense and defense have their own variations of someone elses plays.  They keep them for themselves to use when in position to be that coach.  Normally these are plays that did not fit the systems that someone else ran along their stops as assistants.

Once Chud lays an outline of what he wants to do, he then begins formulating the actual playbook with his assistants.  They will spend hours writing notes on chalkboards, erasing them, writing them again.  They will call in defensive coaches to explain how they would defend that play using various formations and what changes would cause a bit more issues with coverage and schemes.

The plays will get erased and re-written.  These are all outside of the “playbook core” that are being designed.  The basics, such as off tackle runs and simple pass patterns are already there.  As many players will attest most systems are similar with different terminology.  The coaches will discuss what players they have and what positions they need.  They will break down film of the current players and look at how they fit into the offense that is being implemented.  It’s very time consuming and the video guy is usually one of the busiest team staffers this time of year.

This brings us to the scouts.  Most new coaches will not fire the previous regimes college scouts.  They have spent a year researching the college ranks and losing them would lose all of that knowledge.  Most scouts will find themselves looking for work under a new regime after the draft.  This will prevent them from taking their work elsewhere.

Most teams will spend 12 to 16 hours formulating a strategy that will put all of their coaches on the same page in that given system, in this case, the Rob Chudzninski system.  Throughout the day the coaches from both sides of the ball and special teams will meet to discuss “team” concepts.  All of this gears the coaches up for the final presentation to the players during the off-season when they start putting what they have on paper, on to the field.

So while nothing is going on right now, on the outside, inside, there is as much and likely much much more going on inside.

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