NFL OTA’s – When is “enough ever enough”?

Now that the NFL has wrapped up the Organized Team Activities (OTA’s) portion of the offseason program, focus is shifted towards minicamps and the critical work that must be finished in preparation for the coming 2012 NFL season.  I’ve noticed the various articles, tweets, and posts over the course of the last week emphasizing the significant importance of OTA’s and minicamps in relation to a well played regular season.
  • “It’s a time when philosophies are introduced, playbooks are learned and conditioning is regained. For many teams, training camp can’t happen without successful OTAs.”
  • “For most teams, the entire playbook is installed in shorts. And every team expands and makes adjustments to their playbook in the offseason. Plus, you have time to make mistakes, get back in the film room and detail your technique to fit the demands of the scheme you play in during these OTAs.”
  • One coach told his team with media present Monday, “Make sure, as far as playbook wise, you try to get in everything now, so when we get to training camp it’s not all new stuff so we can really hit the ground running.”
  • “The time spent during the summer is what helps players learn the playbook and develop chemistry. It’s also a chance for players to get an understanding for how their respective teams plan on using them in the upcoming year.
The Ramifications

The new CBA has reduced the length of the total Offseason Program from 14 weeks to just 9.  The total number of OTA’s allowed has been whittled down from 14 to 10.  Coaches across the NFL are pulling the hair out because of the lack of “on field” time with their players.

A recent ESPN article by John Clayton: “NEW CBA CAUSING FITS FOR COACHES” – Teams are challenged by lighter offseason workouts. Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer said he’s found the toughest part of getting his defense ready is not having the time to teach and perfect press-coverage techniques.

Not so fast

But consider this, 2011 didn’t have any OTA’s or Minicamps….NONE.  Players mostly worked out by themselves or in self organized groups away from the facilities.  The season rolled right into to Training Camp and here were the ghastly results;

  • Two coaches in their first year with a new club (one a rookie NFL HC) won their Division and advanced with wins in the playoffs; John Fox of Denver, Jim Harbaugh of San Francisco.
  • Rookie QB Andy Dalton led the Cincinnati Bengals to the playoffs for only the 3rd time in the last 20+ years.
  • Rookie QB Cam Newton was all the rage in Carolina, improving the Panther total Offense from 32nd in 2010 to 5th in 2011.
  • Rookie OLB Von Miller of Denver, made AP All-Pro 2nd Team on 11.5 sacks
  • Rookie KR Patrick Peterson of Arizona, made AP All-Pro 1st Team

Look at the numbers

Even more interesting is analyzing the signs of “sloppy” play, looking at some of these League stats from 2010 (full slate of OTA’s and minicamps) to 2011 (no OTA’s and minicamps);




Total Interceptions 511 506
Total Fumbles Lost 349 303
Total 4th Quarter Comebacks 60 70
League Passing % 60.8% 60.1%
Total Points Scored 11,238 11,356
Total FG % 82.3% 82.9%
League Passing TD% 4.3% 4.3%
League Interception % 3.0% 2.9%
League Sack % 6.1% 6.4%

Where’s the difference?

These don’t necessarily gauge or prove by any means that one season was more productive than another, or that there weren’t moments of “sloppy” play in the lockout laden 2011 season.  But overall, the lack of offseason preparation doesn’t appear to have affected the end result in such a blatant manner as to justify the need for status quo or even more offseason programs.  

Having both been a coach (college) and worked with coaches (pro), it’s inherent in most of their makeup that “enough is never enough”.


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