It’s an NFL turf manager’s worst nightmare, decimating a football field and the surrounding areas like Chicken Pox on your five year old’s back. We got it once in Denver and my turf manager was sweating bullets. It literally led us to digging up an entire field to eradicate this scourge of a weed. Why so much worry? Because weeds on your practice field subject your multi-million dollar players to potential injury. One wrong cut or misplaced slip could mean a torn ACL or ruptured Achilles. Try explaining that to your head coach or owner. “Uh, we lost our #1 receiver to Poa annua.”
TFE discussed the role of technology in today’s coaching methods. Games were actually filmed in 16mm and that doesn’t come in HD. There were usually two cans of film; offense and defense. The term “cutups” came from cutting the film strips and splicing them together into a continuous real. This was the only way to put all of a particular play on one continuous string for viewing. Then came S-VHS and the advent of multiple VCR recordings. Coaches from each position group could now get their game film on tape. Video Coordinators were suddenly in demand with the skills to fix VCR’s and hit the “record” buttons for head coaches confused by these advanced technologies.
From S-VHS came BETACAM and with it an upgrade in video quality. Advances in computers allowed for even more videotape editing and with it more cutups. Technology in cameras then surged and teams took full advantage of the crisper, clearer picture. At this point we became familiar with digital signals in audio-visual productions. Video departments no longer made copy after copy to distribute both in house and to opponents. It was most important to have an IT guy in your video department, if not leading it. Storage became a huge requirement as more and more games and cutups were created and archived. Massive servers were brought in to store nothing but video data and players could either download video on to their laptops (now iPads) or burn DVD’s for home viewing.
The NFL mandated clubs hire a Director of Player Programs or Player Development. Many clubs brought in sports psychologists and others, well who knows from where? This person was to ensure that the Player Programs were properly administered and that counselors were available for any needs the players might have both on and off the field. The position was created to be proactive in addressing the many problems facing NFL players across life’s spectrum.
Perhaps one of the most challenging of all ancillary positions within an NFL club is Operations. Charged with just about everything from travel to training camp to in-house meals, the Ops Department is the logistical quartermaster of an NFL team. Timeliness and quality are paramount for top clubs and nothing can set off a coach or his staff faster than an operational screw up.
Critical too are equipment, trainers, doctors, strength and conditioning, insurance, payroll, and security.
So what’s the point? What does this have to do with success in the National Football League?
All of these areas have a direct effect on the players and coaches. Many are high dollar budget line items. In the case of technology, it’s changing constantly and club’s need to be one step ahead of the game to ensure sound investments in both software and hardware. Deadlines are faced, decisions have to be made and all require the proper input and feedback so as to have the least negative or most positive effect on the club.
In the case of NFL front office management run by head coaches, a lot of things go unfinished. Many issues that face these departments aren’t addressed because the coach just doesn’t care or doesn’t have the time. It’s frustrating for personnel charged with ensuring the completion or quality of this work. It’s even more frustrating when something goes awry and the coaches or players negatively react.
One of the more popular television shows this past summer was “Undercover Boss”. The premise was management going incognito to perform a number of jobs in their respective industries to see what problems and pitfalls faced their employees. Many were shocked how much they didn’t know about their own business and the trials their people face in trying to get their jobs done. The reactions on both sides displayed the lack of communication and understanding at top level management.
Think we’ll ever see Bill Belichick or Andy Reid secretly stand in as an Assistant Equipment Manager?