The Secret To Coaching Success? "Keep It Simple Stupid"

Clint TalbottContributor IJune 30, 2009

SAN DIEGO, CA - DECEMBER 30:  Defensive end Randall Cherry #84 drenches assistant head coach Ruffin McNeill of the Texas Tech Red Raiders en route to his team's 45-31 win over the California Golden Bears during the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl at Qualcomm Stadium on December 30, 2004 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)

"Keep it simple stupid."

It’s a proven adage, and one I suggest coaches live by. A given team's roster turns over about once every two or three years. It’s impractical to bank on the players to understand a coaches game plan (as well as the coach) given the years coaches have had to build upon their knowledge.

A linebacker doesn’t have the hours/days/years it took to build a complicated game plan when reading an offense and making adjustments. They’ve got a few seconds, maybe. So keep it simple stupid.

Mike Leach, head coach of the Texas Tech Red Raiders and Mad Scientist of The High Plains keeps it simple. Coach Leach is known for the prolific offense that the Red Raiders field year after year.

Taking a closer look at Leach’s offense, it’s surprising how simple the plan is. Michael Lewis states in his New York Times article profiling Leach that the offense has no playbook. The only formal written record exist on the quarterbacks arm and Leach’s back pocket. He prefers multiple formations as opposed to multiple plays.

So each player only learns a few plays that can be run out of many formations. Leach says, “That way, you don't have to teach a guy a new thing to do. You just have to teach him new places to stand.”

Good luck game planning against this offense—the plays are few enough that the playbook can be rewritten week to week. I would imagine the quarterback can audible into any play from the playbook from any formation at any time. He’s probably a few steps ahead of even the most experienced defense.

Ruffin McNeill, defensive coordinator for the Texas Tech Red Raiders brought the KISS theory to the Red Raider defense in 2007 after Lyle Setencich stepped down. McNeill’s defensive plumbing has fixed the leaky faucet that was Tech’s old defensive stigma, and turned it into a machine that can be relied on under pressure.

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He trimmed the previous playbook, giving his players less to think about. Once their heads were clear, they could focus on their job and not try to do to much. They could be a team. A faster team that was in the right position at a far greater frequency and used their heads for executing the fundamentals, going after the opposition with charge.

Keeping it simple isn’t simple—You must be dedicated to the fundamentals, have patience for the smallest of details, and you must execute at a high level when called upon. The key to the simplicity is that you do the small things flawlessly.

The Texas Tech receiver runs his routes to the dot. He watches the ball in and catches with his hands. He blocks for his teammates.

The same goes for every player on the team.

If one player plays down, the whole team plays down. Each part of the team doing their simple job at a high level weaves a solid whole that’s very complicated for the opposition to get through.

If someone asks you how you’re going to eat an elephant, you reply one bite at a time.

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