Mind of Sabol: Coaching

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By Cristina Johnson

Editor’s Note: In this installment of “The Mind of Sabol” we take a closer look into former NFL Films President Steve Sabol’s thoughts on coaches — from what the coaching profession is like, to how a coach can be successful.

Let us know what you think about Steve’s famous card catalog by tweeting @NFLFilms with the hashtag #MindofSabol.

Being an NFL head coach comes with a lot of responsibilities. As fans, we watch them come and go depending on their team’s success. To stay, a coach must win. There are many different arguments on how a coach can achieve victory. Here are some assessments of the job that caught Steve’s eye over the years:

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Steve’s Thought: “On the field, coaches prized the willed aura of fearlessness; off the field they rewarded the quiet virtue of courtesy. Coaches wanted you to hurt the man carrying the football, but help carry him from the field, then write him a get-well letter in the hospital with all the grammar correct.”

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Steve’s Thought: “Second, a coach is a teacher. He doesn’t just hire a bunch of pros and have them ‘do their thing.’ He has to give the team unity, a style, a signature. He has to bring each individual to the highest peak of his craft for each performance. Excellence is much more tightly demanded in football than in journalism; if only because there are only fourteen games of sixty minutes each in which to be as perfect as one can.”

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Steve’s Thought: “Conveys maximum information in minimum words. A boss: the less he speaks, the more he is heard. The truth is, the only thing that matters is whether players respond to a coach, whether they listen and respect. The yelling only works for a few years, and then the coach is turned out, and a calm presence needs to come in.

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Steve’s Thought: “As in light brigade – it was doing and dying and not reasoning why… different today every decision is questioned, analyzed, challenged. Coach today must be a consensus gatherer, directional compass and a momentum builder. Coach has to be like Dr. Victor Frankenstein – create something quickly out of a lot of different parts.”

With so many expectations for a coach it cannot be an easy job. Steve looks into the difficulties of being an NFL coach and how important their role is:

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Steve’s Thought: “No sport is as dependent on a head coach as pro football. In today’s NFL you have to maximize what you’ve got. With FA and a salary cap preventing teams from having depth or longevity, a coach is constantly managing chaos.”

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Steve’s Thought: “Coaching is so difficult that I often feel that coaches, having had their hell on earth, will escape all punishment hereafter.”

There is a famous saying, “Those who can’t do, teach.” Many people like to apply this phrase to coaching. However, from Steve’s thoughts we see that a coach’s responsibilities go far beyond the Xs and Os. They teach, lead, direct, and unify–which is enough to escape any punishment after life.

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