Mike Leach Does Not Think Highly Of NFL Coaches

Our friend Tim MacMahon with the Dallas Morning News has one of the more fantastic interviews of the year with Texas Tech coach Mike Leach, who is very serious about Graham Harrell and his ability.

"I only need a three-hour window. I'll have a great clinic for all the NFL coaches who are so horrible that they can't teach a guy to take a snap under center and go backwards."

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Comments

56 comments, Last at 22 Mar 2009, 8:55pm

1 Re: Mike Leach Does Not Think Highly Of NFL Coaches

I've always sort of wondered why people make such a big deal out of "didn't take snaps under center in college." I mean, seriously? It seems to me like dropping back would be hands down the EASIEST thing for a QB to learn. I understand that the vision part of it is different, as well as being quick with changing from moving backwards to using proper forward throwing mechanics (which if you're standing in shotgun, is not an issue obviously). I dunno. Maybe I'm just dense, but it seems like not playing under center is the most overhyped criticism of certain college QBs.

I would honestly love to see Leach pursue the QB coach thing. Imagine, he could have his own training facility where guys come to work out on dropping back and things before the combine. If he's as good as he says he is, guys like Harrell should come to the Combine and smoke out some great dropbacks and throws. I don't know if he'd be able to accomplish what he thinks he can, but if he could, that could be something interesting.

5 Re: Mike Leach Does Not Think Highly Of NFL Coaches

I remember during the SB that Kurt Warner was repeatedly stepped on by his center, who was getting pushed back immediately at the snap. Centers are usually the smallest O-linemen, and have the misfortune to pretty much line up directly opposite the biggest defenders on the field. A pro QB has to be quick and nimble enough to get out from behind the line. I think if you're not a ridiculous athlete, then the only way you'll be adept at it is through continuous practice.

2 Re: Mike Leach Does Not Think Highly Of NFL Coaches

When I read the headline I assumed it was an article about former Denver long-snapper Mike Leach, and how he now hates Josh McDaniels. As a Denver fan, I would have agreed with him.

Wrong Mike Leach.

4 Re: Mike Leach Does Not Think Highly Of NFL Coaches

Quarterbacks often fail due to bad footwork.

Often times one of the first things quarterbacks work on with their quarterback coach in individual drills is their footwork/drop back. They have their drills they work on.

I know, it sounds stupid, but it isn't so easy. It's not like you are teaching a guy how to walk backwards... They have coaches where it is their job to teach a quarterback how to properly drop back among other things. The fact that Harrell wasn't in that routine hurts his stock, like it or not.

26 Re: Mike Leach Does Not Think Highly Of NFL Coaches

Actually, I think that's a pretty pertinent question. Why is Mike Leach's offense run exclusively from the shotgun? I'm guessing it's because it gives the qb advantage (easier to see/read the defense, easier throwing mechanics, more time in the passing-ready position in the pocket, etc.) that one does not get when dropping back from under center. If this is the case, Graham Harrell does not have the complete skill sets required to be an NFL qb, considering that ~60% of passing plays and ~90% of running plays come from under center.

But, if Chan Gailey or Mike Martz get jobs any time soon, I'm sure those teams would take a shot on Harrell.

8 Re: Mike Leach Does Not Think Highly Of NFL Coaches

It's not just walking backwards. You need to learn a whole new set of mechanics, which also means unlearning the mechanics you've been using for 4 years in college. Doesn't sound so easy when you put it that way, does it?

(Formerly "The McNabb Bowl Game Anomaly")

29 Re: Mike Leach Does Not Think Highly Of NFL Coaches

I think I get your point, but I don't think it is correct. If all you've done is drop back and now you've moved to the shotgun, all you have to do is stand there, catch the ball, and remember to turn your hips before you throw. There is nothing to "unlearn". There is no meaningful footwork from the shotgun, so they are not re-learning it; they are eliminating it. A previous poster made a good point. If it is such an easy technique to teach, Mike, why have you so consciously avoided it? Of course, the obvious superiority of college coaches is demonstrated by their extraordinary track record when moving on to the NFL. You know, like Spurrier, Holtz, Petrino, etc. (and if anybody's rebuttal contains "Jimmy Johnson" it had better also include "Barry Switzer")

38 Re: Mike Leach Does Not Think Highly Of NFL Coaches

The issue with the gun in the NFL is there isn't a good run game that goes with it. Not the case in the college game with the zone read, speed option, draw, power, counter, QB power, QB counter, etc. In the NFL you need a "downhill" run game. Even with a play like stretch you want the back in the I (behind the center). It just doesn't work well with the back offset to the backside and the QB in the gun.

Leach doesn't go under center because he doesn't need to and it doesn't do anything for his passing game. He manufactures a run game to keep teams off balance that he can get away with in the college game.

43 Re: Mike Leach Does Not Think Highly Of NFL Coaches

I should have been more clear. When you have a back set to the side of the QB (in the gun) as opposed to behind the QB (under center) it changes the geometry (path of the back, exposure to the backside, etc.) of the play. It's hard to explain without getting on the board, but there's a big difference between running power out of split backs in the gun and running it out of the offset I with the QB under center.

10 Re: Mike Leach Does Not Think Highly Of NFL Coaches

I kind of think Leach realizes at some level that while part of it, it's not just the physical act of taking a snap from center but also all that ancillary stuff about taking a snap from center-namely the lessened ability to read the defense and developing the situational awareness to see what's going on while dropping back instead of just standing in the gun. There's a reason Leach's QB's play in the shotgun, and if Leach's claims are true, it's certainly not because they don't know or couldn't learn how to take a snap from center.

13 Re: Mike Leach Does Not Think Highly Of NFL Coaches

I don't see why catching a ball mid-air would be any less difficult than running backwards. I recall Aikman once remarked that he hated the shotgun because it forced him to shift his focus to catching the snap instead of reading the DBs. I think it's more about how much time you get practice it than any inherent difficulty to one over the other.

12 Re: Mike Leach Does Not Think Highly Of NFL Coaches

Tulsue- Teams don't run or not run the shotgun because of a quarterbacks drop back.

BGA- I used to be amazed at how much time the QB's QB coaches spent in practice on the drop back. They probably spent at least half of their time in individuals with cones, simulating 3 step drops, 5 step drops and 7 step drops. It looked boring as can be but the QB coach took it very seriously.

Poor footwork is a good way to end up on the street. It could lead to anything from triping over, to not getting enough power being your throws, to bad trajecteries ( floating passes off your back foot), to bad timing, to poor mechanics, slower delivery, to not having your feet under you so that you are able to throw when you identified the proper receiver. These mistakes will run you out of the league real fast.

and yes, you do want your quarterback to have good muscle memory and be "solid" in his drop back so that he can be ready to throw right at the point of that 7th step.

Do you think Matt Stafford would have better timing at that 7th step or Harrell? Bad or uncertain footwork is a huge question mark and it's not BS. I understand Leach is trying to look out for his player, but it just isn't that simple.

15 Re: Mike Leach Does Not Think Highly Of NFL Coaches

Exhibit A in the case that Footwork Matters is Kyle Boller. Good lord, that guy's footwork is otherworldly terrible. He can hardly finish a five step drop without tripping over himself.

19 Re: Mike Leach Does Not Think Highly Of NFL Coaches

Exhibit A for why Mike Leach is not an NFL coach:

He thinks they have time to teach something like taking a snap and going backwards. To a guy that you're paying enough money that he should be the starter.

A first-round draft pick should be learning things a lot more advanced than drop-back footwork.

24 Re: Mike Leach Does Not Think Highly Of NFL Coaches

Technically, they do have time. As far as I know there are no rules limiting the amount of teaching time with their players, unless it's NFLPA related. I understand position coaches are busy doing other things but this is a very teachable skill. The coaches that are "limited" are college guys who are limited to 20 hours per week with their athletes.

Leach is on point here. I somewhat agree with Chris that this isn't something you're going to pick up, or at least pick up well, in daily 5-minute individual practice blocks. But you aren't limited by that. You can spend the serious time and drills to get much better at this skill in a short period of time.

27 Re: Mike Leach Does Not Think Highly Of NFL Coaches

As far as I know there are no rules limiting the amount of teaching time with their players

I believe that rule is called "the calendar." (Actually, there are NFLPA rules as well, if memory serves.)

First round picks need to contribute soon. If not starter, then definitely second string. Which means they can't be spending a month figuring out footwork. They've got way more to do than that.

Also, training camp is never fully live, not for a QB. Which means realistically, the only time that coaches have to evaluate how well he's doing under center is preseason. That's not a lot of time, and it needs to be spent evaluating other things. If a starting QB trips on his center's feet, screws up his footwork, whatever, on 10 plays in all of preseason, he's probably cut the number of plays that can really be evaluated in half. Or more.

I understand position coaches are busy doing other things but this is a very teachable skill.

Do you know what they call a guy with talent who needs to be taught NFL-level skills? A third-round draft pick.

36 Re: Mike Leach Does Not Think Highly Of NFL Coaches

First, nobody is talking about Harrell as a 1st round pick, or even a 3rd round pick for that matter. Second, there are quite a few early round picks who needed to be taught NFL-level skills. Vince Young, Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Flacco, Drew Brees and Tim Couch were all early picks who operated primarily (or exclusively) out of the shotgun. David Carr went 1st overall, despite the fact that the team taking him wanted to change his throwing motion (is there a more basic skill than that?). Jason Smith will probably be taken in the top five this year despite the fact that he needs to learn a lot of the technique of playing tackle in the NFL. Running backs who were rarely asked to block or catch the ball in college are routinely taken in the early rounds. Similar story for WRs and route running.

40 Re: Mike Leach Does Not Think Highly Of NFL Coaches

First, nobody is talking about Harrell as a 1st round pick, or even a 3rd round pick for that matter

Did you read the article? The entire point is that Mike Leach is talking about him as a first-round pick.

From the article: Leach raved about "the best quarterback in the draft"

The entire point is that he's criticizing NFL coaches for downgrading Harrell because they don't think he can drop back effectively right now.

52 Re: Mike Leach Does Not Think Highly Of NFL Coaches

My experience is very limited, but from what I can recall having watched a few Giants training camps in Albany, the quarterbacks spent at least part of the practice taking snaps under center and dropping back. Again, I've only been to a few days of training camp, but it seemed to be part of the regular practice schedule, at least in the preseason.

20 Re: Mike Leach Does Not Think Highly Of NFL Coaches

Footwork was the thing that finally convinced me that Michael Vick would never be a good QB. I remember a few years ago I was in a group of fans watching an Atlanta game and I said that Vick had terrible footwork. Everyone looked at me like I was crazy, because they apparently assumed that the only thing a QB does with his feet is run, and Vick was really good at that, so he must have good footwork, right? Well, I guess the question was never resolved thanks to some animal cruelty, but I'm pretty confident I was right.

That said, there have been college QBs who played in shotgun offenses and learned to play under center at a high level. (I think Drew Brees fits this description?)

(Formerly "The McNabb Bowl Game Anomaly")

21 Re: Mike Leach Does Not Think Highly Of NFL Coaches

JZ- Yeah, but Bollier can get on one knee at the 50 yardline and throw the football through the goal post.

A11- In a lot of cases the QB's in the spread ( the shotgun isn't neccesarily the spread) they are playing a high stakes version of hot potato, reading the D and throwing to the open pass catcher. In the NFL, you will more often be having to throwing say a come back route with a defender draped on the pass catcher. If you don't get the ball out quick enough, accurate enough, and with enough velocity then it doesn't work.

Maybe the Patriots should draft Harrell, sit Brady another year to heal... use Harrel in the shotgun exclusivly with their talented offensive roster, boost his stats, and trade him to some other team next year for a 1st or 2nd round draft pick and repeat the process until their entire team is highly talented draft picks.

The Patriots sign Mike Leach as a QB coach, keep running a shot gun 4 wide offense, exploit the market on "shotgun" quarterbacks by drafting the Tim Couch, Timmy Chang, Colt Brennan, Harrell type guys when other GM's don't want them, boost their value and then keep trading them away for high draft picks. Hoo Rah

22 Re: Mike Leach Does Not Think Highly Of NFL Coaches

BGA-

I was the "jerk" saying that Vick would never work out either when all the hoopla was going on. His footwork was horrible, the guy wouldn't get set, he had a bad case of happy feet.

Another problem he had is that he'd get into a bad habit of looking at his pass rushers. The Pocket is supposed to form, and the QB is supposed to get rid of the ball after 3 seconds. Look at how when Donovan Mcnabb or Tony Romo are pressured their eyes always stay downfield, Mcnabbs MNF deep bomb to Dallas was a perfect example of that.

Instead of looking downfield, Vick would look at the DE's and see what angles they were at so that he could have his "escape route" planned out. If you ever look back at the big games and playoff games he played in, he had a much higher propensity to run with the football than throw. It was the crutch he always kept going back to but it was so obvious. When he was playing the Rams swiss cheese defense on artificial turf in the playoffs in circa 04' that was fine, but playing the Eagles in the NFCC wasn't going to work and there was no way they'd win or even cover the spread there.

Vick actually had a lot of problems, he was one of the shortest QB's in the league and had a problem with vision/batted balls down, he had the smallest hands of any quarterback in the league and numerous sources said he wasn't committed to the team ( lazy). Patrick Kearny even called him out on it when he left the team to sign with Seattle. His coaching staff particularly with Greg Knapp catered the play book based on WCO misdirection, zone blocking schemes that were taylored to his strength and utilized his legs. Even so, the coaching staff did not trust him to call audibles, and being limited like that hurt Michael's value as a quarterback. Vick was obviously more concerned with his various unsuccessful off field endeavors.

28 Re: Mike Leach Does Not Think Highly Of NFL Coaches

I wasn't watching his footwork in particular, but Graham Harrell did not even look like he was worth a draft pick during the Senior Bowl. I would not be surprised to see a scout look at that tape and suggest he wasn't getting everything into his throws because his weight wasn't getting set properly. My goodness he looked terrible on throws outside the hash marks.

31 Re: Mike Leach Does Not Think Highly Of NFL Coaches

Look, he has to support his guy, so I don't know how seriously his comments should be taken. Mechanically unproven qbs don't get picked in the first round, unless the pure athletic ability is head and shoulders better than his peers.

Whenever a guy makes the argument to the effect of "I know that all those guys who are doing "x", which I have never done, don't know what they are doing.", he probably shouldn't be taken too seriously.

Lemme know when Mike Leach has a successful track record of putting together effective schemes against NFL defenses.

33 Re: Mike Leach Does Not Think Highly Of NFL Coaches

> Lemme know when Mike Leach has a successful track record of putting together effective schemes against NFL defenses.

Will, who are we to question Mike Leach? I mean, football is merely a hobby to him, well beneath his true calling in serious matters such as world politics and global warming.

Seriously, this guy makes Mike Martz sound like Tony Dungy...

34 Re: Mike Leach Does Not Think Highly Of NFL Coaches

I think we're overblowing Leach's comments. All he was saying is that using the "no experience under center" excuse is ridiculous, because the skill's easily taught. He then riffed on that a bit, cracking jokes about opening a clinic. That's all. I really don't think he meant to insult NFL coaches, just to point out that their criticism of Harrell is goofy.

41 Re: Mike Leach Does Not Think Highly Of NFL Coaches

I thought when Leach spoke of teaching the drop back, he had moved from Harrell to all shotgun QBs.

I like Harrell, but I don't think he's the best QB in the draft. I DO think that downgrading a QB because he doesn't have drop back experience is dumb because it's a teachable skill and I thought that was the main point Leach was attempting to make.

46 Harrell = 100% shotgun?

I distinctly remember catching TT play on TV last year and seeing Harrell taking SOME snaps from under center (usually handoffs). Did my own lyin' eyes deceive me? Any Tech fans out there want to comment on this?

50 Re: Mike Leach Does Not Think Highly Of NFL Coaches

This maybe a stretch, but isn't a question mark about someone's ability to drop back kinda of like questioning a basketball player's ability to "go to his left" or knock down the three with a "man in his face".

(Yes, I am talking to you, J.J. Redick).

And didn't the 2008 Prospectus make a note about how the whole play-action thing (a drop back play) where you take your eye off the action for 1.5 seconds or so is something that you don't quickly learn how to do in the pro's.

It's not necessarily that you can't learn how to do it at the pro level, but the time and energy (opportunity cost) associated with learning that basic skill sets you back in other, more important development areas that your peers and competition will don't struggle with.

51 Re: Mike Leach Does Not Think Highly Of NFL Coaches

And "Chris", you are dead on with your analysis of Ron Mexico. I think that if Rush Limbaugh could have said something like that about McNabb he might have held onto that ESPN job for a while longer. That's the real issue with any running QB (black or white) looking to make the transition to the pro's: do you spend your (limited) time and energy perfecting your throwing mechanics, or do you spend it perfecting your ability to run.

It's a tradeoff, even for highly skilled pro's, because at the highest levels the margins for success are so thin. Where's your head at when you are in the pocket: "fight or flight". It's hard to serve to masters....

And I repeat myself, it's not just that the footwork can't be taught, but it's about learning how to drop back and take your eyes off the field for 1.5 seconds. Spread QB's take the first 1.5 seconds to make quick reads. Now, they are being asked to not make the reads. Very, very different challenge--and I would argue a very different skillset.

53 Re: Mike Leach Does Not Think Highly Of NFL Coaches

DC31- What I like about you is how you worked the words " opportunity cost" into a talk about football and the quarterback position. The Econ community rejoices.

55 Re: Mike Leach Does Not Think Highly Of NFL Coaches

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56 Re: Mike Leach Does Not Think Highly Of NFL Coaches

Agree with DC, I was going to mention the bigger issue of the play-action. If it's more difficult for a quarterback to see the field from under center than out of shotgun, even moreso when he has to turn his back to the action, unable to see the coverage or potentially a blitz developing.

It probably wasn't as big an issue a few years ago before defenses began to move and shift constantly before the snap, as a QB could get a pretty good read pre-hike. Nowadays, you turn your head for a second against a LeBeau or Ryan defene and you're not likely to see anything resembling the pre-snap alignment when you whip your head back around.

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