Football School: Three Things We Learned This Week

Rich Kotite (USA Today)

Rich Kotite (USA Today)

Like many of you, I am a football consumer. And one reason I like this slow period from mid-June to early August is I can catch up on things I’ve been meaning to read, watch, listen to, etc.

So each week between now and training camp, I’ll share three items I find interesting. Here’s the first edition.

1. Bringing the Heat by Mark Bowden has been sitting on my shelf for a couple years. It chronicles the story of the 1992 Eagles, one of the first teams I remember following. The book is filled with colorful anecdotes and really illustrates how much has changed since that era.

Bowden tells one story of Marvin Hargrove, an undrafted free agent wide receiver who made a splash during training camp. Many around the team apparently felt Hargrove was getting a bit too cocky with his success. So one day, athletic trainer Otho Davis decided to knock him down a peg. He “gave him a couple of pills and rigged one of his famous menthol heat balm wraps that set Marvin’s nuts on fire – as intended.”

Hargrove’s urine turned blue, and Davis told him a vasectomy might be the only option for a cure. From the book:

Everybody was in on it, coaches, players, equipment guys – everybody. People were walking up to Marvin the next morning (he was still peeing blue) telling him how sorry they were for him. Marvin was ready to cry that afternoon when Otho and Dave couldn’t hold in the laughter any longer. Otho explained that the pills they had given him to help “cure” the groin pull were actually Urised, a medication that acidifies the urine and produces a numbing effect in the urinary tract. It was harmless and had this startling little side effect… damn if those pills didn’t work every time!

Imagine if someone tried to pull that in 2015? Comcast would have to launch another channel for round the clock coverage.

2. Another quote from the book that I found intriguing from Rich Kotite:

“You win by being fundamentally sound, by having a full understanding of what you’re trying to accomplish on every play, and by being disciplined… You talk about the great teams that have ever played offensive football – go way back to the Packers – they had a handful of runs and passes. They didn’t fool anybody. They said, ‘Hey, here we come, you stop us.’ Am I right? …The point is that we’re trying to establish a group of plays, runs, passes, play action passes, screens and draws that we’re going to be able to put our stamp on from week to week, and we’re going to run ‘em and run ‘em and run ‘em until we get better and better and better.”

Honestly, that sounds pretty similar to Chip Kelly’s philosophy. The Eagles go back to the same foundation plays over and over again. They use tempo and dress them up differently. But Kelly is fond of saying that football is a game of repetition. In other words, if you practice inside zone enough times against different looks, you should be able to execute it successfully in a game.

It’s important to compare coaches’ philosophies to their actions. For example, every coach says he will adapt scheme to personnel, but very few are capable of successfully following through on that.

Anyway, that quote just stood out. No more Kotite-Kelly comparisons going forward, I promise.

3. Kelly talks often about press coverage – the need for his cornerbacks to disrupt timing within 5 yards and the need for his receivers beat it on the offensive end.

I was recently watching A Football Life with Al Davis, and he explained why it’s called press.

“We used to call it the press,” Davis said. “We got the idea from John Wooden when he had his great zone press with his great basketball teams where they picked you up as soon as you took the ball out and they pressured you. I think it was Don Shula who started using the term bump and run and so we changed to bump and run.”

Press will be a big factor in determining playing time for a couple Eagles rookies. Nelson Agholor needs to show he can get off of press coverage, and Eric Rowe needs to refine his technique if he wants to steal the starting cornerback spot away from Nolan Carroll.