Where Does Being the “Head” Coach Stop and the Interference Begin?

DeAngelo Hall confirms to Comcast Sports Net‘s Chick Hernandez that former Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan was occasionally overruling defensive coordinator Jim Haslett‘s defensive calls last year. Via Dan Steinberg at the Washington Post:

“‘Yeah, I mean, it was probably more difficult for Jim than us,’ Hall said. ‘You know, we were going through all week practicing a certain call, knowing that we were going to call it in certain situations. And there would be certain times where Mike WOULD overrule Jim.'”

“‘And football, especially defense, it’s a game of chess moreso than checkers,’ Hall said. ‘You can’t go out there thinking you’re going to just put a chip here and jump. You’ve got to almost set it up four or five plays ahead of time, knowing you’re going to come back to something that looks pretty similar to the defense you just ran.”

Just how much input a head coach should have in these situations is an interesting question. He is, after all, called the “head coach” for a reason. In the end, its his “head” on the block. You aren’t hired to coach the offense. You’re hired to coach the whole team.

Contrast Shanahan’s handling of the situation to what new Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer plans to do. As documented by Ben Goessling at ESPN.com:

“‘Honestly, I trust [offensive coordinator Norv Turner]‘s judgment,’ Zimmer said. ‘I’ll come in and talk to him about, ‘How are we going to get this guy blocked this week? What do you think the best runs are?’ We talked about a couple things last night. But the biggest input for me will be, ‘Alright, it’s this situation, Norv; we need to run the ball here. We’ve been running it down their throats. Let’s not throw it three times. Let’s get another run in there, give the ball to Adrian [Peterson] or whatever it is. Or things that I see on tape; they’re having a hard time [with] no-backfield formations, or things like that.'”

But even that might be going too far. If the Vikings start losing (and the odds are they will) such interference might be resented in the same way that Shanahan’s was.

I’ve pushed repeatedly for Bears head coach Marc Trestman to be more involved with the defense and I hold to that. But its evident that it should have its limits. When I think about these types of situations I’m reminded of the way that former Rams head coach Dick Vermeil handled the penchant of offensive coordinator Mike Martz to pass the ball too much. Verimeil said he would occasionally call up to the booth and gently remind Martz not to forget about the run. But he never told him what to call or when to call it. My guess is that’s about as far as it should go on game day.

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One Response to Where Does Being the “Head” Coach Stop and the Interference Begin?

  1. Head Football coach is just that, the HEAD FOOTBALL COACH. If you are doing your job poorly, screwing the pooch on game day if you will…it is the Head Football coach’s responsibility to get it handled. No not necessarily micromanaging the game plan, but reality checking the coordinator is part of your job as the head football coach and one of the places that I feel Lovie Smith failed so badly

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