It’s a pretty simple concept, isn’t it? Every since we were old enough to trip over first base, skate two strides before falling, or throw a football five yards, we’ve heard that old adage that practice makes perfect. So the concept that teams–and especially offenses–could be adversely effected by an offseason without minicamps and OTAs certainly isn’t new or particularly unique thinking.
It just sucks to hear it from one of the game’s top coaches.
In one of the first signs that coaching staffs are beginning to read the last rites to their normal offseason workout programs and camps, New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick told the Boston Herald that OTAs and minicamps are dead to him. Many things dance around the mind of a Jedi warrior while he’s protected by his cloak of invisibility, but the normal workouts of May and June won’t occupy any more of that precious mental real estate.
Give us more sad news, Bill.
“At one point, we had to prepare for the offseason program, and that’s not really a part of it now,” Belichick said. “We talked about some kind of minicamp or (organized team activities), but now, we just turn our attention to training camp and get our teaching and organization straight there.”
Again, not exactly shocking stuff, but here’s where the admission of obvious information from one of the game’s top coaching gurus gets worse. Belichick said that in terms of developing the players on his roster and recently drafted rookies, his eyes are solely towards training camp. The problem of course is that even if we fill our glass half full and assume this labor mess will be resolved in time for a full training camp, the lost time will still require the offense and defense to be shaved and simplified.
If Belichick knows this now in mid-May, it’s safe to assume others around the league are slowly embracing that same crappy reality.
“Whatever the time frame is, if it’s less than what we’re used to having, which I agree it seems like it’s going to be, (we’ll adjust). We’ll have to take the windows that we have to teach things and try to see how much we feel realistically we can get done. Something’s going to have to go, I would think. The progression’s got to stay the same, but the breadth of that amount of installation could be subject to being trimmed back, maybe drastically.”
What’s especially troubling about Belichick speaking out on this is that from an offensive standpoint, his team likely won’t feel much of an impact. He’s a veteran coach with a veteran, Pro Bowl quarterback and a wide receiver core that will remain unchanged from last season, and two emerging tight ends that played major roles. In the backfield, BenJarvus Green-Ellis was tendered as a restricted free agent and is expected to be back, and Danny Woodhead will look to cement himself as the only greatest Benjamin Button impersonator in NFL history.
No, it’s teams like Carolina that will suffer from this playbook shrinkage, with their already struggling offense ushering in a prized rookie quarterback and a new head coach. Tennessee also falls under that category with rookie arm Jake Locker and first-year head coach Mike Munchak, and Christian Ponder’s ability to develop and possibly start right away in Minnesota will also be hindered.
Established offenses aren’t immune either. I’m looking at you, Tampa Bay, an emerging but young and inexperienced unit that jumped from an average of 287.5 offensive yards per game in 2009 to 335.1 in 2010. This is all speculation to a degree–we don’t play sports psychologist around here or attempt to prognosticate how much taking some pages out of the playbook will effect players.
But every time a Bill Belichick uses words like “drastically” when describing how he’ll have to trim back his regular offseason implementation, we’re reminded of how much the on-field product could take a nose dive whenever football is played again.