Blog : Game Within The Game

Browns and Developing Winners

Will To Win

Crying incessantly in my way home after losing another game at Bonnor Park in Milledgeville Georgia. It’s another still but crisp evening and the stars are out while a traverse the grounds in the west end of my home town. Tears are streaming down my face because our team has lost another game. Why was I crying after a football game, you might ask? My answer would have been, “we lost.”

Early in my life, I hated losing! It never deterred me. I loved to play games. I hated losing. Why not just give up… Stop playing the games… Well, I never thought of quitting or to not play marbles, chess, tennis, shooting pool or any other sport. I played and played hard all the time. Sometimes, I would be playing and crying while I was playing because one of the bigger players had hurt me… Never stopped… Never gave in..: it was all part of the action.

Fast forward to Baldwin High school where I played basketball, ran track and played football. Yeah you guess it… We lost bunches and bunches of games. SHIGGADDEE! We lost homecoming most of the time.

Even though we were losing, we never stopped working at development… Those situations taught me how to continue to work to get better, to always do my best and how to never let the score or short term results dictate how I approached each play and each game.

The will can be broken in some because of the losses. It also cave strengthened if the right approach, perspective and awareness is given.

The Browns are 0-14… Wow!!! What an athletic wake up call the entire organization is going through.

Their collective will has to be really strong to endure the experiences.

For those that will continue with the team next year, the Never stopped… Never give in I mentioned earlier will manifest itself at a later time. Especially, if they are going home lamenting the losses.

When you love it… When you love yourself, Winning is not far away. It always finds it way to victories… Whether in real time or at a later point in the pursuit of success.

#FORTHELOVEOFTHEGAME

Romo… Diary of Aging Players

Romo… Diary of Aging Players

ROMO: “I’m not gonna allow this situation to negatively affect Dak or this football team by becoming a constant distraction. Ultimately it’s about the team – it’s what we’ve preached our entire lives.”

EB: The best way to deal with this situation, positively,…especially when the realization is that someone else…a younger player, is doing the job, is to teach the player that is playing. It helps by taking the emphaisis off of the situation you are in and focuses on something that builds the team. The teaching part also keeps the mind prepared for playing. Most of the time what looks final isn’t final, especially when the season is continuing.

The time for finality is for the off season. Decisions will be made in that regard then. Fears and thoughts that the career may be over may be stayed off for another season, but the end is coming. It’s a young man’s game.  (Players that play for extended periods and are still good all feel this way). It’s tough to see someone else do what you feel and know you can do. But, there is a realization, as well, that it’s really best for the team.

ROMO:”I think Dak knows that I have his back, and I think I know that he has mine.”

EB: Having each others back started in the off season. Even when Romo realized how good Dak was and that he is motivation to me and a treat to be a starter in the league, they worked closely together. Romo helped coach him even then. It’s a natural and important trait to have when you got people and natural leaders on your team that are winners in every way.

ROMO: “To say the first half of the season has been emotional would be a huge understatement. Getting hurt when you feel like you have the best team you ever have was a soul-crushing moment for me. Then to learn it’s not three or four weeks but 10 is another blow. And through it all you have a tremendous amount of guilt about letting your teammates, fans and organization down.”

EB: Part of the guilt for me was I knew I could not do what I was expected to and use to doing. The coaches seemed like that couldn’t or wouldn’t talk to me. It felt strange. It was like if you can’t help me or be on the field, you have leposy. Perhaps that was part of the mind game they played or it could have been as Tony said. “The coaches have to keep coaching.”

When I became a coach, if a player of mine got hurt, I would always find him in the training room and spend some time with him. It was important to me to let them know they were more than a football player or piece of meat to me.

ROMO: After all, they were depending on you to bring them a championship – that’s what quarterbacks are supposed to do, that’s how we’re judged. But then here you are, sidelined without any real ability to help your teammates win on the field. That’s when you’re forced to come face to face with what’s happening.

EB: While facing that reality, the fire still burns. It’s tough to look at the guy playing “your” position without saying or thinking that I would have done better. That’s the driving force of a player. I’m the best for the position. Frustration, anger and fear all surface. I used that energy to my benefit by doing extra running, stairmaster and hill work. It became my motivation.

I also had to do some reflecting. How did I allow this situation to be manifested? What was my contribution to where I am today. It made me really look at my life of football. Check out the next sentence.

ROMO:”You’re sad and down and out, and you ask yourself, “Why did this have to happen?”

EB: ROMO HAD SOME TIME TO REALLY REFLECT. (Awesome Tool…is Reflection)

ROMO: “It’s not always easy to watch. I think anybody who’s been in this position understands that. But what is clear is that I was that kid once: stepping in, having to prove yourself – I remember the feeling like it was yesterday. It really is an incredible time in your life. If I remember one thing from back then, it’s the people that helped me along when I was young.”

EB: Part of the process of winning is having those that are all about the team. They pass on the knowledge to those that come behind them. They even pass it on when someone may be a threat to “their” job because it’s best for the team. It is, as I see it, a responsibility of each position. Winning is the most important.

ROMO: “For every high school kid out there or college player, there’s greatness in being the kind of teammate who truly wants to be part of the team. Everyone wants to be the reason they’re winning or losing. Every single one of us wants to be that person. But there are special moments that come from a shared commitment, to play a role while doing it together.”

EB: This a quality of a true winner. He is to be admired as we watch him walk this part of the journey out. There will be moments of selfishness without a doubt. He will continue to want to play and have half hearted happiness for Dak and the team but will also have a real life growth process and a moment he can teach from for a lifetime. “Perfection Sought, Progress Accepted”

ROMO: “I’ve figured that you in this process. It’s what separates sports from everything else. It’s why we love it, why we trust it, it’s why I still want to play and compete.”

Lastly, I just want to leave you with something I’ve learned in this process. You know, I feel like we have two battles or two enemies going on: One with the man across from you, the second is with the man inside of you. I think once you control the one inside of you, the one across from you really doesn’t matter. I think that’s what we’re all trying to do.”

EB: The ultimate winner does the winning inside then has the ability to teach others how to win.

#Agapelove

WIN EACH PLAY

Win
W-What
I-is
N-Necessary?

To Win… It’s why each competition is gone into. The developmental process is an essential element in winning.

Everyday, winning should be on the minds of the competitors. That will certainly effect how meetings are attended, how weights are being lifted and how practice is practiced.

How to attend meetings, how to approach them, how to use mental vision in your preparation are all ways to build and/or change the preparation process of players and coaches.

In practice, I often could be hear saying “Win every play!” Why? Because, if the play is won in practice by each individual, that particular rep has taken on its importance to winning in the game.

You see, if a coordinator has taken the time to script a play in practice, there is a high likelihood that the play will be called in the game. If that play has that much importance given to it by all involved at practice, it may be called in the game. (Practiced to be perfect, while practicing to be perfect)

To me, meetings should be viewed the same. They are as crucial to the teams’ success as practice. If not, the team is looking at a recipe for losing.

The efforts to win each play, each day, will undoubtedly manifest more individual victories on GAMEDAY. Victories on GAMEDAY makes all the efforts to win during the week taste a whole lot better!

Win
W-What
I-is
N-Necessary!!!

Fortheloveofthegame

Wins and Losses

Today was a day of big wins and loss for some players. Cut day has never been a day I cherished. As a player and coach, I dredged seeing guys have to give up on the current team. On the other hand, life takes and gives. There are a bunch of guys that have the opportunity to continue to chase their dream of being on a team and ultimately winning a championship.

What a delight it is to be a part of a winning team. That’s on all levels of life. The teams we play on, support, cheer for, admire and love have special places in our hearts.

It’s a rare privilege to contribute in any way to a championship. It’s even more rare to be a a starter on a championship team. My stint with the Redskins proved to be some of the most important years of my life, especially spiritually. While being a starter was a blessing, anyone on that team had to feel special.

Today was the first cutdown day for the NFL. It was evident today that the numbers were down. This made me realize how big of a deal this game is annnnddd how special it is to be a part of this game.

It gave me an opportunity to speak with some of the players about how special it is and how big of a deal this opportunity is. I really saw this and recognized it for the first time after I retired. I was looking at a depth chart in the draft room of the Ravens after the final cut date. There were only three names on the board under running backs. WOW! It hit me like a ton! How special it was for my name to be on that board and even more so… I was one on the starters! Real stuff…

When I went out to practice that day and again saw how few players were on the field, I was again thankful for the chance to have played in the NFL.

Enjoy your ride young and old NFL players! It is indeed a well earned blessing to play the game and even more to truly excel.

FORTHELOVEOFTHEGAME

Cleveland-Believeland

Cleveland-Believeland

They never lose hope. They never die. They always encourage their players. It can be football, basketball or baseball. It matters not to the fateful and loyal fans of Cleveland.

I had a connection to Cleveland/Believeland before I was summoned there by the game that I grew to and still love.

I was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in the 10th round of the 1984 NFL draft. It was actually the end of the 10th and almost the 11th round. I get the call after two long days of waiting by the phone, alone on the second floor of Belk Hall on ECU’s campus. There was no TV, radio or video games to pass the time. It was just me and the phone.

The first voice I heard was Art Modell. He welcomed me then handed the phone to Sam Rutigliano. He did the same. I had a good feeling when I spoke to both.

I can’t say I was excited, but I can say I was pleased to be drafted because I was assured of a signing bonus. I search the memory bank and find the first time I tasted Cleveland.

I was in mine and my oldest brother’s room at Granny’s house watching football. It so happened that the Browns were on. It stood out to me because the Pruitts made some plays. Greg broke off one of his tear away punt returns and Mike showed some quickness and power while getting a much needed first down. It felt like some type of indicator to me. It registered and as I normally did, went on outside to play some. Later in my life, I would end up on the same team, in the same meeting room and blocking for Mike. That moment at Granny’s house comes to mind.

When I got to Cleveland, I did not understand the type of history in sports I was surrounded by and walking into. However, I found out quickly what type of weather I was going to be dealing with. As I stepped off the plane, sleet and wind hit my ass in the face. I was also hit in the face with some of the grand history that weekend by the Browns. They had a meet and greet with some of the “Past Greats.” It was a pleasure to meet Lou Groza and others. The more you are around the Browns, the more you understand the tradition that exist. The more you are around, the more you understand the connection that the players and the fans have.

I started to get a feel for what that felt like myself. My family and I stayed around after the season. We learned that on some type of winter days it was everyman for him/herself. That meant I was getting out of the car and there was no waiting or opening doors. I’m gone and you get there as best you can. During those times we bought Cleveland Cav season tickets.

I recognized that we had become fans when after we left a game, in which they had lost, I felt like I had lost. Well dam! Why is that? It gave firsthand knowledge and understanding regarding how Cleveland fans felt after we lost a game. It’s we won or we lost. It’s real ownership and real kinship of and to the team.

The new ESPN 30 for 30 movie “Believeland” does a hell of a job connecting the grand history of the Cleveland culture while intertwining the grand history of Cleveland Sports. You see, they are one and the same. Some of the stories that I heard about Cleveland I totally disregarded. I disregarded them because I lived there and stayed there after the seasons were over. My oldest daughters started their early schooling there. We made Cleveland our home and found nothing lacking.

While I was living there, I knew that the city had a incredible energy about it. That energy I felt when attending some of the play-off games of the Indians. I felt it first hand when we were on our run of playoff appearances from 1985-88. During those times, I felt jolts of energy when I just went out to walk the neighborhood. It was so real, I decided during some of those times to not venture to the malls or go to stores. I would stay close to home. I learned to capture that energy and direct it into my practices, then ultimately into the games.

The connection with the fans and excitement associated with each team provided a fabulous vibration. It created a tremendous bond that transcends the passing of time and shows a devotion that is like no other.

An NFL Fury…Gift & Curse

Being on the edge in all aspects of playing the game, in practice, meetings, walk throughs and the games is what makes the great great. It is what guides them as they go about the daily preparation and in the mist of the battle. Being on that edge, feeling that fire continually can be maddening.

There is the possibility of being driven insane by the energy that burns inside. Controlling that energy is the charge we face in our personal battles. Temporary insanity is what it’s called in the court of law. It has been that energy that we have been bequeathed by the Spirit. It is our task to learn how to transfer it from challenge to champion in our profession and our everyday lives.

Odell Beckham is one of the best receivers in the NFL. He has reached iconic status after his breakout rookie season with the New York Giants. He makes the great catches of the past look mundane. He is a man that has a burning desire to help his team be the best. That desire is the driving force behind his personal and pro-football greatness. Now he has taken a high portion of the blame for losing a game and his cool.

What is Odell’s charge in the matter? He must, as a player and as a man, take the energy that it takes to play the game and focus it. He should not have tried to justify himself in this situation. He must make himself right by realizing how he was affected.

To make himself right is to take personal all his actions. The thoughts that go into the depths of who and what he is must be reflected upon. What is the root of the energy that makes him special? I believe it’s a gift that will keep on giving. That gift that takes him to the level of “Kingsmanship” is the curse that can make him as hated as he is loved.

The outside must not be the determinant for him. Yes, listen to some the guidance that is given. Then he must go within to truly find the answers he needs. Let the spirit that has sparked him to where he is lead him to the next area in his life. That small voice inside will give him the truth of life.

To me, the breath is the key to the connection. I can remember having that fire. It caused me to lose it in some games. The play-off game vs the Oilers in 1988 was my crowning. I got two personal fouls called on me back to back in that game. I was playing with that energy and lost it, became temporally insane then got the sting. That sting drove me to the Redskins where there was the spiritual guidance to assist in my development to “Kingsmanship” and championship. We were in field goal range when it happened. We lost because of it.

The lesson is there and quite clear for this man that can be monster. He has been warned. Now the task has really begun.

Yes I had been warned before but didn’t have or wasn’t given the proper tools to grow out of it. I needed that thing that would help me be on that edge but still have that level of control needed to play the game at the level necessary. “The BREATH.”

That edge is where Odell needs to be. It’s what makes him the special player he is. The breath will guide him from his depth. The inner man. Gain your control. “Control the breath, control the mind.”

FORTHELOVEOFTHEGAME

Pre-Season-Play/Not



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I always played the games, no matter what it was, to win. It was simply because I loved to compete. Whether it was marbles, pool, baseball, basketball, track running or playing football, I was going to give it my all. That drive, intense desire and love for the games was innate.

Some writers use to call me a junk player because when we were getting blown out, I continued to play hard and make plays. My feel is if you’re going to play then give it all you got, no matter what the circumstances are.

To play or not is generally the consideration or thought going into the preseason games. If a player is going to play, then the next question for the team is how much does he play. Most players want to know how much they are playing and will bug the position coach to no end to find out.

I had a different approach. I didn’t care how much I played. I went into the game like it was a regular season game. I wanted to get my timing and feel for my lineman. When it was time for me to be replaced, I wanted to play more. To me, the players that love the game want to play in the game and want to win whether it’s pre or regular season.

One thing about playing to stay healthy and trying to keep guys healthy is what you think about most is what tend to become. It becomes your reality. Yes, we all want our players or better said our good players, to be available for the opening of the regular season.

You have to play football to be ready to play “good” football. So, if they don’t play in the preseason, then they won’t be as sharp OR in the type of shape that is needed to play consistently good football when the regular season rolls around. Generally, when players get tired they lose focus, so mental errors show up and the potential to get injured increases.

While watching the first few games, see if big mistakes late in the game, cost some of your teams. Check for pulled groins, calfs and hamstrings that may show up on injury reports.

They talk about the running back position as a position that’s prone to injury. Check the next injury report and see whether other high profile positions are present. It’s an occupational hazard.

I feel it’s a by product of the approach in training camp and the pre-season. Then there is acceleration into the regular season. If your players haven’t been playing much, if at all, in the pre-season then go into the regular season playing 50-60 plays, have they been prepared.

The two a-day practices are a thing of the past. This keeps guys from developing the stamina needed to play as well.

When you can practice like its a game then also play the preseason like it really means something, better football is played and the potential for injuries and fatigue mistakes will be decreased. The reason you have depth and good coaches that develop players is called next guy up.

In reality how wise is it to not play or practice the guys to get them ready. Watch the teams that played their starters. Players can get injured walking across the street.

There was a lot of evidence regarding the players not being in shape. Guys taking knees as well as taking themselves out of the game.

There is one other aspect that needs to be addressed. The coaches are out of shape as well. The evidence can be seen in the number of timeouts that has to be taken just before the ball is snapped. The TOs are needed by both offensive and defensive coaches. Just as with the players, the coaches need the experience of the pre-season to get acclimated to game speed. The TOs that they are taken early in the first and second half will eventually cost teams when a two minute drive is needed and the team is either down in time outs or out of them all together.

As the season progresses, if a player does not get injured they will get into better shape and should play better and more sustained football. You will also see less TOs taken by coaching staffs as they will also improve and be able to gauge time and situations better. Players and coaches either get better or they go home while the teams that get off to a good start and build on early success, go on to the play-offs. The growth process is continual.

Patience

QB & Offensive Communication



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It is well documented that the Jets try to break down the opponents pass protection so they can bring an extra guy. That extra guy is to sack, hit or at least make the QB throw the ball early.

There are many hours spent trying to figure out the blitz zone package that the Ryan brothers like to run. We had a feel for it when I coached with the Titans. I can’t give that secret away. It will cost ya.

Generally the center is the QB of the offensive line. Although that is the case, the QB has the ability to overrule him if he recognizes something the center can’t see. They identify the Mike backer which in turn tells the offensive line who they block. After that, the line will in turn make calls to each other so everyone is on the same page.

You see most QBs In the league walk up to the line, call out the number and point to the mike backer. Payton Manning and Tom Brady are players that are the most definitive prior to the snap. The declaration is made in both the passing and run game. It makes sure that everyone knows the mike but also where the other backers are. In the passing game it let’s the QB know where he is at risk when the defense blitzes.

We are back in the Jets vs Packer game… Green Bay has the the ball just before the half. Remember, the QB generally has the control over this declaration. But is this case the QB of the line…the center has the control.

The reason this is interesting is that on two occasions I heard Arron Rogers ask the lineman “where y’all going”? I almost laughed! Arron saw a overload blitz coming and wanted to know which way he would need to slide to deliver the ball. After getting the signal from the center, Arron did a great job of sliding, just enough, to his right or left to deliver the ball. It’s eight seconds left in the first half when he last did in the first half. It ended with a strike to Randall Cobb for a TD.

Excellent job of communication between Arron and his offensive line. It shows how good plays are made when everybody is on the same page.
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Coach EB