Random Thoughts: NU Coaching Styles

There have been more that a few discussions about how Northwestern's new coach Pat Fitzgerald will approach the 2006 season and what coaching style he'll bring to the practice field and sidelines this Fall. Coach Roy suggests that he's already told us, and that there's room for a lot of optimism when you look at the Wildcat's present coaching staff...

In my humble opinion, Fitz has already told us how he'll coach this year - he will rely on his coordinators and assistants -
maybe even more than Randy Walker did.

I think the one big difference in the offense will be that OC Garrick McGee will be more likely to pull out the trick plays instead of Fitz, but as a head coach, Fitz' time as a defensive coach will help him read defensive changes that could help the offense.

Defensive coaches read the tendencies of the opponents offense. They then teach their kids to read keys and react to those indicators of what is coming. As a head coach, Pat Fitzgerald should be able to apply his linebacker experience towards making the offense better by moderating some of those offensive keys.

Then there is the tendency of new coaches to concentrate on areas of the game you don't know quite as well.

When offensive guru Brian Billick took over in Baltimore, everyone expected an air show. Instead the Ravens developed one of the best defenses ever, one that won a Super Bowl and has still survived several coaching changes. Then the coach who built that Raven defense left for Cincinnati where he turned the Bengals into an offensive powerhouse.

Another thing that Fitz brings to the table is youthful exuberance. He's already talked about being "relentless" on the field during games. Will it happen? Can you get kids to play to their full potential every week?

Well there's an good positive example in NU Alum, Joe Girardi - a "young" 41 year old Major League Manager who has the very young [20 rookies] Florida Marlins, close to being a National League wild card team. Even his recent press comments sound a bit like Fitz...
"Teams understand [that] our guys are going to play hard and they are going to try to beat you," Girardi said.[Official Site]
Play hard and beat you - sounds a bit like both Walker and Fitzgerald.

What is also both exciting and "scary" to me is that our offensive coaches are also young - McGee is 33 years old, with a tremendous offensive resume. Assistant Kevin Johns is 31, but this will be his 5th year working with the Wildcat offense. The other offensive assistants are also young, closer in age to Fitz and the players. I think you see more flash in the spread this year, with the growth limited only by how fast the QBs pick it up.

The only new coach on the offensive staff is Bret Ingalls [O-Line]. In 20 years of coaching, he's been the OC at I-AA schools followed by a couple of years at Miami of Ohio. He's a little older and just could be the stabilizing influence on Offense. He's got an experienced O-Line, and that's where it all starts.

I'm really not worried about the defense, it can only improve and Jerry Brown's public comments about Fitz' promotion [in the Trib] were perfect, exactly like the Brown I've talked to over the years.

I think Fitz and Colby [and Brown] are on the same page in regards to sets and while we need another dynamic LB coach, I really expect the D to improve a lot more than some think, despite that recurring injury thing on the D. Injury and lack of depth has always been the wild card in the defense's development under Colby.

Coach Walker's death appears to have pulled the entire staff together. The assistants realize that if Fitz gets out of the box with a decent season, they're going to get a lot of credit within the coaching community.

After all, developing future coordinators and head coaches was one of Coach Randy Walker's management philosophies.
-- da Coach

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