Coaching a Key in Team's Success

Yours truly has never been accused of being the brightest bulb in the socket but that didn't stop the light from going on this week.

I was thinking about the Packers' start to the season and how many of the NFL faithful are wondering whether they're that good or their opponents are that bad. Only time will tell. With that in mind, I took a look at the rest of Green Bay's schedule for the season. Quite frankly, there's not a team on it that's of "hide the women and children" caliber.

That outfit that just reeks of superiority. That outfit that it would take nothing short of Divine Intervention to defeat.

Sure, Baltimore is the defending Super Bowl Champ but the Ravens have already proven to be beatable. Tampa Bay at Raymond James is always tough but could the Packers go down there and beat 'em without help from Above? You betcha. As for Minnesota at Minnesota, Carolina has already proven this season what the Packers discovered last season. It's doable.

That's not to say winning these types of games will be easy because it won't. It is saying that the Packers are perfectly capable of winning them however.

Is Green Bay a great team, a club without any deficiencies? In a word, no. The Packers have some shortcomings, but they haven't cornered that market and so does everyone else. Salary-capped free agency has leveled the playing field talent-wise to the point that there's not that one dominating scary-good club that's in a league by itself. It's true the Packers haven't played a great team as of yet, but they may not play one all season long. Real good, yes, better than they've faced to date, certainly; great, probably not.

In the past, the NFL has been talent driven entity. You need players who can make plays to win and while that will always be the case, it's a little different now, and this is where that "light" started to flicker. Talent is important, but since teams are so evenly matched in that regard, other things are starting to matter as much if not more. Things like coaching.

The Packers outscored their first two opponents 65-6. Are they that much better talent-wise? Green Bay does have Brett Favre and that carries a lot of weight on the talent scale, but on the Washington roster there were 13 number one draft picks, 4 of whom were the No. 1, and 10 second round picks. They weren't exactly an athletically challenged football team. And yet the game itself was no-contest.

In all fairness, in the case of the Packers' first two opponents, it was game one under new management and that's not enough to draw any long-term conclusions, but this isn't so much about out-coaching the other guy anyway. It's more about the Packers being well-coached, period. You could compare it to a player who always executes his techniques properly. That player will fare pretty well regardless of opponent because he never beats himself. In like manner, a well-coached team is a well coached team game in and game out, whether it's Scooter McLean or Vince Lombardi on the opposing sideline.

That coaching umbrella casts one giant shadow. Of course it involves the X's and O's but that's just the start. There's also preparation, discipline, organization, team chemistry, aggressiveness, toughness and attitude. All distinct challenges and yet in many cases, it's hard to tell where one stops and another begins. You might just lump it all together and call it a team's "personality." Whatever you choose to call it, the guy in charge and his staff have an enormous impact on the success or failure of a team, and that impact is felt more now than ever before. And that's why the bet here is that the Packers' fine start will grow into a fine season.

They're just playing like a well-coached team. Both offensively and defensively, they force their opponents to contend with a variety of looks and schemes. It gives the opposition plenty to think about and prepare for but the key is being able to execute all those looks and schemes without screwing them up yourself. The Packers don't.

Success in the NFL also depends on putting your playmakers in position to make plays. Can you say David Martin beating safety coverage for 31 yards and a 1st down.

Staying away from the dumb stuff that gets you beat. As this is being written, Green Bay is averaging about three and a half penalties per game. And how 'bout turnovers, quite possibly the alpha male of all statistics. The Packers went into the Carolina game winning that war with a +4 take-away give-away ratio, which was tied for the best in the NFC.

The NFL has changed in a lot of ways but the importance of running the football and stopping your opponent's running game has been a constant. The Packers are among the league-leaders in both categories.

Something else, which I consider an excellent barometer of a team's attitude, is whether it hits people. I don't mean just contact, I'm talking collisions, and the Packers have been doing some serious colliding. You can see it when they tackle but that's not the only time. During Nate Wayne's interception return on MNF, both Jim Flanigan and Darren Sharper knocked the snot out of unfortunate Redskins.

Even Packer wide receivers aren't bashful about blocking. Nobody, regardless of position, is playing on the fringes. These commitments to the rough stuff speak volumes about whether a team is really committed to paying the price for winning.

Good coaching in the NFL is so-often defined by won-loss records. While that's the nature of the beast, it overlooks one of the factors that lead to those all important records. Are the players actually getting better? Do they improve under a coaching staff? Can you say Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila? Remember where Darren Sharper's game was at two seasons ago?

What you've been seeing in the games is also a reflection of how the Packers practice. Their workouts are organized, disciplined, and focused. They practice with a purpose and it's been showing when it counts.

The NFL is a tough place to do business. There's only one guarantee – every season will have its share of ups and downs. All 31 teams are going after the same prize and when it comes to talent, no one is that much better than anyone else. That's the landscape of the current playing field and you've got to look elsewhere for a winning edge. The Packers have found one in how they are coached.

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