Kugler, Part II -- 'the complete coach'

Craig Wolfley wrote about the technical side of the Steelers' new OL coach earlier this week. Today, Wolf analyzes Kugler's hands-on coaching approach.

He has a reputation for developing young bucks. He still thinks offensive linemen can play with the attitude of re-establishing the line of scrimmage on the other side of the ball. Aggressiveness is more than just a word with him. He believes in toughnes, and he's not timid about calling you out. He's a full contact teacher that just might belly-bump you on your keester if you're not paying attention. Take a gander into his eyes and you'll be convinced, as I am, that the Pittsburgh Steelers have the right man for the job. His name is Sean Kugler, and he's the new "Boss Hogg" of the offensive line.

Spend enough time watching and listening to Coach Sean and you can be sure to get an education in the moving chessboard of X's and O's of any part of Bruce Arians' playbook. But he goes farther. Kugler has a myriad of drills designed to address the critical juncture of any block, or blocking scheme, that his players will encounter. Be it pin point technique adjustments in teaching how to properly chop a man in the open field, like throwing the forearm through the defenders leg while arching upward and driving through the man or attacking the hip on double teams versus a 2 or 3 technique (shaded position of defensive lineman) while uncoiling from a good knee bend, Coach Kugs is all over it.

Explanation followed by repetition followed by correction is the Chuck Noll formula for offensive line play. Explain the overall formation and action of the backfield and what they're attempting to do and what that might do to the defenders reacting once the ball is snapped. Chuck Noll referred to this as "Understanding the theory of the play" while sounding professorial in his explanation.

Coach Sean is anything but professorial in his rapid, high energy commentary and delivery:

"Place him on the guard!" -- Instructing the tackle, who in a zone blocking scheme versus a particular defensive look with a stunt must punch his man off to the guard while moving to the second level on a draw.

"Never pass up a color!" -- An old offensive line axiom that dictates you never pass up an opposition jersey while on a track, no matter how small the number. If you happen to cross paths with a "color" or opponent's jersey, go after him like a wolverine with its hair on fire.

"Get a little air!" -- In referencing the fact that he's been working the hogs like a third-world factory foreman in a meat packing plant and carries the subtle threat that there's plenty more coming, so don't get comfortable.

Repetition hardwires the action into your central nervous system. A player wired correctly is a faster player. No need to think. It's just Luke; become "one with the force."

The ancient Samurai used to refer to this state of mind as Mushin, mind/no mind. This is where transformation occurs. When a player gets to the point that he doesn't have to think about the play, but can just play, now he's cooking with Crisco.

To get there requires blood, sweat and tears. Work the play, work the technique, do your mental gymnastics at night. Get up and do it again. Wash, rinse and repeat. Kugler makes sure that each guy gets the reps and understands the plays, even to the point of having each player get up and teach a play to the rest of the offensive line while using the blackboard, game film, or playbook during meetings.

Correction for Coach Sean is more than just ripping a guy when he boots a play or technique. Players are people, too, and just like regular guys they respond to different levels of praise and kicks in the butt. Correction is getting the technique right as well as the play. I have personally played for offensive line coaches who can tell you the play, blocking scheme, and name everybody on the opposing sideline, but they can't tell you what you did wrong, or what you need to do to get better.

A native of Buffalo, New York, Sean Kugler is the complete coach. Toughness, technique, leadership through effort, and an uncanny knack of breaking down the playbook and communicating what he expects the players to deliver. As a fellow Buffalonian, with a taste for burritos, Sean is like the "Mighty Taco" available in our native Buffalo. He's "the whole package."


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