Peppered Football - The Mean Machine Mechanists -- Part III

GBMWolverine Coach's Corner2Posted at 9:00am — 4/26/2014

Peppered Football – The Mean Machine Mechanists — Part III

There can be little doubt that many successful football coaches possess as a personal world view, Mechanism. The symbol and metaphor that is assigned to the world view of Mechanism is the machine. Football, by its very nature of having 11 independent parts reacting as a unit on every play, automatically becomes attached to machine metaphor.

The only fly in the theoretical ointment of Pepper’s Mechanism’s attachment to football is a stated underlying explicit assumption that in the machine metaphor the parts are independent, unrelated, and function on their own: there are no real relationships, the final conglomeration results in a machine, a form made for a specific purpose. This becomes a sports-unique paradox as coaches always speak of the parts working together as a whole and the sum being a managed machine that possesses magnificent efficiency.

Coordination and efficiency are automatic considerations within football coaching. In football the original drawing board ideas (Formists) are systematically implemented into a football machine (Mechanists). It is this trait, the Mechanist’s game day execution, that fans discuss and view with the most interest. It is the most observable coaching trait, and thusly the most discussed. This necessitates that the earlier Formist planning is translated into practice success, which is then translated into game day combat that pleases the masses with victory. The true Mechanist may actually be more concerned about how well the machine achieved in the entire micro-spectrum of football skills and execution

Apr 5, 2014; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines head coach Brady Hoke coaches defensive lineman Ryan Glasgow (96) and defensive tackle Bryan Mone (90) during the Spring Game at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Apr 5, 2014; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines head coach Brady Hoke coaches defensive lineman Ryan Glasgow (96) and defensive tackle Bryan Mone (90) during the Spring Game at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

In the second part of Peppered Football, it was stated that Coach Hoke appears to hold many Formist tendencies. In personality type research, The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator has long been used to assess personality preferences. So, at least some data can indicate probable preference. Only currently, decades after Pepper’s theory arose, are such indicators for world view assessment being created. As a result, one must make assumptions of world views based on events, actions, and responses.

Having described Mechanism is small detail; the next undertaking becomes a discussion of how Coach Hoke and Staff have approached and succeeded in the role of Mechanists. An obvious starting point is the realm of practice.

Team practices are reasonably well planned and basic organization is very typical for a high level program: the sessions include the substance needed; there is a clear organization created beforehand (a Formist trait of noting characteristics and similarities), and the implementation of practice time for teaching is very impressive. The pace, before this year in the eyes of the writer/beholder, could have been a little more intense and the climate was relatively relaxed. This appears to have changed this spring. Mechanism has appeared to at least equal Formism.

Apr 13, 2013; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines head coach Brady Hoke talks to offensive linesman Erik Magnuson (78) during the Spring Game at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Apr 13, 2013; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines head coach Brady Hoke talks to offensive linesman Erik Magnuson (78) during the Spring Game at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Every coach at the collegiate level faces one reality: there are time and number limits placed on practices. It follows, then, that every minute of practice time is crucial and that the micro-management of the Mechanists view is essential and critical to teams who do not have the best talent on the field week after week. Teams with less talent depend on squeezing out every drop of performance and improvement to compete with more talented teams. Scheme may be important, but the execution factor may still trump. Teams with more talent also need outstanding Mechanistic efficiency to insure, not diminish, a potential advantage. Let us think of practice as a wet sponge. The object is to squeeze out every drop of performance and improvement possible. What is left in the sponge each day collects into a bucket that may as well be labeled lost.

This micromanaged, machine-like, maximum efficiency model has its roots in the early 20th Century Taylor Scientific Management Model. Today, we call such folks ergonomists, those who engineer human efficiency. As a small historical side note, early industrialists used this model to work assembly line workers to a frazzle. Henry Ford finally had pity and reasonable empathy and backed off this approach. Football players, it seems, have been conditioned to accept this form of management. This may be a good idea, since lazy is hardly ever efficient or successful in the sports world.

January 1, 2013; Tampa, FL, USA; Michigan Wolverines defensive coordinator Greg Mattison prior of the 2013 Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

January 1, 2013; Tampa, FL, USA; Michigan Wolverines defensive coordinator Greg Mattison prior of the 2013 Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The teaching and practice efficiency program elements are core beliefs of Hoke; he immediately communicated through media events that he hires assistants strong in recruiting and teaching. Coach Hoke and Staff’s Formist elements have been successful in teaching and recruiting. However, communication has been questioned, as has leadership. Questioning of characteristics and situations does not adjudicate guilt. Communication can be assigned to any world view. Leadership is more Formist and Mechanist.

The Mechanistic side of Michigan football cannot honestly be declared a brash success. Of the four world views, Mechanism is Michigan football’s clear shortcoming. Mechanism can eventually be determined by the elimination of mistakes and execution of plan on game day, curried by precision in practice repetition, detail, and correction.

Mechanism comes glaringly into play during critical game situations, where coaches just do not have time to go back to the Formist solution of the drawing board. Mechanism is preparing for the known and assuming the unknown. Mechanism is having the answers ready for a best chance of success venture. Mechanism does not guarantee success, but it does increase probability. Mechanists are ready, their decisions are quick, whereas Formists must decide on a timeout and hit on the right solution in a small amount of time, or roll the dice and hope for a positive outcome. Beilein is a strong Formist, but he can adapt to Mechanist need to draw up a solution on the spot. It is easier in basketball to do this, but no less critical. The football staff has not mastered the mechanics of mechanistic situations.

But things can change, and clearly there was change over the winter. These changes are not secretive: changes in offensive staff, changes in coaching assignments, changes in public analysis of leadership, and a change to a sense of urgency. Formist planning can evolve into precise planning patterns for endgame situations that mandate time management and counterpunching the other team’s scheme. Coaches who script plays are probably Mechanists.

Coach Nuss and his QB'sHerein, lies Michigan’s weakest area, attention to the Mechanistic details as briefly outlined above. Coach Hoke has hired an offensive coordinator who has at the very least Mechanistic traits. Now the staff must understand that game day performance of the staff goes beyond simple communication, a trait mentioned over and over again as a cure to Mechanistic shortcomings. This is a nice start, but frankly the coaching staff must increase awareness of becoming superior in all game day operations. Awareness and analysis of the true difficulties starts the process; then agreement; then action, and finally application. The mechanist practices and prepares for situations that will arise on game day, even if the action is as silly as playing a video game and coaching in fast motion. Coaches as a collective group can drill themselves in situational/protocol efficiency and practice like a well managed EMR group.

Some changes in this world view have been made. This begs the question, what else will be done to improve the machine aspect inherent to football? Be not dismayed, next up is world view number four, the Contextualist view. Contextualism is not near as easy to assess as the Formist and Mechanist camps. See you for Part IV.

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Written by GBMWolverine Staff — Dan Keller

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