A Communication Lesson From the NFL

The Globe and Mail newspaper ran an article from The Associated Press on October 4, 2008. There were some interesting coaching tips on player communication from two very successful NFL coaches.Here is most of the article.

RENTON, WASH. — There may be a secret to coaching success in today’s NFL, though it’s one Vince Lombardi would never stand for: empower your players.

Giants coach Tom Coughlin was 25-23 in New York with no playoff wins when he arrived for the 2007 training camp in Albany, N.Y., to begin a must-win season. The man renowned for inflexible discipline was concerned over players misunderstanding why he made certain decisions. So he established a leadership council of about a dozen players to deal with internal issues.

Mike Holmgren has had his own players’ committee of about half that size in each of his 10 years with the Seahawks. He also had one from 1992-98 while leading Green Bay. Holmgren won a Super Bowl and went to another with the Packers before moving to Seattle…

Coughlin’s Giants are undefeated and the Super Bowl defending champions.


Players on both teams say the committees enlighten them, unite them, strengthen their teams’ trust.

“It just gives us a chance for you to relate stuff better to your teammates than maybe a coach can,” said all-pro left tackle Walter Jones, a Seahawks committee member. “Not saying you don’t want to hear it from the coach, you are just more comfortable hearing it from a player.

“You build a bond in the locker room. It’s all about respect.”

Added quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, also a committee member: “It makes the players feel they have input.”

Coaches having veterans as their deputies isn’t new in the NFL – or even with the Giants. Bill Parcells used to rely on Harry Carson and George Martin to deliver his intentions and report back on the pulse of New York’s locker room.

But Holmgren and Coughlin have formalized the practice, setting committees and having philosophies on who it should include. Coughlin’s represents older and younger players. Holmgren’s is limited to the captains of the offence, defence and special teams, so it usually includes only established veterans…

Last season, the Giants were 0-2 after routs by Dallas and Green Bay. Fans screamed for Coughlin’s dismissal. Coughlin went to his leadership council and told it there was no other group that he would rather be coaching.

The council relayed the coach’s message. The Giants went on a six-game winning streak en route to shocking the undefeated New England Patriots, one of the biggest upsets in a Super Bowl.

“I think that I’ve communicated better than I have in the past,” Coughlin, 62 and a grandfather, said. “I think I’ve taken the time to do that, attach more significance to that, and been more keenly aware of trying to make everyone understand what’s being done, why it’s being done. And do so with enough advance notice so that there’s time for it to sink in.”

Manning said Coughlin went to his council during New York’s bye last week to inform it he wanted to suspend star receiver Plaxico Burress for that Sunday’s game for missing a team meeting. The quarterback appreciated knowing what was going on.

Coughlin said there was a “very good reaction. The players understood it, they understood why, and they went back to work.”

His last meeting with them was on Monday, apparently over Holmgren wanting to change the way the players review game and practice video.

The 60-year-old has a limit to the give-and-take with his committee.

“I don’t want them coming up to me saying, ‘We want grilled cheese sandwiches on the airplane,’ ” Holmgren said.”We’re talking about things more important