Thursday, December 11, 2008

Singletary and Sparano Pay Respect to Past

December 10, 2008, 3:33 pm

Singletary and Sparano Pay Respect to Past
By Eric Musselman
Through Eric Musselman’s blog, coaches share stories and tips on how to motivate, how to teach, how to win. He has agreed to plug us into his network periodically.

I read in Gwen Knapp’s column yesterday that 49ers Coach Mike Singletary, after his first win as a head coach, drove to the home of Mike Nolan — the man he’d replaced as coach a few weeks earlier — and gave him a game ball.

“I wanted to make sure that I let him know that I am always indebted to him as a friend and as a mentor.”

In the same column, I learned that after taking the interim job, Singletary “persuaded the 49ers to hire Ron Blum, a retired NFL official, and install him as an adviser in the booth upstairs.”

When Singletary explained the decision to hire Blum, he sounded very much like an ardent and curious student of the game. He said he had started thoroughly reviewing the NFL rules a few years ago, and called referees and visited at least one, trying to get inside their heads.

“It’s so gray that you begin to think, ‘You know what, I need to go about this in a different way. I need to have someone around me who has some awareness that can explain some of these rules. Because I know what the rule is, but then it’s ruled differently. Either I’m going to drive myself nuts trying to figure this out, or you get someone who speaks that language.”

The Courage to Try Something New: After going 1-15 last season, new Dolphins coach Tony Sparano started off 0-2 in Miami.

It was at that point that he made the bold decision to try something different: “the direct-snap-to-a-running back, sleight-of-hand Wildcat formation.”

In the 76 times the 8-5 Dolphins have used the formation this season, they’ve gained more than 450 yards and scored eight touchdowns.

Sparano recalled:

“We were all miserable at that point. I didn’t feel like we had an identity in the run game. I also felt it was getting harder to put Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams in the game at the same time and get them touches.

“I called [offensive coordinator] David [Lee] … and said, ‘Look. Here’s what I want: Tomorrow when we get back, I want three runs, maybe a pass out of this Wildcat package … We need to find something we can put our arms around as an offense that can create space..”

Of course, the Wildcat Formation isn’t new. According to this article in USA Today, it’s “legendary coach Glenn “Pop” Warner’s 1907 single-wing formation designed for multi-faceted, future Hall of Fame halfback Jim Thorpe. The last single-wing tailback to win a Heisman Trophy was Princeton’s Dick Kazmaier in 1951. Kazmaier watched highlights of the Patriots befuddled by galloping ghosts.”

My reaction was one of amusement that something from 57 years ago would be resurrected and create a spark,” Kazmaier, 78, says. “The single wing is a timeless treasure.

Miami quarterback Chad Pennington Said:

“It goes to show the fundamentals of football never change, that the importance of blocking, tackling and executing never changes. You have to give coach Sparano credit for having the courage to bring something to the pro game that hasn’t been done in a while. It creates good angles for the offense.”

Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company

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