Here’s Why Deshaun Watson Wants Out

The so-called experts have written reams on this topic, but no one has focused on the real reason the franchise quarterback signs a $140 million contract, praises his coach to the heavens, professes love for Houston, and then demands to be traded. I believe the reason is so obvious that everyone has missed it. Watson wants out because Bill O’Brien was fired, pure and simple.

Animosity for the often-abrasive coach and his ghost like executive assistant, primarily within the media, had risen to a fever pitch. O’Brien was responsible for everything that was wrong with anything. In fact, he probably caused the pandemic. Media demand for his head reverberated through the airwaves. The coach who had taken his team two games into the playoffs and had the eventual Super Bowl champion down for the kill became a reprehensible joke for a franchise in, which its twenty years that had never advanced to a championship of any kind.

Disappointment over the Kansas City loss was huge, and I offer little in the coach’s defense. That said, the Texans had won their division with a 10-6 record and advanced in the playoffs. They tied up their franchise quarterback, who openly stated love and admiration for his coach. Optimism for 2020 was high. The team truly looked poised to contend. And then what happened? A worldwide pandemic burst out of nowhere, restricting and suffocating our entire society. The effect on preparation for the 2020 season was immense. There were no PTA’s, preseason games, or real training camp. A team on the come like Houston, with brand new coordinators, critically needed the lost time to adjust. No choice but to forge ahead. None the less, hopes were high.

The Texans’ early schedule with no preseason was murderers’ row. Right out of the box, back to Kansas City to face the Super Bowl champs on their turf. Nobody expected a win, and they lost a competitive game. The Baltimore Ravens and the Lamar Jackson juggernaut were next. The result was another competitive loss, which was disappointing but not surprising. The next week in Pittsburgh, the team lead the Steelers well into the second half but lost again. The Texans were 0-3 against teams that had been an overwhelming 34-14 the previous season.

There were still 13 games to go but when they lost another close game to the Vikings by a touchdown the next week, the naïve, inexperienced, and outright dumb owner cashiered O’Brien on the spot. By doing so, he effectively severed any chance the team had to salvage the season. He fired not only the head coach but a dozen assistants, whom he expected to hang in there and give their all knowing their jobs would be history right after Christmas. From bad to worse. Interim coaches never do well. 5-11 would be a glorious year based upon the last dozen, who have tried. The season was over, rebuilding was ahead. Although his play did not reflect it, that was when Deshaun Watson moved on. He had worked so hard to get the team to where it was knocking on the door. He respected and prospered under Bill, but had no stomach to start over with a new regime and endure the dysfunctional organization’s sloppy efforts to rebuild.

He cited the unilateral decision to hire Nick Caserio as general manager without his input, as his excuse to leave, but the decision was long made by that point. Bill O’Brien knew what he was doing and Deshaun recognized that fact. One last point needs to be made. Bill O’Brien had almost seven years to produce a big winner and hadn’t. His status should have been closely reviewed at season’s end, when he could have been let go. Axing him after four games was shortsighted, absurd, and childish.

Of course, the players were more than happy to replace a strict taskmaster with a pleasant jolly old fellow, who had already showed he could not coach. The owner of a business can hire anyone he damn well pleases, but when he slams the door on the ability of his employees to be successful, he should not be surprised when the best ones head for the door.

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Report Card Time

The NFL’s 2020 Class of New Head Coaches

Two disclaimers are in order before I attempt to assess the initial on-the-field performance of the five new coaches during the 2020 NFL season. The first-year performance of a new coach may reveal hints and tells about how he will perform, but it is almost meaningless in terms of wins and losses, unless the new guy excels beyond all expectations or completely flops. We must give him a few years to work in his style and approach. At least, however, everyone wants to see some immediate positive progress and a definite reversal from the direction the former coach had taken the team.

Also, in this case, the five new 2020 coaches took over under the backdrop of an unprecedented national social crisis that affected every aspect of our society. The COVID pandemic-imposed restrictions and distractions that complicated the already monumental task of taking over a new but failing team. The reduction of practice time and elimination of preseason games definitely affected preparation time. We must consider the initial performance of this group in view of this overwhelming, suffocating societal situation.

Excuses aside, how did their teams do? Ron Rivera, who had been trashed in Carolina, took over the “Washington Football Club”, which did not even have a name. He is a proven winner and, despite personal health issues, cobbled together an NFC East division championship and playoff appearance, despite a 7-9 record. The NFC East was pathetic. Mike McCarthy, another proven winner, presided over a dismal Dallas Cowboys team. They give him a reasonable measure of latitude, of course, because his quarterback, Dak Prescott, went down for the season in game five.

Kevin Stefanski stepped into a pleasant situation in Cleveland, which had been building their squad for several years. It was only a matter of time before the right coach took over. He won his division at 11-5 and even a playoff game. Browns fans are excited. Joe Judge guided the woeful Giants to a 6-10 record in the same dismal NFC East. Matt Rhule went 5-11 in Carolina, where injuries and an unsettled quarterback situation hampered progress.  

As I have done for the past twelve years of so, I used my Chance of Success Total (“COST”) system to forecast the probability of success for this group of new incoming coaches. Based upon only a single year of performance, let’s see how my predictions are looking:

The jury is still out on all of them. Stefanski looks great, but Cleveland is Cleveland. Expectations are through the roof. The return of Dak Prescott should right the ship in Dallas, and Mike McCarthy knows how to coach. How happy can you be in Washington winning the division and making the playoffs at 7-9? Carolina and New York are up hill battles.

I have been studying NFL head coaches for many years. My first book, “The Perfect Pro Football Coach,” ranks every head coach since 1960 from best to worst. I have built upon my ranking system to devise a method to forecast success of a new head coaching candidate. The Chance of Success Total (“COST”) system is the subject of my latest book, “Tackling the Perfect Pro Football Coach”, which is available through Kindle and Amazon.

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Upon Further Review: The Texans Didn’t Do So Badly Afterall

The NFL’s Newest Head Coaches

 Once the season ends, there is a scramble and rush to grab a warm body, even though the most critical job directly affecting the ultimate success of the team is at stake. Sure, it must be done with dispatch but not by making snap decisions only to be regretted later. Why not take a little more time to be sure of the choice? The media hype and concern that some other team will get the best guy drives impetuous, short-sighted decision making. In two or three years, the whole thing must be repeated.

So, let’s see what just happened around the NFL this time and apply our crystal ball a bit. This year’s class is unique in that there are no re-treads. None of the seven has ever held the reins of an NFL team, other for a brief interim cameo. In fact, Urban Meyer at Jacksonville has never been in the NFL at all. The Jets brought in Robert Saleh from the 49ers, with a reputation of being hard-nosed, energetic, and driven, the complete opposite of the departed Adam Gase. Why was he ever there in the first place? But then the Jets are the Jets. The confused Eagles hired Nick Sirianni, after his three decent years as the OC under Frank Reich in Indianapolis. The Eagles chopped their Super Bowl coach while benching their franchise $128 million-dollar quarterback. A similar situation occurred in Atlanta, where recent Super Bowl coach Dan Quinn was cashiered and replaced by Arthur Smith, the OC with the Titans for two years where he was blessed with the incomparable Derrick Henry. The Lions didn’t waste any time bringing in Dave Campbell, whose NFL experience includes 11 years as a tight end and 11 years as a tight ends coach. The Chargers grabbed this year’s hot young gun, Brandon Staley, from the staff of the prototype young gun, John McVay of the Rams. Staley has been in the NFL for four years, the last of which he was a DC. The Texans finally pulled off the biggest reach of all, by hiring 65-year-old Dave Culley, DC at Baltimore after fifteen years next to Andy Reid among other renowned coaches.

   Time will tell, but I have my idea of who may be successful and who will not. I have developed a straightforward approach for ranking coaches, strictly based on their performance on the field. Using that information, I have a method that forecasts future success based on how a new candidate’s credentials measure up with the successful coaches in recent history. It is called the Chance of Success Total (“COST”). There is more on my website:  http://perfectprocoach.com/

Here’s how these new guys shake out in order of predicted success

It is important to recognize that my scores are strictly based upon on-the-field performances. I do not consider any intangibles, which I realize are critical to real-life coaching hiring decisions. I do not consider personalities, ownership peculiarities, the existing team roster, etc. The “perfect pro football coach” would score an even 100 points under the COST system. A score of 75 and above is very good. High 60s and 70s are possible successes. Below that, success is unlikely.

In this group Dave Culley scored well because of his extensive experience with successful NFL teams in senior coaching positions. He has also been a winner almost everywhere he has ever been. Although he lacks experience and has not been a coordinator very long, Brandon Staley has been in winning programs at every level. The same applies to Nick Sirianni. Both could do well. Everybody seems fired up about Robert Saleh. My biggest problem with him is that he has a career winning percentage below 50.0%. Arthur Smith has been a coordinator for only two years and Dan Campbell, not at all. Both are career losers, which result in downgrading in my analysis. Urban Meyer has amassed monumental accomplishments on the college level, but it is very rare for a big-time college head coach to jump right into the NFL and be successful (e.g., Chip Kelly). I would not be surprised, though, if Urban Meyer is the exception.

I have been predicting success of future NFL head coaches for the past twelve years. No one in his right mind would hire a coach based strictly upon my success forecasts. Had the NFL owners followed my COST predictions, their batting average of under.200 would have tripled. I am not perfect, but I am batting over.600. And don’t feel sorry for the Texans, they got a solid guy.

The annual NFL head coach bloodletting is over. Seven coaches were let go, which is right at the yearly average of about 20%. As someone who has scrutinized NFL head coaching turnover for many years, I am always curious to see owners anoint as the next guy to “get-us-to the big dance”. As a group, NFL owners have showed the inability to make wise decisions when replacing this most important position. In fact, over the past decade the numbers show that only a paltry one of every five new coaches is successful: a dreadful track record. The media, of course, does not help matters by preying on coaching vacancies like buzzards on road kill. No matter who is selected, the local team is blamed for having just blown it and missing the best guy out there. It amuses me to watch the writers excoriate the downtrodden Texans because they had an open head coaching vacancy for six months, “the first to open up and the last to be filled.” They could not understand why it took so long to find a new coach. Could it have been that the team had no general manager during most of that time, which was during the season, when it is impossible to hire any coach unless he is an out of work re-tread? The good ones were still working.

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Try, Try, Try Again : The NFL’s Newest Head Coaches

Here we go again, the annual ritual of head coach bloodletting for 2020 seems to be over at this point in January. Every year about 20% of NFL head coaches are shown the door, which usually means the Browns and six other teams bring in a new head coach. This year has been a bit lighter with only five replacements announced. Included, of course, are the Browns, who hired Mark Stefnaski. The Cowboys, who finally parted ways with Jason, Jones, err Garrett for Mike McCarthy. The Panthers tapped Baylor’s Matt Ruhle and ousted Ron Rivera. The Redskins decided the Panthers must have made a mistake and grabbed Ron Rivera. Finally, the Giants, who continue to confound by bringing on Joe Judge from the Patriots staff. The Wonderkid Search continues. These five new coaches represent a diverse assortment of credentials, backgrounds, and philosophies. So, how will they do? No one knows but optimism reigns supreme. I think I have an idea who may be successful and who will not.

I have been studying NFL head coaches for many years. In 2012 I published a book, “The Perfect Pro Football Coach,” in which I ranked every one of the 300 some head coaches since the AFL-NFL merger from best to worst. In doing so, I developed an unpretentious system for rating coaches, strictly based on their performance on the field. I know who was good, and I know who was not. I have now taken my studies one step further and come up with a rating system that forecasts success based on the parallels a new candidate has with the successful coaches in recent history. It is called the Chance of Success Total (“COST”) system. This approached is detailed in my latest book, “Tackling the Perfect Pro Football Coach.”

Here’s how these new guys shake out in order of predicted success

My scores are strictly based upon on-the-field performance of their teams once they take over. I do not consider personalities, ownership peculiarities, the existing team roster, etc. The “perfect pro football coach” would score an even 100 points under the COST system. A score in the 80’s and above is very good. High 60’s and 70’s are possible successes. Below that, success is unlikely.

In this group Ron Rivera scored high because of his extensive experience as a successful NFL head coach and coordinator. He has also been a winner almost everywhere he has ever been. In general, I downgrade coaches who have been head coaches before since almost two-thirds of them fare worst in their subsequent gigs. In Rivera’s and Mike McCarthy’s case, I actually up graded them because they performed very well in the former jobs. Ken Stefanski has good credentials, although he lacks experience has not been a coordinator very long. Joe Judge has never been a coordinator, which is the kiss of death for me. Matt Ruhl has some impressive accomplishments, but I have discovered that it very rare for a big-time college head coach to jump right into the NFL and be successful, although Matt did have a cameo with the Giants a few years ago. Interestingly, my research indicates that having been an NFL head coach anywhere before is not a requirement. There have been many successes who had never been a head coach anywhere before.

I have been predicting success of future NFL head coaches for the past eleven years. I am certain of one thing: NFL ownership has done an abysmal job in finding new coaches. In fact, their success rate is under 20%. Had they followed my COST predictions their batting average would have gone up by about three times that figure. I am not perfect but I am batting over .600. Best of luck to the new guys. They are going to need it.

There is much more detail information about COST forecasts in my latest book, “Tackling the Perfect Pro Football Coach”, which is available through Kindle and Amazon.

http://amazon.com/dp/B084R75KFF

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Okay, Boys. It is Report Card Time

Every year since 2009 we have been assessing the probable success of each new NFL head coach hire before his first game using our “Success Predictably Gradient (SPG)” analysis. Including the new slate for the 2017 season, we have evaluated the outlook for some fifty-six coaches. We excluded the interim men who were brought on during the season. While it truly takes in our judgment at least three to four years to determine if a new coach has the “right stuff”, nonetheless, we still evaluate actual performance each year as compared to our original forecasts. So let’s take a peek at the Class of 2016 and see how they did.

Here is how the class performed.

class-report

(* These guys actually made the playoffs)

Our SPG forecasts didn’t assume exceptionally good things from this group, and a winning percentage under 44.0% tends to substantiate that forecast. There were, however, some bright spots as well as some disasters. Our SPG grades anticipated that McAdoo and Gase would perform the best, and they fulfilled that expectation. In fact, both exceeded our expectations with playoff performances. On the other hand, we felt that Hue Jackson would at least hold his own, which even in Cleveland, he failed to do. We didn’t expect much from Chip Kelly, and he didn’t let us down. Mike Mullarkey’s winning record in Tennessee must also be considered a pleasant surprise.

As we mentioned above, you really can’t tell too much from a single season, although lately a number of owners have not waited much longer than that to pull the trigger.

For more on how we rate head coaches visit our website-   http://perfectprocoach.com .

 

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The Perfect Pro Football Coach by Robert DeLuca is now available at most other national booksellers.

Amazon: http://tiny.cc/7iko9x

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THE ANNUAL COACH-ATHON

As usual the end of the 2016 regular NFL season saw the termination of about one fifth of the head coaches in the league. In fact, from 2012 through 2015 exactly seven coaches were fired each year. So far this year the number is six, but we may not be done yet. Like many things in life it is not hard to determine when you are unhappy with something, but fixing it is quite another matter. Maybe there is a way to guard against the frequent poor hires that occur so often?

Since 2009, we have been tracking new head coach hires and applying their credentials against a set of standards, which we have developed after closely studying the attributes and detracting characteristics of the almost 300 coaches who have run NFL teams over the past fifty years. We then use our “Success Predictably Gradient (SPG)” to forecast the likelihood of success for each new hire. We are not perfect, but our batting average has been much better than the NFL Owners have achieved.

We look only at a hard data comparison of how a new coach compares with the best and worst that have gone before him. We do not measure personalities or what is in his heart. These factors are ,of course, critical to any hiring decision. We also do not attempt to provide an explanation for why certain factors apply, only that the better coaches seem to have them. Our reasoning is very straightforward, the more your new man compares favorably with the best in the past, the more likely he will work out for you.

As of this writing five of the six vacancies have been filled with only the 49’ers coach-less at this point. Perhaps they are waiting for the playoffs to be complete before they hire someone like Josh McDaniel’s of the Pats or Kyle Shanahan of the Falcons. That said, based on our SPG scores we feel that the first five selections have been unusually good by historical standards, with one glaring exception.  A perfect SPG score is 100 points based on about fifteen key factors.  As in the classroom, 90+ is excellent, 80’s are very good, 70’s are okay, and then the trouble begins.

Here are the SPG scores of the five hires and two contenders so far:

img_20170123_0005 Both Marrone and McVay are graded down because they have not been around winners for most of their football careers. We also tend to score down new coaches who have done it before, since about two-thirds of them do worse the second time around. McVay suffers from his tender age and lack of time (only two years) as a coordinator. He simply has not paid his dues as yet. All the others have considerable time on NFL staffs, particularly as coordinators.

Remember Josh McDaniels in Denver?

For more on how we rate head coaches visit our website-   http://perfectprocoach.com .

The Perfect Pro Football Coach by Robert DeLuca is now available at most other national booksellers.

Amazon: http://tiny.cc/7iko9x

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Brotherly Love

Yes, I am a product of the sixties when the world was turned upside down. There is a famous Kingston Trio ballad from that era “Where Have All the Flowers Gone” which includes the memorable line “Oh, when will they ever learn?” Blessed with a brother, I have some understanding of the innate affection, concern, and desire to ensure that my sibling is doing well, especially should the circumstances of his life turn downward. Correspondingly, the feelings shared by fraternal twins must be even stronger. That said, there’s just got be a limit between outright nepotism and the bounds of appropriate business behavior. When will pro football coaches ever learn that hiring family is not necessarily a good idea?

            The hiring by Rex Ryan, whose “not-as-big-as-it was” posterior is beginning to sizzle in Buffalo, of his fraternal twin, Rob, as assistant head/defense coach, defies all good football, business sense. Sure Rex felt bad for Rob, who was down on his luck. The barbershop refugee must have been treated unfairly and not given a chance as defensive coordinator at the Oakland Raiders, Cleveland Browns, Dallas Cowboys, St. Louis Rams (almost), and New Orleans Saints. Just by looking at Rob, it is instantly clear that he obviously marches to the beat of his own drum, which is not necessarily a bad thing in itself. On the other hand, I believe it is reasonable to ask how someone who cares so little about his own personal appearance can at the same time still be precocious in scheming against opposing NFL offenses. In today’s NFL emotion only goes so far.

            In situations like this I am always reminded about the guy that has several traffic accidents every year, but none are ever his fault. Hmm? Rex has a long and thoroughly proven record of under achievement. It is one thing for a Mike Shanahan to arrange for his son, Kyle, to catch on as an assistant with an NFL staff and then earn his way up through the ranks. Rex’s swaddling of Rob, however, who has bombed out in dramatic fashion all over the league, makes little football sense. Perhaps, Rex sees his stay on Lake Erie as almost over. At least this way Robby can cash a few more checks.

            So what do I know? After the Bills shut out the Patriots at their home last week I picked them up on my fantasy football league team. As I said there is just something about the way two close brothers can work together…….

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Credit If Credit Is Due

Our CASH system of ranking NFL head coaches is simple, accurate, and downright cute, but wouldn’t it be nice to know how a coach is likely to do before he toots his whistle in your practice facility? Sure, and that is why we developed our Success Predictability Gradient (“SPG”) analysis for new hires, which we have used since 2009. It has turned out to be pretty accurate in weeding out the achievers from the busts.

One of the more surprising facts we extracted from our analysis some years ago was that most re-hired NFL head coaches do worse the second time around. In fact, about two-thirds of them suffer poorer winning percentages than during the first gigs. The statistics bear this strange fact out.

We got to thinking about our SPG criteria and realized that we probably should include a measurement factor for prior head NFL coaching experience in our equation. To account for a previous head coach’s experience, we first compared his personal CASH score with the median CASH Score for all coaches. Eric Mangini, for example, in 2009 had a CASH score of 1,448, when the median CASH score was only 882. Eric had performed better than many. In fact, he ranked 102nd of 245 total coaches. With 143 coaches below him, Eric ranked at 58.8% of all coaches. Perhaps he merited a point or two in SPG because he had been better than average.

We have now added the following chart, which adds or detracts SPG points based on how a previous coach has done. It has no bearing on a coach who has never been a head coach before.

Previous Coaching Record

Points Adjusted           Coaches Peer Rank

                                                              + 8                                    + 90%

                                                               +6                                      80-89%

                                                               +4                                      70-79%

                                                               +2                                      60-69%

                                                                  0                                      50-59%

                                                                -5                                      Below 50%

In general, we don’t like it if a new guys has been a head coach before, but if he has done well we will recognize it. Alas, Eric didn’t snare any more points.

For more on how we rate head coaches visit our website-   http://perfectprocoach.comI

The Perfect Pro Football Coach by Robert DeLuca is now available at the I Bookstore and most other national booksellers.

Amazon:  http://tiny.cc/7iko9x

 

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Dennis Green: One of the best Ever

With the early passing of Dennis Green this week at age 67, the NFL coaching fraternity lost a giant in more ways than one. He will be remembered as a pioneer having been one of the first African-American head coaches, who proved without a doubt that race was simply a non-starter in the coaching business. There are numerous testimonials about his brilliant interpersonal skills among his players and coaching staffs. He wanted everyone to succeed. Beyond these warm and fuzzy well-deserved platitudes, however, the fact is that Dennis Green earned a spot among the most successful NFL head coaches of all time.

Our analysis of NFL coaching success incorporates a total of four key on-the-field statistical data points into a Coaching Assessment Scoring Hierarchy (CASH) index for the body of a coach’s work. Every coach’s CASH score is then ranked from first to about three hundred, which is total of NFL heads coaches since 1960. Once those coaches who have not met a minimum number of games threshold are eliminated, ninety-four have been around long enough for All-Time consideration. Dennis Green ranks thirty-third on our All Time list. He is just behind Chuck Knox but ahead among others of Hank Stram, Dan Reeves, and Mike Shanahan. With the Vikings he won almost 100 games, actually 97, and lost only 67 for an excellent 61.0% regular season winning percentage. He took the Vikings to the playoffs an incredible 8 out of 10 years. Had he stopped there his ranking would have approached the top ten. Unfortunately as happens with so many coaches, the second time around never equals the success of the first. At Arizona he only won a third of his games and never went to the playoffs.

Our rankings are strictly numbers driven, but it is always refreshing to hear about a successful on-the-field coach who is also a wonderful human being.

For more on how we rate head coaches visit our website-   http://perfectprocoach.com .

The Perfect Pro Football Coach by Robert DeLuca is now available at the I Bookstore and most other national booksellers.

Amazon:  http://tiny.cc/7iko9x

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Put Me in, Coach

Our analysis of the head coaching potion in the National Football League is designed to be firmly based upon what has transpired on the filed in terms of wins and losses and then a correlation of that level of success to the qualifications and background of each individual coach. We then attempt to see what the best ones have in common. What we don’t dwell upon is why coaches with certain common qualifications are successful. For instance, there is a definite positive correlation between coaches from Western Pennsylvania and Ohio and success as an NFL head coach. We really can’t tell you why, but the fact is, they have consistently done well. Is it the water? Hardscrabble environment? Dunno.

On the other hand, I got thinking how interesting it is that a number of the very best NFL head coaches, who also played in the league were fringe or marginal at best. We clearly recognize that there has never been a hall of famer who was worth much as an NFL head coach, but sitting on the bench for a while may be a good thing. Consider some of the very best of all time such as Tony Dungy, Don Shula, Tom Landry, Bud Grant, and Bill Cowher. All of them played for at least a few years in the league and with the exception of perhaps Tom Landry, none of them particularly distinguished himself wearing a helmet.

I wonder if these coaches and others were able to have a unique perspective to learn the in’s and out’s of professional football that they put to great advantage when they exchanged their playbooks for clipboards. They may have been able to observe and learn without the pressure and wear and tear mentally and physically that the great players had to endure. It might also be true that their pay envelopes were not as full as the best players, and that itself may have been a motivating factor to pay a little extra attention. There is no question that being in and around the game for a while is critical for a prospective head coach, and what better classroom could there be than at the center of the bench?

            There is a lot more at our website-   http://perfectprocoach.com .

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The Perfect Pro Football Coach by Robert DeLuca is now available in paperback and an E book d most national booksellers.

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