Philadelphia Eagles News

Experience Crucial For Coaches

It is clear, in this times of labor unrest as the NFL's work stoppage creeps into the critical period of mid-May, that how quickly a coaching staff can a teach the system and his demands for a certain technique is going to have great impact on wins and losses in 2011. There simply is not going to be a lot of time to go through the daily grind of repetition and of establishing muscle memory in the little things of the game.

Washburn, for example, knows that he has a lot of talent to work with on the defensive. Much of that talent is unrefined and nearly all of it is not aware of Washburn's coaching style, his methods of motivation or what he asks of his players every day. There is going to be a new look up front for the Eagles' defensive line, as we have discussed throughout this longer-than-long offseason, but how much time will Washburn have to implement the changes?

On the other side of the line of scrimmage, Mudd believes in keeping things as simple as possible. "Do those things extraordinarily well," he says.

Sounds great. Mudd has a long history of success and there is no reason to doubt that his presence will have a hugely positive impact here. But what if the labor problems drag deep into the summer and limit his practice time to only a few weeks? How do you condense 30 years of coaching in the NFL to a couple of dozen practices and expect your offensive line to play great football?

These are questions that may need to be answered. We're 60-plus days into the work stoppage, with mediation looming and a June 3 court date to watch. The Eagles coaching staff, changed so significantly after the playoff loss to Green Bay, is doing everything it can to come out of the gates running when, in fact, the doors for NFL business open again. For the Eagles, the good news is that the coaching staff has tremendous experience in just about every kind of situation, so if there is a staff that can overcome any future obstacles, it is this group.

At the same time, the Eagles overhauled the coaching staff on the defensive side of the ball, and new coordinator Juan Castillo is itching to get to work with his players. Same with Washburn, and the rest of the defensive coaching staff. They want to learn everything they can about the players they now have.

Each day goes by now without a resolution to the work stoppage, so the coaches have to exercise remarkable patience. They have to study other things -- 2011 coaching tendencies, an entire league of situational play, their own personnel, even old game film of upcoming opponents that dig deep, deep, deep into the archives.

This is about using the down time wisely and then running an efficient ship when the practices begin. It is not about having a fancy, schmansy scheme and nobody can handle in a limited time. You're going to see dumbed-down X's and O's, at least if the practice time is severely curtailed. Teams have limited time as it is to evaluate personnel and arrive at the right 53 players to make the roster.

Offensively, the Eagles have an experienced group and a scheme that likely won't change a whole lot. Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg knows that quarterback Michael Vick is well versed in the attack. So are nine other projected starters. The lone starter who needs to learn quickly is first-round draft pick Danny Watkins, who is part of an entire offensive line group that has a big challenge ahead doing things Mudd's way.

But for the most part, the offense is ahead of the game, and that will be an advantage this season. The defense has been overhauled -- from the coaching staff on down -- and it's going to require Castillo to keep things as simple as possible in every phase of his game plan.

Of course, this entire premise could change if the labor issues go away and peace, love and high television ratings again rule the day sooner rather than later. But in case they don't, take solace in the knowledge that the Eagles have a veteran coaching staff that, while there have been changes, haven't been nearly as massive as some staffs around the league. Know that the offense should resume where it left off in 2010, and then some, by virtue of returning nearly whole for 2011.

And know that even some of the new pieces to the coaching staff, Mudd and Washburn in particular, have a long and successful track record upon which to rely. That should pay dividends in many ways in the months ahead.

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