Bill Parcells: Telling Players How They Are Being Evaluated

Bill Parcells Intro

Most teams going into NFL training camp have an offensive and defensive installation schedule that was implemented, in part, in the OTA section of their practices in the spring or in the minicamps.

That installation schedule is followed up at training camp, so that by the time camp’s completed, hopefully the players have been through it at least a couple of times and they have a pretty good understanding of (at least) the basics of the offensive, defensive and special-teams systems.

Get The Right 53 Players On The Team

Now, when I was a head coach, my main objective was to get the right 53 players on the team—those that create depth and allow flexibility. As practices got underway and the general structure was going smoothly, I would focus on one group of players daily because I felt it was better to deal with smaller groups than the whole team. One day, I might be looking at the defensive backs and I would look long and hard until I was satisfied that I had an understanding of what was there. The next day, I might be looking at the offensive linemen. I wanted to make sure that I got my eyes on everybody.

Get the New Players Into the System

My second objective was to integrate new players into the system. But, here’s the qualifier: Don’t burden younger players with multiple roles when they first start, because that sometimes slows down the learning process. If they get too many things going on, you don’t see their best. If you can keep it relatively simple for them as they transition to the league, training camp and getting going against the veterans, I found out that sometimes it’s better. They can show you what they have as you try to integrate them in without burdening them mentally. If they’re thinking too much, they’re not able to play as fast as you would like them to.

Repeat The Fundamentals

Third was not being afraid to repeat the most elementary fundamentals and to constantly go back over those things and emphasize those things. Even to my veteran players, I never was afraid to implement the most elementary fundamentals: the stance, the take-off, the fire-out, the defensive charge, the linebacker-block protection, the defensive backs’ technique as far as mid points of zones, man-to-man, press and off coverage. Lots of things, fundamentally, must be stressed. I didn’t take for granted that even the veteran players were up to speed. Now, most of the time they were, but by not being afraid to repeat those fundamentals, I think that that kind of solidified the things in the player’s mind that I thought were important.

Telling The Players HOW They Are Being Evaluated

I also wanted all the players to know how they were being evaluated. Here’s what I told them:

One: Does he know what to do? Is he learning his assignments?

If he’s making a lot of mistakes—one after another—that’s not good news.

Two: Is he trying to employ the techniques that he’s being taught?

Sometimes you get young kids who don’t have basic fundamentals, and they’re a little bit like street players. They’re just all instinct, and I always wanted to give them some kind of technical thing to rely on. Then, I’d evaluate how well they were catching on and trying to employ that technique.

Third: Is he consistent in his learning and his practice habits? Or am I seeing a different guy every day?

I would always emphasize to the team to try to be the same guy every day and part of that is being consistent with your learning and your studying and, on the practice field, trying to execute the techniques that we teach you.

Fourth: Is he in good condition?

I evaluate that because it tells me how much work they put into it. Obviously, some guys have weight problems here and there. If their endurance isn’t allowing them to function well at practice, then that’s kind of a little bit of a red flag to me.

Fifth: What kind of effort and toughness does he display?

Mental toughness is also a part of that because sometimes you’re criticizing the player or sometimes, you’re saying things to him that haven’t been said to him before. Once in a while, I would do that and was a little sarcastic sometimes.

Sixth: Does he have enough talent?

That’s what should separate all of you. The other things should be pretty much in place for everybody.


As told to Vic Carucci


Part 2 of Bill Parcells’ introductory article with The 33rd Team can be found here. Coach Parcells recounts what he learned from fellow Hall of Fame Coach Tom Landry when it came to assembling a Super Bowl-winning roster. 


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