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Crucial Simplicity


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By Dan Fouts as told to Charlie Jones, extract from the Chicken Soup for the Soul Sports Edition


We’d like to share with you this extraordinary story below.  I re-found it recently and shared it with a number of our clients and they loved it as much as I did.  Crucial Simplicity is an excellent example of how the best head coaches get the most important things right.  This short story is inspiring in its simplicity and is all about achieving the best from your players and athletes, when it matters the most.

“Concentration is the ability to think about absolutely nothin’ when it is absolutely necessary” – Ray Knight

I remember one of the first times I went to the sideline for that “end of the first half, two minute-warning talk” with the coaching staff.  It was Don Coryell’s first year as head coach of the San Diego Chargers. He had an impressive staff, as well as some great receivers for me to work with.  On the phone was assistant coach Jim Hanifan, connected upstairs to the other assistants Joe Gibbs and Ernie Zampese.

So I’m at the sideline, expecting to hear Coryell tell me exactly what he wants me to do.  But I don’t hear a word from Coryell;  Hanifan’s doing all the talking.  Gibbs is relaying to him, and Zampese is relating to Gibbs, and the three of them are going back and forth, funnelling all this information into a bewildered young quarterback.

Hanifan is saying, “Now, on the next play, we’re going to run eight-forty-four wide. You want to look at the weak safety, and if the weak safety stays in the middle, try to hit Charlie Joiner on the post.  Now, if the weak safety hangs to the weak side, then try to hit Kellan Winslow over the middle, and then there’s J.J. (John Jefferson), who’s running a corner.  Now, if the linebackers drop back too far,” Hanifan’s telling me, “then dump it off to Chuck Muncie underneath.  Now you got that Dan?  You got that?”

The coaches are all talking at once: “Okay, go over it one more time.” “Now you got that? Joiner, Winslow, Jefferson, and then down to Muncie.  Joiner, Winslow, Jefferson, Muncie.”

This is a crucial situation in the ballgame, and they’re giving me all this information, but not a word from Coryell.

I was restrapping my helmet, thinking, Here’s the most innovative offensive coach in football, and I haven’t heard a word from him… all I’ve done is hear from the assistants.. when I feel a tug on my jersey.  I turn around, and there’s Coryell.  I think,Finally, he’s going to tell me exactly what to do.

“Ah, heck,” Coryell said. “Just throw it to J.J.”

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