Gene Stallings was a great coach. He believed that the first step in developing a winning team began with developing a philosophy. He had very clear views of his philosophies on both offense and defense, and was insistent upon sticking to his philosophies at all cost.
His stated "On offense I want to score, I want to score a touchdown, I want to kick the score, or move the ball far enough that my opponent has to go 80 yards to score." He was running the veer option one year, and lost a bowl game due to numerous offensive turnovers. In the off-season, he decided that his team needed to move away from the option. He believed that they could dedicate no more time to perfecting the mechanics of the offense, and that even the significant time they put into the previous season, was not enough to prevent these turnovers. He made this bold move because he believed that the option went against his philosophy. The schemes that a coach develops come after the development of a philosophy. Stallings calls this the "Method."
Stallings impact and emphasis in football was defense. More of his time was dedicated to defense than anything. His philosophy on defense was simple: "I want to prevent my opponent from moving the ball effectively." This is pretty obvious, but he believed that not everyone ascribed to this philosophy. When it came to developing a method for his defense he believed he had to create a coordinated defense. "I want the front to coordinate with the force, and the force to coordinate with the coverage." For him, football was a game of forces, and that if he could force the ball well and defend the end run effectively, then it would make it hard for the offense to move the ball effectively.
On defending the end run, he believed that there were three key parts. These parts have become central to the development of any effective pass coverage scheme. These three parts are:
1. A player to turn the ball back inside (run force).
2. A player to play the cutback (alley)
3. A player to play the play-pass.
This is all you need to defend the end run. If each person does their job, the offense will not be able to run the ball outside. The first two parts are obvious, the third was not as much in the past. During these days the pro-I was the norm. Teams tried to establish the toss game. If the toss was getting played aggressively, then they would employ the tricky toss-pass. This play was not designed as much a "trick-play", as it was a play to keep the defense honest. The third part of defending the end run, was the player responsible for defending against these tricky plays.
He was insistent that his players understood the principals of run force as well. It was important that each of them knew their responsibility and played their part. He did not want two people forcing the ball or two people playing the play-pass. For example, if the alley player got outside with the force player, he would ask him: "Do you think that the corner can force the ball back inside?" The players would say "yes". He would then answer by asking "Then why are you trying to force the ball?"
He changed his pass coverage by changing his forces. If he was in pistol force, the corner was forcing the ball, the safety was playing the pass, and the linebacker was on the cutback. This was 1/2's coverage. He could control these forces independently on both sides. This was an early form of the split-safety coverage that is employed today. If the call was rifle force, the safety played the force, the corner was on the play pass, and the backer played the cutback. This is the same force package that modern quarters teams employ. Finally he would have box force. This was backer force. The safety played the cutback, and the corner was on the play pass. This force was used on the weak side of cover 3, and man coverage.
Stallings was also a proponent of press-man coverage. He believed that if you sat in zone, the offense would be able to move the ball effectively with short controlled passes. He would talk to coaches about getting the fear of getting beat deep out of their heads, and make a commitment to utilizing aggressive man. I am sure that most defensive coaches are still scared of press-man coverage. Stallings was probably a little uncomfortable too. However, he knew it was something he had to do in order to prevent the offense from moving the ball effectively.
BECOMING A GREAT COACH
Another part of his belief structure was on being a great coach. To be a great coach you have to be a great teacher. And to be a great teacher, you have to be able to "speak with authority". He preached the basic parts of effective teaching such as accountability and attitude. However, he stressed another, sometimes overlooked part of the job. Speaking with authority meant you were completely knowledgeable about what you were talking about. If you did not understand something fully then the players would be able to see through that.
If you are an offensive coordinator, you better know the passing concepts, blocking schemes, and the various mechanics of each position in and out. "If you don't, then you are cheating your players." The same went for defense. Also, if you were a position coach you better know that position inside and out. A great coach should know it to the extent that they are educated about it in schemes that are not part of the ones they coach.
The head coach was no different. Stallings believed that the head coach should be knowledgeable about all the aspects of football. The head coach should know offense, defense and the kicking game in depth. If not, you are cheating the team. This is crucial, if you are an offensive coach that becomes a head coach. How can you speak with authority to your defensive coordinator, about an issue you have with his scheme, if you don't know defensive football in and out? This what he believed was necessary for speaking with authority. When a coach gets up to the board to talk football, he needs to be able to speak with authority.
Finally, Stallings explained a simple process for getting to this point. He believed that a coach should dedicate one hour per day to studying football, any aspect of it. This is a time where you don't take phone calls or any other type of distraction. You can read about football, watch films, talk to others whom are knowledgeable about football, ect. If you do this consistently, after a few years "you will be an authority on any aspect of the game." This is what I love about reading football blogs, it is a time to dedicate yourself to getting better at the game.
This is just a snapshot of Gene Stallings' Philosophy. The important thing to take away from this is the commitment he made to sticking to it. He altered his offensive schemes and defensive coverage to stay consistent with what he believed. This commitment was a big part of his success. Perhaps, the biggest key to becoming a great coach was doing the things necessary to be a coach that can speak with authority about any aspect in the game of football.
This information was gathered from the 1992 and 1993 COY Manuals.