Local high school football coaches can admire the work of Fox

Sunday, February 1, 2004

While Super Bowl XXXVIII may lack star power, it has plenty of brain power.

New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick is lauded as a defensive genius, having thwarted the high-powered St. Louis Rams in the Super Bowl two years ago.

Carolina Panthers coach John Fox, whose coaching background also is on the defensive side of the ball, has earned credit for taking a team that was 1-15 in 2001 to the brink of the championship.

The teams may have plenty of no-names, but the coaches have earned the admiration of others in the business. And that's why today's game at Reliant Stadium in Houston could be an entertaining chess match of two of the league's top masterminds.

It may especially be entertaining for coaches.

"I think these guys are just super prepared," Central football coach Lawrence Brookins said. "I don't think they leave one stone unturned.

"If I could have a chance to sit down and talk with the coaches and their assistants -- because those assistants are very good at what they do -- I'd just love to sit and watch their preparations."

The defensive schemes on display will have appeal to those who work with X's and O's.

"Belichick is obviously one of the best football coaches ever," Jackson coach Carl Gross said. "I really don't think the Patriots have as much talent as a lot of teams in the NFL, but he's one of the best coaches ever.

"The biggest thing is they are all very smart and they really believe in what they're doing. Everything is just synchronized. They're so deceptive it's unbelievable. I'm really impressed."

But don't expect area high school coaches to watch the game with a notebook in hand, picking up formations and blitz packages for their own use.

"I don't know that you can, just watching on TV, but if we had the regular game tape we could break it down," Gross said.

"It's tempting to steal some stuff, but you've got to be realistic, too," Brookins said. "You can't have your defensive backs playing bump-and-run coverage like the Patriots if they're not capable of doing it. You've got to remember we're talking about guys who are very large and very fast. These guys we watch on TV, if you could see them in real life and see the things they can do, you'd be amazed."

The difference in talent from the NFL to a high school level means imitation, the sincerest form of flattery, must be tempered.

"Every coach modifies a bit when you see some things," Brookins said. "These guys do football for life. It's 24-7. They have a captive audience throughout the season and beyond. They have so much time to get into stuff we can't imagine.

"We're forced to keep things simple."

Area coaches do expect to see some things that translate to the game at their level.

"I like to see how people handle pressure," St. Vincent coach Keith Winkler said. "They're on a bigger level than we are but you can see how people go about their business and prepare for games."

"I grew up around coaches who said, 'Coaching is a race against time, and you just don't have enough time,'" Brookins said. "And that's true at any level. These guys know how to make use of the time they have. They know where to put players in position to make plays. And then the players have to make plays because the coaches don't tackle anyone."

So while the most intriguing matchup of today's Super Bowl may be Fox vs. Belichick, it's the plays made by Tom Brady or Stephen Davis that may decide the outcome.

"The bottom line is: You've got to block and tackle," Gross said. "That's football. If you block and tackle and play within a scheme, it's a character builder. There haven't been many things where one person made things successful. Some people claim that but usually it's a bunch of people.

"The players have bought into what they're trying to do and that's the reason they're here. They may not be the two best teams, but they are the two best coaches."

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