January 29, 2019

Super Innovating: Part I

How Sunday’s Coaches Out-Innovate the Competition


With the “super” big football game upon us, it is our mandatory duty to insert ourselves into the conversation. Which can be tough to do when you’re an innovation agency (#forcefit). Fortunately, this year is more appropriate than most thanks to the two head coaches involved—Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots and Sean McVay of the Los Angeles Rams—because in the recent history of the… ahem… uperSa owlBa (yeah, I know, but the NFL lawyers are… persistent) there has never been a more aligned match up of true innovators when it comes to the big game.

If you’re a fan then you are already familiar with some elements of their innovative approaches. You are also aware that minus one bogus non-call and one boneheaded offside then we’d have two different coaches to talk about… but for all intents and purposes (and for the sake of this article topic) that won’t change what makes both Belichick and McVay ridiculously successful.

However, instead of going into everything that they have done to reach this point, we’re going to innovate and instead try and predict what they will do… so this series will age really well… or really badly. No risk, no reward. Consider this Part I (that’s a Roman numeral for the record).


What Bill Belichick will do:
Allow an Average Player to Have An Amazing Game 

In a previous Bowl game that was Super, circa 1990, Bill Belichick was a defensive coordinator for the New York Giants who were going against a favored Buffalo Bills team. At the time the Giants had a stalwart defensive line and were very stingy to opposing running backs. However, when he unveiled the game plan for the defense, he informed the players that they were going to purposely give up at least 100 yards to the Bill’s running backs. His rationale was that by keeping the other team running, their explosive pass offense would be easier to hold in check.

Long story short: The Bills ran for 166 yards (a very impressive number)… and the Giants won the game. Belichick has been making counter-intuitive coaching moves ever since.

Fast forward 25 years later, you can be pretty certain that a non-superstar player for the Los Angeles Rams will have a near-career day (my money is on a tight end scoring a touchdown or two). I can say this with such conviction because by championing the idea of allowing for a less explosive player to have a great day, Belichick has innovated his defensive schemes to allow for failure of a sort, in order to maximize the overall team success.

Here’s the really interesting thing—almost no other head coach game plans this way. It takes a lot of fortitude to believe that your players have been coached to make it work the way you expect (they will make you look really bad if they don’t). This is innovation in its purest form—the kind of risky thinking that only a few companies in the business world have ever truly duplicated.


Stay tuned for part II of the article to learn what Sean McVay will do…


Jed Golden is a Senior Copy Director at Seed Strategy where he loves coming up with creative words just slightly more than dispensing workout advice. If you’re looking for either (or even if you just need a good spot), he’s ready to pump (clap!) you up.


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