January 29, 2019
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Super Innovating

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.


What Sean McVay will do:
Jet Sweep and Repeat and Repeat 

At 33 years old, Sean McVay of the Los Angeles Rams is the youngest professional head coach and it’s not even close. He got there because he has a photographic memory and a propensity for challenging the professional football status quo when it comes to offensive innovation. All those big words can be translated into one distinct characteristic of McVay’s offensive philosophy—motion, motion and more motion.

When his team’s offense takes the field this Sunday you’ll notice one thing almost instantly—they move around a ton and they move fast. This is a deliberate way to keep the defense guessing which causes miscommunication and mismatches. One play in particular you will see a disproportionate amount of is the jet sweep.

The jet sweep is not a new play—in fact you see it in the college game all the time. It’s basically a wide receiver sprinting across the formation as the quarterback snaps the ball. Sometimes the WR gets the ball handed to him, sometimes he doesn’t. What sets McVay’s philosophy apart is that they do it so often in the professional game (this was scoffed at initially because all professional football players are fast, which was thought to negate the play’s effectiveness).

This takes a lot of practice and precision to work at this level. By adding this wrinkle into their standard offensive formations with the speed it takes to be run effectively, it makes game planning against his offense incredibly difficult.

Keep an eye out for this formational tactic—or even count the times you see the jet sweep occur. But whatever you do, do NOT make it a drinking game, you’ll lose consciousness before halftime.


Applying Coaching Innovation to Your Profession

Football coaches aren’t exactly known for being the most innovative group. While some come along to disrupt the status quo, most have been successful by being very pro-quo. So watching two true innovative disrupters go head-to-head should make the Super Cuenco something to watch—but also something to learn from.

Think about the way you try to ideate and problem solve. From a Belichick perspective, if you allowed the competition to win the shorter-term battles, how could that open up opportunities for more lucrative long-term victories? What if you decided to totally diffuse your competitor’s greatest strength? How would that change things?

Using McVay’s style, we all know that speed to market is essential, but what if you added more motion to other areas that aren’t typically given priority, or were thought to not be viable for your industry/market segment—from rapid ideation to prototyping to actual test-and-learn in market? Technology has brought to life a myriad of decades-old ideas that were ahead of their time. If your company wanted to add a jet sweep wrinkle to your typical business formations, what would that actually mean?

But more importantly, what could you actually win?

Now that we’ve predicted what the coaches will do, here’s a few more Super predictions: the halftime show will underwhelm, Twitter will probably blow up for that one commercial that was really funny/controversial (even if you forgot the product) and the game will be very, very close.

Unless it isn’t.

Either way, have a great… err… I mean… super-b… Sunday!


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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