Thursday, December 31, 2009

Texas Tech's Mike Leach Responds to Firing

“I want everyone to know what a privilege and pleasure it has been to teach and coach more than 400 student-athletes at Texas Tech University over the past 10 years. When I arrived at Texas Tech, the football program was on NCAA probation and the graduation rate was far below the national average. However, in the past 10 years, Tech has been to 10 straight bowl games, has the third best record in the Big 12 Conference, and has the highest graduation rate for football players of any public institution in the country.

Over the past several months, there have been individuals in the Texas Tech administration, Board of Regents and booster groups who have dealt in lies, and continue to do so. These lies have led to my firing this morning. I steadfastly refuse to deal in any lies, and am disappointed that I have not been afforded the opportunity for the truth to be known. Texas Tech’s decision to deal in lies and fabricate a story which led to my firing, includes, but is not limited by, the animosity remaining from last year’s contract negotiations. I will not tolerate such retaliatory action; additionally, we will pursue all available legal remedies.

These actions taken by Texas Tech have severely damaged my reputation and public image. In addition, Texas Tech has caused harm to not only my family, but to the entire Red Raider nation and the sport of college football.

As you know, I prefer to engage in question and answer sessions; however, in this instance my counsel has advised me to simply make a statement. There will be time to answer questions about this issue in the future, but the serious legal nature of this situation prevents me from going into further detail at this time.”

From New York Times, December 30, 2009.

For more on Mike Leach, click on: Peak Performance Case Study.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

NFL Peak Performance Notes

"I got that because that's what I want to do -- I want to live forever. I want to make a difference. I want people to be thinking about my name until the sun blows up."

--Charles Woodson, Green Bay Packers' cornerback, who many consider to be the most valuable defensive NFL player of 2009, discussing the tattoo he has on his right wrist. It is an Egyptian symbol that means "Live forever."

It was not always that way for Woodson.

"Charles always came to play on Sundays," said analyst Bucky Brooks, who was a Raiders defensive back during Woodson's rookie season.

"But he literally would walk into a meeting room, put his playbook on the floor and go right to sleep. He always had great talent. The question was whether he would waste it."

"You start to do a lot more things as you get older. I feel like I'm still a good athlete now but it was different at the start [of his career]. It wasn't until my sixth year in the league that I started to prepare for training camp.

"When I was in my first or second year, I would just go back to Atlanta [his offseason home] and it would be on. I wasn't worrying about longevity," said Woodson.

The Vision

“These guys in the next five weeks can do something that will be with them for 50 years, each one of them. You can hold your breath for five weeks when it comes to getting a benefit that you’ll have for 50 years. That’s the way they ought to look at it.”

--Jerry Jones, Dallas Cowboys' owner, discussing the Cowboys' playoff clinching win and his hope for a Super Bowl win.

Preparation/The Whole is Greater Than the Parts

“When I look at my game, I see that the people who surround me have basically built me into a machine. Like I’m made up of all these parts.”

--Darrelle Revis, New York Jets cornerback.

If Darrelle Revis were building the ideal cornerback from scratch, he would start with the footwork of Deion Sanders, add the vision of Ty Law and mix in Darrell Green’s speed, Champ Bailey’s hands and Charles Woodson’s athleticism.

Now in his third year, Revis studies film daily, during meetings and from 60 to 90 minutes on his own. This season, Revis stopped viewing run plays, because he reacts to those instinctively. Instead, he watches every play from the current season, dozens of times, of the next receiver he will face.

First, he looks for body language. Does the receiver tilt his shoulders forward on a pass play? Has he run go routes with his left foot forward at the line? Does he pop and flex his fingers before running across the middle?

Revis does not play poker, but he said every player has tells, including him. The key is finding what is unique about each receiver, then exploiting that.

“It’s all about memorization,” he said. “I’m in the walk-through calling out routes and formations. To the public eye, in the game, it looks easy. And it is, if you’ve seen it dozens of times and you know what’s coming.”

Mental Mindset/Continuous Improvement

Although more advanced than other cornerbacks with similar experience and ahead in technique, fundamentals, and knowledge, Revis is open to coaching and always wants to learn more. In the off-season, Revis studies the greats at his position, even shoots text messages to Hall of Famer Deion Sanders for advice.

The Game Plan

Head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, Jim Caldwell, in an effort to avoid injuries and rest for the playoffs, took many of his stars and starters out of a game with the New York Jets on Sunday. With a chance for an undefeated regular season in sight, Caldwell decided to play it safe for the bigger goal of winning a Super Bowl. With an division championship in tow, a first-round bye, and the home field advantage for the playoffs already clinched, The Colts lost to the Jets. The move was criticized by many fans and NFL experts.

However, Caldwell also had some defenders in the media.

“You have to take that emotional side out of it before the game even starts. You have to make those decisions: either we’re going all the way or we’re sticking to our formula. I’ve had instances like that in the past where you set your formula and guys say, ‘Hey, leave me in.’ Once that happens to you as a coach, you never allow that to happen again. You have to stick to your guns.”

--Tony Dungy, former Indianapolis Colts head coach and current NFL analyst.

"The main focus for us is making sure we're ready to go [for the playoffs]. The most important season is the one that is coming up.

"I'm one of those guys, it's probably my greatest strength and my greatest weakness, I can focus in, I can narrow my scope, and once you make a decision you have to live with it. Certainly you weigh all the options before. You take a look at all the things that could occur, but once that decision is done you just keep moving."

--Jim Caldwell, Indianapolis Colts' head coach, on his decision to rest starters and lose a chance at an undefeated regular season.


"Until any player is a head coach, you follow orders and you do it with all your heart. We support the decisions that are made. Our orders were to win the game. Our orders weren't to give up a fumble for a touchdown or a kick return for a touchdown [by the Jets' Brad Smith]."

--Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts' quarterback, defending the Colts' decision.

Excerpts from the New York Times, December 28, 2009 and, December 27 & 28, 2009.

For more on Peak Performance, click on The Handbook of Peak Performance.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Alabama Achieves a Vision in Defeating Florida in the SEC Championship

Alabama Establishes a Clear Vision

“Everybody bought into it.”

--Mark Ingram, Alabama running back and Heisman Trophy candidate. Ingram, making a strong bid to claim the school's first Heisman Trophy, rushed for 113 yards and three touchdowns in a win over Florida in the SEC championship game. He passed Bobby Humphrey for the school rushing record in a season (1,542 yards) and augmented his performance with a 69-yard reception on a screen pass.

“Coach Saban’s got a philosophy of hard work and discipline,” Ingram said. “And you can’t have self-indulgent behavior. It’s about doing everything you can, every chance you have, to make the team better.”

"Everything we did all year long was to beat them, to be better than them," Ingram said about their goal of being better than Florida, who beat Alabama in the SEC title game last year.

“We had a meeting [last offseason and told the players] everything you do, every time you go to work, every time we lift weights, it’s not to be as good as the guy you’re playing against, it’s to be as good as the guy you have to beat to be the champion,”

--Nick Saban, head coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide football team.

Drive and Desire

"Everyone had to buy into not to be denied in this game." Saban said. "To be a champion, that's what you had to do. I've never been prouder of a group of players."

"Our standard was to be as good as Florida," Alabama linebacker Cory Reamer said. "Today, we were better than them.”

"They seemed like they wanted it a whole lot," Florida cornerback Joe Haden said.

Preparation and Work

Greg McElroy, Alabama quarterback and MVP of the SEC championship game said the victory was a tribute to all the work that the Tide had put in since the loss to Florida in last year’s SEC title game.

"I think it all came full circle in the sense that all the things we’ve done,” he said. “All the 110s we’ve run and blood, sweat, conditioning, all the reps in the weight room, that’s what it’s all for, taking a knee against Florida to win the SEC championship.”

--Greg McElroy, who threw for 239 yards and a touchdown to claim the SEC Championship Game MVP award.

Mental Mindset

“You’ve got to be responsible and accountable and be able to do your job,” Saban said. “There’s a way you have to do it in terms of the effort, the toughness and the dependability and the discipline. … And when you have a critical mass of players on your team that think like that, they really don’t want the other guys that don’t think that way to be out there with them.”

"If you want to be a champion, you have to have a team of champions," McElroy said. "This team came out and proved itself a champion."

Alabama will now face Texas in the BCS Championship Game in January.

Excerpts from the New York Times, and (December 5-6, 2009).

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Friday, December 04, 2009

Peak Performance Case Study: Vince Young, Tennessee Titans Quarterback

"My goal is to win three or four Super Bowls."

--Vince Young, NFL quarterback responding to questions as he entered his third NFL season with the Tennessee Titans in 2008.

"This guy is unique, no question he's unique. He's a very, very competitive young man. He's used to winning. He's used to being a leader, so it all fits very well."

--Norm Chow, former Tennessee Titans' offensive coordinator, talking about quarterback, Vince Young, and his emerging leadership in 2006, Young’s rookie year.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Vince Young threw for a career high 387 yards, won his ninth straight start (after sitting behind Kerry Collins for 22 straight games) and improved to 23-11 in his career against the Arizona Cardinals.

For many people, this is vindication and a reputation-rebuilding and career defining win. With a great deal of confidence, Young showed he could be a pocket passer as well as a running quarterback.

Early Concerns

Many college quarterbacks such as Young who almost exclusively used the shotgun at the University of Texas have difficulty adapting to NFL offenses where most snaps are taken under center. Many scouts and personnel analysts felt that Young would not be an adequate passing quarterback in the NFL. Many critics also were concerned about Young’s unorthodox throwing style.

Traditional or Trailblazing Quarterback

“I am not sold that Young will ever be an elite passer who can threaten the whole field, and I do think that the Titans have very wisely kept his reads very simple -- from option one to option two to tuck the ball down and run.”

--Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc.

“He’s not that guy, not now. But what he’s doing is allowing them to win football games. Now you’re hoping that as he continues to grow, he’s going to eventually be that guy. You want him to be that guy, but he’s not that guy yet.

“I think with what he’s done you’ve got to stick with the guy now. That doesn’t mean you don’t draft a guy. If Collins is done, if this is his last year, they need another quarterback. Do you draft a guy? Maybe so. Maybe you draft the pocket passer you want so if it doesn’t work out you’ve got a guy in your system that you know you are grooming.”

--Herman Edwards, NFL analyst and former head coach in the NFL, responding to questions about Young, even after Young’s return as a starting quarterback.

“All I can do is play my game. I can't worry about what they're going to try to do. All I know is when Coach calls this or this or that, I have to execute the play. If it's a run or a pass, whatever it takes to win a ballgame, that's what I'm going to do. At the same time, it's not all about me. I know the rest of the guys are going to make plays as well."

--Vince Young, NFL offensive rookie of the year in 2006, discussing his focus on his role, blocking out the opposition's defensive schemes, and the importance of execution and teamwork.

Head Coach Jeff Fisher says he never lost faith that Young would become the team's franchise QB.

“He’s won a lot of games for us with different teammates,” Fisher said. “I think, yeah, it’s fair to assume [he’s the guy long-term]. We drafted him to be our franchise quarterback and never lost sight of that. Just because there was an interruption of his starts, we never thought he wasn’t going to be the guy we drafted him to be.”

So, what has Young and the Tennessee Titans done to develop him as their starting quarterback and bring about his recent resurgence.

Deliberate Practice: Touch and Mechanics

The Titans accepted Young’s unconventional throwing motion when they drafted him. But when Mike Heimerdinger took over as offensive coordinator in 2008, he said there were mechanical adjustments for Young’s feet that would have a bearing on his arm.

In his five-game comeback, Young has shown he can throw just about every pass in the NFL quarterback repertoire effectively. His completion percentage this season (62.9) is up nearly six points from his career number coming into the season.

“His footwork is tremendous right now and his ball placement [in his dropback] is very good,” Heimerdinger said. “And when his ball placement is right and his feet are right, he can wing it. It’s just having his feet underneath him and not all spread out, his arm above his numbers instead of out [extends his arms like an airplane to illustrate] like he used to, which caused him to push it.”

Mastery: Study, Preparation and Commitment

“I think his work habits have been great. He’s been spending the time, he’s been studying it. If I put something in new on Wednesday and he struggles with it, he comes back Thursday and has it down cold. He’s really working at it,he’s doing the things that you are supposed to do.

“He’s got to be taking it home and studying it. If I’ve got a real wordy formation and play, he has it down cold the next day. The stuff I always wondered if he’d do, he’s doing.”

--Mike Heimerdinger.

“I think he realizes more now what it takes to get ready to play during the week and to go out and do it on Sunday. A lot of that has to do with the amount of time he’s putting in whether it’s here or at home. That’s what it takes to be a great quarterback, and I think it’s showing in his reads, it’s showing on Sunday.”

--Kerry Collins, veteran and former starting quarterback for the Titans.

Increasing Maturity and Emotional Resilience

Young has a history of moodiness. There were rumors of depression and suicidal thoughts. This year he is more relaxed and comfortable, particularly in the spotlight. His body language is more positive and confident.

“Last year he was [moody],” Heimerdinger said. “I’ve not seen him moody this year.”

“I think he’s taken this opportunity more seriously than other opportunities and that to me is a signal of growing up and maturity,” Collins said. “… I think he carries himself more maturely. I think he’s handling different situations more maturely. He’s just growing up.”

“He’s been able to handle the adjustments on the run,” Fisher said, of his on-field maturity.

Handling Pressure, Failure and Adversity

Young won offensive rookie of the year in 2006 but followed up with a shaky second season. He started well as a rookie, winning and showing some highlight reel moments. However, many opposing teams found ways to make things far more difficult, he didn’t handle it well, he didn’t find a way to adjust and respond. In a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at the start of his third season, he got so frustrated he asked to leave the game.

So far, in his return to the starting lineup, Young has bounced back from his bad moments. “He could have easily gone in the tank at halftime and did not,” Heimerdinger said, after some difficult moments (fumbles and interceptions)during games against Buffalo and Houston this year.

“He worked through it. At halftime, he was very attentive. He was right on top of everything we talked about and the adjustments we made.”

Collins said he expects Young will show himself to continue be much more resilient.

“When you play this position, there are always bumps in the road, there is always a bump looming,” he said. “It’s a humbling position. All signs indicate he will be able to handle it and maybe better than he has in the past. And that’s part of the growing-up process as well.”


“He’s got a lot more confidence playing in the pocket,” Edwards said. “In this league, you’ve got to have a quarterback that can play in the pocket. Because it’s built that way. The rules are set up that way, it’s all for the quarterback to play inside the pocket.”

Consistency and Longevity: Questions about Young Linger

The Tennessee Titans have a big decision for the off-season. Do the Titans pay Young a roster bonus of $4.25 million and carry a cap number of over $14 million for him in 2010?

“We’ll find out in five more weeks,” Heimerdinger said. “He’s been consistent. He’s doing what he’s supposed to do. But a great quarterback does it every week -- protects the ball, does the things you are supposed to do and stays within the system. He’s played very well in the five games we’ve had. I don’t have a lot of things to correct him on. But we’ve still got five more weeks.”

At least for the moment, Vince Young is back.

Excerpts from (December 4, 2009).

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Thursday, December 03, 2009

I Couldn't Help Myself: The Top Ten NBA Plays and Dunks of November 2009

Please excuse the overlap in plays and dunks. Some deserve a second look anyway.



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