INDIANAPOLIS — Too much information.
For NFL coaches preparing players for a game, there seemingly is no such thing. After all, isn’t the goal each week to not only address every possible scenario, but also find as many ways as they can to catch the opponent by surprise?
Sean McDermott gets all that. It’s just, in his endless quest to make the Buffalo Bills a better team, he has identified a flaw in the thinking that more is always better when it comes to putting together game plans and all of the adjusting and tweaking that follows.
And it’s this: It can cause players to do more thinking than executing.
“You watch a lot of tape and you think that you have all these great ideas,” McDermott said Wednesday, while here for the NFL scouting combine. “Well, at the end of the day, it’s what can be executed at the player level in a millisecond? And the bigger the game sometimes or the more time we have, whether it's a bowl game for college coaches or a playoff game or the Super Bowl for NFL coaches, or sometimes early in the season as you get a little bit more time leading up because you know who your first opponents are, you sometimes overburden the players with too much information and then you lose the fundamentals because they're not playing as fast.”
With a loss of fundamentally sound play comes other problems, especially in the early part of the season. They include an uptick in penalties, dropped passes and missed tackles.
“Why is that?” the coach said. “Well, part of it, I think, is we as coaches try to put too much on them, thinking, 'Hey, they can handle it because we have time.’ Time is great, but also time is our biggest enemy sometimes because of, 'Hey, we’re going to grind tape, grind tape, grind tape.’
“A player can't go out there and handle what he has to handle and process what he has to process and still be the best version of himself as an athlete.”
McDermott admits that recognizing the problem is one thing, solving it is another.
He understands that he and his assistant coaches have long been conditioned to be thorough in all that they do in preparation. For McDermott, it is a habit that goes back many years to when he was a position coach and defensive coordinator for the Philadelphia Eagles, and a DC for the Carolina Panthers.
“I think it's an ongoing battle,” he said. “Being aligned as a staff is important, so I'll go down to our coordinators in the office and I'll say, ‘Hey, how big's the game plan? What does it look like? How much of it is new this week compared to last week or compared to training camp?’
“It’s an ongoing conversation and an ongoing challenge.”