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Mailbag: Could hard-nosed coaching backfire?


I read the stories on about the tough, no-nonsense approach that new defensive coaches Mike Zimmer and Jeff Zgonina will bring to the team. But now that OTAs are starting, is there any risk that this hard-nosed style could backfire with today's players? – Michael Reynolds/Oklahoma City, OK

Nick Eatman: I don't think that's really an issue, not for the players you're worried about. Sure, "today's players" might not be as used to the hard-nosed, in-your-face coaching style. But as Zimmer said when he first got back here, the "good ones want to be coached." The players who really want to take their game to the next level usually understand what it takes to be coached hard like that. If they can't take it, or don't respond that way, more often than not, those players really aren't going to be true difference-makers anyway. Now, there are always exceptions to the rule and it's Zimmer and Mike McCarthy's job to figure out how to do that. I remember Bill Parcells even saying that he's got to figured out how to deal with certain players differently than others. So this isn't something new. The great players know how to adapt to hard coaches. The great coaches know how to adapt to players with different personalities.

Kurt: On our Hangin’ With the Boys podcast, both Nate Newton and Jesse Holley did question whether today's players would respond to this kind of hard-nosed approach. Years ago, coaches would often show no mercy in how they communicated, but those drill-sergeant methods are not nearly as prevalent as they once were. Why? Many would say in today's world of high-dollar contracts and such, that style just isn't as effective as it once was. So yes, there probably is a risk that some players might respond in a negative way, either by ignoring the message or even pushing back. Overall, though, I think most have an understanding that these coaches are simply trying to make them, and thus the team, better. It comes from a place of love, you could say. Still, it's up to the coaches to determine the best way to teach and motivate each individual player. Some guys need an arm around the shoulder, while others react better to a kick in the butt. Zimmer, Zgonina and the rest of the staff have to figure out which buttons to push with which players because if they can't, and the results aren't seen on the field, then the blame will of course fall right back on the shoulders of these same coaches.

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