So are OTAs (Organized Team Activities) really necessary? As we all know, Green Bay Packers bloggers have been known to argue just about any point. I was reminded of this fact today as I briefly checked into my twitter account. (I am trying to avoid twitter during the day so I can make it home and watch my “Tivoed” World Cup games without knowing the scores).
But I decided to take a chance today (no games I was THAT interested in today), and see what’s going on. Well, right off the bat, I run into, say, “a difference of opinion” between Packer blogger extraordinaires Brian Carriveau and Aaron Nagler.
Seems that Aaron is outright questioning the value of OTAs, and Brian felt the need to respond with reasons why he thinks they’re important. Here’s how the discussion went:
Aaron: I have come to the conclusion that OTAs are a total joke. I understand this is not a revolutionary thought. Carry on.
Brian: Give me a break.
Aaron: What is being accomplished? I would love to know.
Brian: Installs, improvements, schemes, reps, fixes, shall I go on.
Aaron: All of which could be done in training camp.
Midwestfan: Did they have/enforce these dumb OTA rules when Lombardi was coaching? I’m thinking, no.
Aaron: They didn’t have OTAs. For a reason.
Brian: Strength & conditioning, camaraderie, technique, situational work, review from last season…more things accomplished in OTAs
Aaron: # OTAs are a babysitting service.
Brian: This is the pros, not high school anymore. Install in spring & don’t have to in fall.
Aaron: Exactly. It’s called MiniCamp. 3 weeks of running around in shorts is absurd.
Brian: If you take the attitude it’s “running around,” yup, that’s what you’ll get out of it.
Aaron: Teams make it seem like they are splitting the atom – it’s football. You need Minicamp and training camp.
Brian: If I’m a player or a coach, I want to work for an organization that strives to get better every day. That’s OTAs.
Aaron: If all those thing you list are so important, how do the Vikings have a ton of veterans skip OTAs, have their starting QB show up in late August and still get to the NFC Championship game? That’s impossible! OTAs are so important! (rolls eyes)
Aaron: You can strive to get better without being corralled unnecessarily in the spring and summer.
Brian: Again, if you take the attitude you’re being corralled & it’s unnecessary, that’s exactly what you’ll get out of it.
Aaron: You want to dictate attitudes, which is impossible and kind of proves my point. You’re babysitting.
Brian: Nope, I want to foster a community of teamwork & work ethic & goal setting
Aaron: So have a rookie camp and then a mini camp. 3 weeks of otas is asinine.
I was following along innocently enough until @midwestfan mentioned Lombardi. When anyone invokes the name of Vincent Thomas Lombardi, my antennae go up. By the way, Vince Lombardi would have been 97 years old just this past June 11th. Imagine if he were still alive today….
Getting back to the debate, while I think Aaron is somewhat correct about the babysitting aspect, I would argue that this Packers off season has proven the unfortunate need for such a service. And yet, even with the babysitting, some guys fine a way to really screw up (yes, you, Brandon). But babysitting players is not why I think the OTAs have value. For me, it’s all about the reps.
None other than the aforementioned Vince Lombardi showed everyone what practice, practice, practice could do. On Sundays, Vince Lombardi was an observer and a motivator. There was very little actual coaching to do. Bart Starr ran the offense, Phil Bengston called the defensive schemes and Lombardi, observed, made suggestions and motivated with his words, like the occasional “what the hell’s going on out here?”
Lombardi’s trademark was practice to perfection. And yet, OTAs were not needed. Why? Two reasons. First, the playbook was a fraction of the size of a modern day playbook. You could probably count the number of base offensive formations on two hands in Lombardi’s time.
Learning the offense in a few days was very manageable back then. Now, there’s so much to know that coaches like Mike McCarthy separate the playbook installations into eight or ten packages, with players being exposed to them one at a time so they’re not overwhelmed.
The second reason Vince Lombardi would never need OTAs is because he could keep his players out on the field for hours and hours if he chose to, until they could execute the plays to perfection. He could do what he pleased an nobody would question him. If coaches tried that today, they’d probably be brought up on Human Rights Violations charges.
Getting back to the twitter discussion, I have to take Brian Carriveau’s side in this one. And I disagree with some of Aaron’s arguments. While football may not be rocket science, the sheer volume of information players must absorb simply cries out for spreading it out over a longer period of time.
Is it better for long-term retention to cram for a test or study chapter by chapter over a period of time? Although most of us probably crammed for tests in school, I think we all know which approach is better if you want to remember the information a month later.
As for Aaron’s idea of a rookie camp, the Packers do that already – right after the draft. It’s mostly for orientation and evaluation purposes, and I believe that’s all it should be. Any real practice work should be done in the presence of the veterans (peer pressure is a wonderful thing).
Most rookies have no idea of the level of commitment needed to be successful in the NFL. Without the veterans there to show the way, it would be a sloppy mess. Not to mention the impossibility of running anything other than individual drills with only 20 players to work with. A rookie camp, to me, makes no sense at all.
So I think sensible Brian wins out over emotional Aaron. At least this time…——————
Jersey Al Bracco is the founder and editor of AllGreenBayPackers.com, and the co-founder of Packers Talk Radio Network. He can be heard as one of the Co-Hosts on Cheesehead Radio and is the Green Bay Packers Draft Analyst for Drafttek.com.