One of the main duties of a coach is to be a teacher. Teaching can take many forms of course, from facilitator to drill instructor. An NFL coach is in a difficult position as a teacher, because his players are a unique collection of rich young kids just getting out of college and grizzled veterans. When I was getting my masters degree in adult education at Penn State, there was a clear distinction made between student X, 22 years of age who had gone through preschool, kindergarten, elementary and high school, then college, and a student Y, also 22, who had a full-time job, two small children and was taking night classes at a local community college. The first student was not really an adult in any form except legally, not having taken on any of the responsibilities of adulthood, while the second was truly an adult.
Teaching adults is different than teaching youth for many reasons. Adults want to have some control over what they learn, how they learn, and need to know why they are learning. They relate new information to their previous experiences. In a nutshell, they want (and need) to be treated like adults. This is one reason many college coaches fail at the NFL level. Their teaching strategies don’t necessarily translate to the teaching of adults. One classification of teaching styles lists Authoritarian, Authoritative, and Laissez Faire. I believe we have seen some examples of each in our Head Coaches.
Haley, taking his cue from Parcells, was a classic authoritarian. He was the "sage on the stage" who knew everything, expected his students to listen, learn, and obey. When they didn’t, he gave them time-outs (see Bowe as a third stringer and DJ on the bench as examples.) This technique can be effective for young primadonnas but it can be counter-productive for mature players. Pioli’s 2010 draft focused on college team captains who could instill leadership from within. It seemed that Haley was modifying his approach, but the tension with his boss eventually obscured our look at what Haley was really trying to do.
Herm was an example of a Laissez Faire educator, what we call a player’s coach. He basically thought that if he put the best players on the field, gave them motivational speeches, and let them play, results would come. This can work if individuals are highly disciplined and internally motivated. After all, you play to win the game.
Dick Vermeil was the ultimate adult educator. His was an authoritative style. He was the boss, but he tried to create an atmosphere where players could develop themselves. Remember, he had the position groups do a lot of their film study in their own homes, trusting them to act like responsible adults. He definitely preferred to play veterans over rookies. His "taking off the diapers" comment about LJ was very revealing about his philosophy.
The problem, again, is that NFL teams are made of players in different stages of personal development and maturity. The perfect coach has to be a chameleon, adapting his teaching style to the player’s needs. Personally, I believe Romeo has a good blend of toughness and compassion, leadership and knowledge to be successful with this group of players.