CFN SPECIAL EXCLUSIVE
Penn State's Succession Plan
As Reported By Pete
And the next Penn State head football coach will be …
CFN has obtained exclusive, inside access to what might be the revolution in sports, business, and any walk of life that requires some sort of higher level management. Welcome to the JoePa394. (Named after Paterno’s
all-time win total and will be changed upon his retirement when the final number is set.)
After three years of exhaustive effort, sleepless nights, and tons and tons of data entry, two Penn State students, Lee Walker and Todd Warner, have created a program that can simulate Joe Paterno’s every coaching move, every pattern, and even every teaching method. It’s so good, so thorough, and so frighteningly accurate (tested out secretly throughout last year) that any coach should be able to plug any situation into the system and instantly know what Paterno would do and how he’d teach.
Walker and Warner were given an all-access pass to over forty years of film, notes, scouting reports and practice tape to go along with interviews with several key players, coaches, and Paterno himself to create an application so good and so accurate that Penn State insiders are wondering if the next head coach will simply be a caretaker who follows the program and has to make a few simple adjustments here and there.
“The Penn State part of the software was easy and a true labor of love,” said Warner. “The hard part was gathering all the opponent information from the last four decades. But we were able to do it, so in 2015, any coach can know what Coach Paterno would’ve done when facing a certain offense at a certain time based on over forty years of trends, tendencies, and patterns.”
It’s not unlike putting together the basic information for a video game, which Walker and Warner had a background in doing before putting this program together. The two had helped collect data and put together information for several games from baseball to football to soccer for EA Sports and other companies, and the exact same attention to detail, including height, weight, skin color, body type, speed, quickness, and strength, are all factored into the ultimate Penn State football database.
“It really is groundbreaking,” said one anonymous Penn State athletic department official. “Really, all you need is a good recruiter, a few solid assistants to take the information and apply it correctly, and then go from there. Joe Paterno is the greatest head coach in the history of college football, so why wouldn’t any coach want to pattern himself after him and have the same success?”
But not everyone agrees. The athletic department has gone through a six month internal battle over the Walker and Warner creation, and there has been an even bigger problem of word leaking out through the coaching backchannels. A few potential candidates for the Penn State job, once Paterno is done, have cooled on the idea after rumors were circulating that the simulation might be required use for any new head man.
“If I’m taking the job, I’m taking the job,” said one prominent Big East head coach under the condition of anonymity. “It’ll be hard enough to follow in Coach Paterno’s footsteps, much less have to go by some machine to make every decision.”
So how does it work and how did Walker and Warner create it so that the Paterno legend can live on forever? It’s actually extremely simple and foolproof to use. Every game, and every documented practice has been plugged into the database, and every conceivable problem a player might have on the field has been accounted for.
For example, if the Nittany Lion defense has to hold on a 3rd and 4 play from the opponent’s 39-yard line, and assistant has do three things. 1) He has to plug in down, distance, and yard line. The program will have the time of the game kept automatically and the score will be updated on the fly. 2) The opposing team’s information and trends, along with the weather and field conditions, will have been plugged into the system before the game, so the assistant will have to quickly take the basic information the program gives him and relay the alignment to the defensive coordinator and head coach. 3) As the play is happening, he’ll have to type in the substitutions and the result. If it all sounds complicated, it’s not for anyone who knows the program. The entire process takes less than five seconds.
“It’s really phenomenally simple,” said Walker. “Something like this is already used in baseball when analyzing trends and tendencies by pitch. All we’re doing is providing what kind of a play, formation, and personnel should be used based on over 40 years of Penn State football in a simple and fast way for a coach to use.”
It goes even further. In practices, the program can analyze how effective a player is, what he’s doing right, and what he’s doing wrong. The job of the coach will be to plug in the problem, and the program would say exactly what Paterno would teach in the same situation.
It goes beyond just looking for advice about a player’s inability to get enough leverage on his block or his reaction time on a play fake; it can give specific instructions based on the specific and unique characteristics of the player and the situation he’s in. The more detailed the coach can be in his search for the answer, the more detailed the answer. And no, it’s not like Googling “Locks On To His Receiver.” The coach and player gets a detailed, step-by-step instruction complete with video references and historical samples to go by, including before and after results showing what happens when the problem is corrected.
So if it’s so easy as analyzing trends and tendencies, shouldn’t an opposing team be able to know what’s coming by using the same type of program? Sort of.
“There are two ways to look at this,” Walker continued. “Yes, there are some things that you know Joe Paterno would do in certain situations, and you don’t need a computer program to tell you that. But it’s like in baseball when facing a great pitcher. You might know the fastball is coming, but you still can’t hit it. Also, the head coach doesn’t have to go by what the computer says. It can be used as an advantage by crossing up the other team that thinks it knows what’s coming.”
However, part of the problem is that some of Paterno loyalists wouldn’t want too much derivation from the program. The idea is that what Paterno would do is better than what 99.9% of any coaches from here on would do, and there’s some speculation that the new head man wouldn’t be given nearly as much freedom as he might like.
“Sure, it might limit our choices of potential coaching candidates,” said the athletic department insider. “But it’s still Penn State football. There will be very, very good coaches who’ll jump at the chance to follow the teachings of Paterno.”
Walker and Warner don’t plan to stop with Penn State football. They’re in the process of putting together software for a few Fortune 500 companies to use to get the analysis, trends, and tendencies of some top executives from their history to create a program called The Ultimate CEO.
“This goes far beyond just football,” said Walker. “This will be a custom-designed application to allow companies to instantly know how to handle any situation based on hundreds of years of decisions made by some of the top executives in the history of the world.”
“However,” he says smiling, “I’m more interested in bringing Penn State more national titles than changing Wall Street.”
Unfortunately, for all the intricacies of Walker and Warner’s creation, and for all the brilliant things it can do, it can’t help a bunch of dumb football writers put together better pieces. It also can’t stop April Fools’ Day.
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