Posted on June 28, 2016, by Travis Pulver
Teams will often exhaust any and every option available to them to make the team better. If they find a new technique, new drill, or make a new friend that may be able to help the team play better they use it (or him/her).
Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn would like to see his team do a better job of tackling next season. So to improve his team’s technique he has enlisted the help of former English national rugby coach, Stuart Lancaster.
“In a rugby game, they are tackling constantly, so we thought there was a lot to gain from Stuart,” Quinn said in a post on the Falcons website. “He came in, and we spent a good bit of time talking tackling, [finding out] what drills to use and [seeing] if there’s a crossover that we use from our game that he can use, and something from his game that we might be able to use. Any chance we can get that interaction; we are going to find it.”
Tackling is as integral to a rugby team as it is a football team. However, since rugby players do not wear pads and helmets they tend to put more of an emphasis on using proper technique and safety.
Rugby coaches stress the importance of keeping the head out of the tackle and using the shoulder to drive through a ball carrier and take him down. In rugby, you can’t just launch your body at a ball carrier’s legs. Attempting to make a tackle without wrapping a ball carrier up is a penalty in rugby.
Over the years proper tackling technique seems to have been forgotten in football. Guys appear to try to knock a ball carrier down rather than tackle him. Too often they end up bouncing off, missing the tackle and sometimes getting hurt.
During the 2014 season, the 32 NFL teams had 35,149 defensive snaps. In those snaps, there was a total of 3767 missed tackles. The San Francisco 49ers missed the fewest with just 94 (the Chicago Bears were the only other team to miss less than 100). The Tampa Bay Buccaneers missed the most (152).
The Atlanta Falcons missed 132 tackles, fifth most in the NFL. So there is room for improvement.
Quinn is not the first NFL head coach to make use of rugby tackling techniques. Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll has been using them for years. He talks about doing so as he narrates a training video:
“How we teach this system of tackling was recently inspired by those who play rugby around the world. Rugby players have taken the head out of the game and truly exemplified shoulder tackling…”
Lancaster had this to say about his visit:
“I talked to them about winning the last meter, winning the collision and finishing the tackle.”
Lancaster was the head coach of England’s national rugby team from April 2012 until he stepped down in November 2015 after England became the first host nation not to advance past the pool stage during the most recent Rugby World Cup.