Tony DeMeo

Question and Answer with Rick Lantz

Question and Answer with Rick Lantz
Rick Lantz has over forty years of experience coaching football. He’s been both a head coach and an assistant coach. So he brings a lot of perspective to the table. He is most known as a defensive coordinator. A well- traveled defensive coordinator with a wealth of experience with great head coaches like George Welch and Howard Schnellinberger. Rick was successful as a head coach in NFL Europe. He coached The Berlin Thunder to two World Bowl appearances coming away with the Championship in 2004. He also coached the Rhein Fire in 2007. Great defense has been the hallmark of all of Rick Lantz’s stops and here are some of his thoughts on football.
Tony: Who were your three biggest influences in your career?
Rick: The first was Ralph Jelic. He was the DB coach at Boston University and he was my first mentor. He taught me how to coach the secondary. His techniques were way ahead of the curve and I used them my whole career. The second was George Welsh. George really taught me about adding to a program. He was really into strength training which was unique at that time. He had great respect for his players. He did what he had to do to improve the program. For example one spring he put in the Wing T just to help our defense because many teams on our schedule were running the Wing T. The third was Howard Schnellinberger. I coached with him twice. The first time was at the University of Miami and the second was at Louisville. Howard’s Philosophy was that no one was more important that the team. And he stuck to that. He held his players to very high standards. He was influenced defensively by Bill Arnsparger who made the 53 defense famous with the Dolphins. The 53 was really a 50 or 34 defense. Howard was great at finding and articulating the key coaching points or details that made the difference. Howard also NEVER let anyone criticize the quarterback. He always coached him up behind closed doors. But he held the Quarterback to a higher standard than the rest of the players.
Tony: Rick you were in the Marines and I’ve heard you talk about your experiences; has your military experience helped your coaching career?
Rick: Definitely. Being in the Marines has had a big influence on my coaching career. The whole boot camp experience was a great learning experience. The Marines taught you exactly the things you were going to do and they always corrected mistakes. Even the tiniest detail was never overlooked. They never let any mistake go uncorrected. The second thing was they taught you to have pride in being a US Marine. I always wanted my guys to have pride in being part of our defensive unit.
Tony: What was your overall defensive philosophy?
Rick: My Philosophy was to teach great fundamentals and techniques and always be able to make calls to adjust to the offense. You have to have faith in your team to be able to adjust to what the offense was doing.
Tony: What front did you prefer?
Rick: In the 70s we were a 50 or 34 defense and had success at Navy, Miami, Georgia Tech. We were influenced by the Defensive Line coach for the Buffalo Bills who taught a technique called “two gapping” and this put us a little ahead of people at that time. Then in the 80s at Louisville we started out in the 34 but we couldn’t find the Outside Linebackers who could take on Tight Ends and drop into pass coverage and all the other things we asked them to do so we switched to the 43. We still used the same principles but a 43 gave us better match ups. Now we can play a 34, 43 or a 33 all with the same personnel groupings. The key is to minimize the number of techniques you are teaching. You can line up anywhere as long as you can use the same techniques and concepts. So it is the same techniques and personnel with different alignments and widths. The other thing is to give your linebackers the ability to change and adjust after the snap of the ball the same way you allow your quarterback to change the play after the snap.
Tony: You had experience as a head coach, what was your philosophy as a head coach?
Rick: As a head coach, I hired a good offensive coordinator, Steve Logan and turned the offense over to him for the most part. Only Logan or Lantz spoke to the quarterback. We also used the exact same terminology on both sides of the ball. So a Pro formation was a Pro formation in the offensive playbook or the defensive playbook. This way the install process went smoothly. We installed so we could ruin every formation with every personnel group.
Tony: What trends to do you see coming in the future?
Rick: I think people will continue to throw the ball all over the place. The Spread Offense will become even more popular. But I worry about coaches starting become more entertainers than teachers. I don’t like the whole baseball cap thing on ESPN on signing day and I worry about the influence of these 7 on 7 leagues on kids. I just read The History of College Football and football has always had its share of scandals and overcame them and survived.
Tony: Rick thanks for your time and your insights.