Nathaniel has always been the resident renaissance Hackett, the pre-med student who drew Disney characters, watered the roses and fed the team dinner.
In a recent Bills interview he layed down his basic philosophy, packed with the same distinctions he brings to his home life with Megan, and their four-under-four, Harrison, Briar, London and Everly.
A big foundation guy, he's all about paying attention, evaluating the field and then creating a strong base for the future.
Here's interview snips + notes to integrate his work into your own calibration map:
“Without a doubt. I think my experience in the NFL for those four years as a quality control guy working with a guy like Jon Gruden was really multiple, multiple years for any coach. The amount of projects and the amount of drawings that I did -- I think I summed up almost 20,000 past drawings that I created..."
Can you say Pay Your Dues? There's a gratitude he brings to the process of mastery - getting to that 10,000 times, looking back and seeing it for all it was.
"Coach Marrone is a very well respected coach throughout the NFL. His experience with the offenses is just amazing. To learn that from him first-hand and to work with him very intimately on creating a system while we were there at Syracuse learning all the things that he wanted carried over from the NFL. It not only gave me the foundation in the pass protection and the run game, but just overall how to put everything together to correspond with that—protect the quarterback and run the ball.
I think that when you have a guy like Doug Marrone or a guy like Jon Gruden, the different people that I have worked with like Alex Van Pelt -- it is amazing how much you can learn if you want to absorb it. That was something that I wanted to do. I wanted to absorb as much as I could and that is what has gotten me to this point right now.”
“I think the critical part is to create the foundation. Start from the ground and create a nomenclature to have a system and a language that the players believe in. Once you find that out and you create that then you find out what players do well within that foundation. From that point you get to change your tempo, you get to change what you do and really work to what they do best. I think right now the biggest part is the foundation and then evaluating the players to see what they can do within that foundation and then from the tempo standpoint, you go from there.”
Focus on your foundation, create a system and generate language that empowers your player, participants and constituents. Once that's strong, you can play with roles and tempo.
“I really enjoyed working with Ryan during my time with the Bills a few of years ago and we have kept up a great relationship since then. I think once again right now it is about evaluating everyone here and seeing what he has done these past couple of years that I have been gone. And then we can go from there and see what everybody in the building really believes in at every position.”
Come in learning. Be humble and check things out before you try to switch things up.
“As a quality control coach you are in charge of everything. You are kind of the foundation. Not trying to use the same words, but it is all about the foundation. You are the foundation of putting a system together. You act as almost a coordinator in practice. You are there. You have to understand protections, you have to understand run game, you have to understand pass game because you are the one responsible for drawing every one of those things. You are responsible for putting that up in front of the team and all of the players know that you are the one that drew that. So you are the one that has to do all the scouting. You have to understand all the defenses. You have to present everything to the coaches. While I was here that is what I was responsible for. That is what I had to do to make sure that the coaches had everything in line for them for how they represent what they want to accomplish. I had to take it from what they wanted to do and put it into a good format for the players to see and understand. Really from that standpoint it was a lot of hours and a lot of things to do.”
Pay your dues, be humble, but pay attention as leadership from wherever you are. It doesn't matter your role, you can expand your response-ability to include true apprenticeship to the roles you aspire towards.
“I think the first part is to believe in what you are trying to accomplish. Believe in your system. Believe in your foundation. Believe in the answers you have to everything. The statistics and all of the analysis that you do for a whole week is really just to try to get you in the best positions as well as you can. As a coach you want to put the guys in the best position, but as a coach you cannot control everything that is going to happen. You cannot control what a defensive guy might have in that week. You can never see everything, but you can prepare them for everything. You can prepare them for what they might see and hope they react to anything new. I think that statistics are a great thing that can help guide you into the right direction, but coaching the players and having the players go in that right direction is what is so critical. Analytics are valuable but you do not want them to make you feel great or you do not want them to make you feel bad. You want them to kind of just guide you in the right direction.”
Be a product of what you are creating, 100%. And, don't be attached. Prepare, stay in communication, then be open to how things actually unfold.
“Yes. Quite a bit but it is one of those things that you do so much that I have learned that it is something guys lean on too much. I think the way you approach it is by saying ‘Hey guys, this is what might happen and this is the possibility of it, but still be ready because they have also shown this and this other stuff might happen. You have to be ready to play your game.’ I think that is how you use the analytics to your advantage, but you do not use them as a crutch. That is critical.”
Leaning on facts, feasibility and past statistics are a crutch. A trap. Include them, but choose your path and be ready for that.
“Right now at this point just getting here, the biggest thing is to just evaluate these guys. Evaluate this whole team and then find out what they do well. Really continue to do it over, over and over again because if that is what they do well then that is what everybody wants to see and especially myself. I think right now we all have to get a great feel on what each guy can individually do well and then continue that.”
Be willing to stay in, to learn and keep learning day in and day out to find out what works. Then go with the flow. Follow what works.