Greatness and evolution happens with disruption.
Think about it: If the NFL never strayed from the textbook small, fast wide receivers, we never would have had a Herman Moore or Calvin Johnson, because we didn’t fit the mold.
The mold had to change. And now that it has, we’re coveted.
We’re considered the gems. The must-haves.
Whereas before, coaches looked at us and didn’t know what to do. We were too small to play tight end, and too big to play wide receiver. But we broke the mold.
Now the evolution has come back. Receivers are small and fast again, but they’re also compact and tough. Even the small receivers have evolved. Look at what Julian Edelman was able to do. What Tyreek Hill or Amon-Ra St. Brown is doing.
To compete you have to evolve.
Case in point: Charlie Sanders was my coach during my most productive Pro Bowl years.
At that time, Offensive Coordinator Tom Moore would get the offensive players together to talk about the playbook. We looked at who I was as a player, what tools I worked on and perfected every single day, and let me make suggestions. Then they gave me the opportunity to take those suggestions into the game to test them.
I would have three or four plays - the high frozen rope, the fade stop - that they would let me try. If I wanted those plays to be successful, it was up to me to make it work. When the plays worked, we kept them in and we all won. We did it together. It was collaboration.
Those collaborative years were my most productive.
I would work on my craft, catching the ball high and low. I would lay on the ground and catch the ball. On my back. Not the jugs, laying on my back. I would slip and fall and catch it. That’s why it all became natural and normal.
Then I had another coach come in from a different regime who had a specific way of coaching his players. The players he had coached were smaller with no similar attributes to me. I was a hands catcher, they caught with their bodies. They were sprinters, I was a control body runner.
But the coach told me I had to change what I did at the line of scrimmage to align with his method of coaching. It completely reworked me when nothing was broken.
As a 6-4, 220-pound receiver, I never worried about getting jammed at the line of scrimmage. I had size. When I wanted to go left, I went left. When I wanted to go right, I went right. Period. There was nothing the other guy could do about it.
Smaller players had to have good footwork and do specific things at the line to not get jammed. Because that’s how this coach taught it to those players, I was told to use the same technique.
The only problem was, when I put all of my energy into those motions, I was suddenly getting jammed at the line when I had never been before.
I was told it was my fault.
When I responded that I could execute the way they wanted using my own, proven techniques, I was told I was confrontational and adversarial.
I still went to the Pro Bowl that year, but it was a difficult journey.
Looking back at Tom Moore, he went on to take his system to Peyton Manning, Reggie Wayne, and Marvin Harrison in Indianapolis, to Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin in Arizona, to Mike Evans and Chris Godwin in Tampa Bay.
It’s the same thing he did with Herman Moore and Brett Perriman in Detroit.
He has been the epitome of success because he’s compromised. He is a genius as an offensive coordinator, because his system can fit anyone through compromise and adjustments without him giving up his brilliance or taking away from the talent of the individual.
He enhances the players and they enhance his system. It’s a team-focused approach that allows individuals to shine.
Tom Moore has been a disruptor in that he has never been concerned about getting all the credit, which is what makes him a Hall of Fame coach and one of the best to ever do it.
As for me, I continue to press for growth and evolution in everything I do, never settling for anything short of greatness.