A few days ago, Gator fans saw a surprise addition to the Florida Gators football staff when 2006 National Championship winning quarterback Chris Leak, was named as a defensive quality control coach.
Leak played sparingly in the NFL, was a bit of a vagabond in the CFL, and lasted just one season in the AFL. The quarterback had previously mentioned his intentions of wanting to coach football, but that seemed to be on the back burner as he was a co-host on SiriusXM’s College Sports Coast-to-Coast with Chris Childers during the week.
But over the past few months, Leak has spent more time in Gainesville and more time around the Florida Gators coaching staff. If there were to be an addition to the coaching staff, Leak would have been a popular guess, especially in a lower, more entry-level position.
The bigger surprise, however, was not necessarily the addition of Chris Leak to the Gators coaching staff, but that he would not be focusing on the offensive side of the ball. Instead, Leak will focus on the defensive side of the ball and work under defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin, by choice, to help him prepare to be a better football coach in the future. Leak told Scott Carter of GatorZone.com, “Seeing the ball from the opposite side is going to help me tremendously in the long run. Seeing how defenses attack, how they game plan for all the offenses, breaking down all the film to help our defense prepare, that’s just going to help me be a better offensive coach when I get to that point.”
As Leak moves into his new role and new office, let’s examine what Chris Leak will actually do, what he brings to the position, and what’s next.
Leak’s role officially is titled “Quality Control Assistant (Defense)”. Cutting simply to the core of “quality control”, Leak is responsible for shortening processes and improving quality. By bringing a high level of competence and analysis to the role, this position fits Leak well. But what does that mean in football coaching terms? Film breakdown, helping assistant coaches, breaking down opponents, charting trends and ultimately, help streamline information for coaches. Quality Control coaches will often work with position coaches during practice to learn the intricacies of each position in their preparation to grow out of a QC role.
However, the position is grounded, mainly, in tape breakdown, analysis, charting and reporting. Quality Control assistants are responsible for analyzing the number of times a team lined up in certain formations, who was on the field, how did they attack each play on each down at any distance, when did they make substitutions and a host of other pertinent information for coaches to analyze. For example, Leak might tell defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin that Georgia passes 78% of the time on 2nd down in a three wide receiver shotgun set. A tedious, usually under appreciated job to say the least, separates those that have the work ethic to be a coach and those that simply want a job in football.
Leak, as a former quarterback, brings a unique skill set to the position and his love of watching game film as an undergraduate will certainly serve him well as it should come naturally to him. Leak is intelligent, has a high football IQ, an unquestionable work ethic and a ton of experience breaking down offenses and defenses on tape, so that part of the role will likely come quickly and easily to Leak.
Leak, however, will be stepping out of his comfort zone learning what each defensive player does. Leak will need to focus on learning hand placement, pad level, shedding blockers, corner back cushioning, jamming at the line of scrimmage, cover 1, cover 2, cover 3, cover 4, loose man, man under and man up coverage schemes and a host of other terminology, jargon, and schemes. Of course, the best way to learn is with hands-on training and ultimately, he won’t have much of a say in packages, coaching, or game day decision making.
Ultimately, Leak is a value add for the Gators, simply to have a well-liked, smart player that is a good ambassador of the football program, makes it worth it. Where Leak grows from here is up to him. Most do not stay in quality control longer than a year or two, deciding either to move on from coaching or given an opportunity to climb the ranks into a position coach role. I think the latter will be true for Leak, although I am not sure it will be at Florida and I think it will be on the offensive side of the ball that he finds his first opportunity.