Can Lafayette Football’s New Admiral Right the Ship?
Focus on the present, work to improve for the future and don’t dwell on negatives in the past.
Those beliefs are part of the philosophy that the new Lafayette College head football coach said he wants to instill in his players, his staff and the entire football program on College Hill in Easton.
This year, John Garrett has replaced long-term head coach Frank Tavani as the top gridiron Leopard.
With only three head football coaches in the previous 47 years, Lafayette’s football program is one that leans toward consistency. Consistency comes with its problems, however; Garrett walks into a program that has had seven-straight losing seasons and his goal will be to change that.
“I don’t even look at what’s happened in the past,” Garrett said. “This is a new era, a new staff, a new team. We will focus on the process of getting better and being a program that everyone is proud of on and off the field.”
Garrett comes from a strong football family. His father Jim Garrett spent 38 years in the National Football League (NFL) as a scout and assistant coach. Garrett’s brother Jason is the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys and his brother Judd is Director of Pro Scouting for the team.
Garrett graduated from Princeton University in 1988 and had a short stint playing on NFL teams, mostly on the practice squads. He stepped into his first real coaching job in 1992 for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Over the last 25 years, Garrett has alternated between the professional and amateur ranks by coaching on 17 NFL teams and eight college teams. Last year, he was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at the University of Richmond.
At Lafayette, it will be the first time Garrett will be in the role of head coach. Being the leader and having the responsibility to make the key decisions for the whole program so far has been an exhilarating experience, Garrett said.
“It’s similar to the joy, love, excitement and awesome responsibility of when you become a dad,” Garrett said. “That child is looking up to you wondering how to live, how to function. what to do. The dad has to provide the guidance, leadership encouragement and motivation.”
Garrett, a father of four children, said success requires totally embracing the overarching responsibility of being the leader.
“You got to love to be a dad and you got to love to be a head coach,” he said.
As is often the case with a head coaching change, much of the staff will be new to the program. Nine of the 10 assistant coaches have been replaced for this season, leaving only defensive back coach, Doug McFadden from last year.
Garrett said an important lesson he has learned from his two-and-a-half decades of coaching is that one size does not fit all. Garrett said a successful coach learns that he is not only coaching the team, but he must also coach individuals.
A coach may not need to react the same way with an eight-year All-Pro who knows the game well as he would a rookie in his first season. A senior college athlete may not need the same level of guidance as a freshman, according to Garrett.
“Whether it’s pro, college, high school or grade school, you have to watch the players and see what they respond to,” Garrett said. “That discernment is an attribute of a great coach.”
At all levels, pushing the players constantly is required to achieve the team’s desired results. Providing the players with a daily call to challenge and improve themselves will be a key focus, Garrett said.