Alex Grinch liked how his defense responded in 2019 to having a new defensive coordinator.
He liked how they responded last season to the myriad challenges of playing football in a pandemic.
And he likes how they’ve responded so far to both success and adversity through the 2020 season, a grueling offseason and now, the first full spring practice for most of his players.
“Really made a major emphasis in our response,” Grinch said after the Red/White Game. “We call it our ‘R-Factor’ — how do you respond to situations?“
Grinch is focused enough with development via response that he’s charted how players do on the play after a bad play or the play after a good play.
“When the offense makes a play, what was our R-Factor that day?” Grinch said. “We charted in one of one of our scrimmages: how did we respond the next play after a first down? How did we respond after an explosive? If it was a scoring play, what did that next drive look like?”
Grinch said the imperative comes from not having spring football last year and simply not having access to that information. He didn’t know what anybody’s R-Factor was until the team showed up for fall camp.
“What we proved,” Grinch said, “was we can teach football via Zoom. We can teach the game, right? The knowing aspect of things. These guys can certainly make gains from a physical standpoint and athletic standpoint on their own.
“But why 11 guys showing up on the field against another 11 guys? What did we miss? What aspect of things?”
That’s Grinch leaving no stone unturned in his unrelenting effort to find an unforeseen factor to help him win a football game — an X-Factor.
Or, in this case, an R-Factor.
“So much of sport is responding to adversity, responding to the positive,” Grinch said. “Can you come back the next drive after you get a takeaway and still hold yourself to a high standard? Can you have a good 7-on-7 period in practice?
“All these things, I bring them up because we constantly hammered them on it. How are you gonna respond? How are you gonna respond? How are you gonna respond? The 7-on-7 was a bad period; OK how are you gonna respond? Trying to take advantage of those moments that are presented in the spring, and for the most part I think we did. That was a critical piece for us.”