Motorola Coach's Corner: Alex Van Pelt

What's been the toughest part about making the transition from player to coach?

The hours. I think that's the biggest thing. Obviously, as a player, you don't see what goes on behind the scenes, just to even get the notebooks ready each week, all the film that gets watched. There are definitely a lot more hours as a coach.

You were promoted to quarterbacks coach this year. What has that transition been like?

The biggest thing is with being a quality control coach, you're always one week ahead. You're always looking at the next opponent, you don't really get to focus as much on the upcoming opponent. Without having those responsibilities now, I can focus a lot more on the opponent that we're playing that week, that's the biggest thing.

What are the differences in the offense this year with the new coordinator?

We've obviously changed some things, we've kept a lot of the terminology the same, I think the biggest difference to the system is the play-calling. You could take one game plan and have one coach call it and come out with the same exact game plan next week and have a different coach call it, it's going to look like a completely different offense, that's the biggest thing. A lot of stuff is obviously the same, but the way it's called and the timing of the calls is different. 

When you decided to give coaching a try, was it important to you to try and stay in the city that you played?

That was my dream job. To have a chance to coach here has been a dream come true to be able to stay in Buffalo for 14 years now. Obviously in this business there's a lot of moving around, but I've been very fortunate and lucky to be able to stay here.

How much does it help to coach a position you played and are familiar with?

To be able to relate to those guys, the biggest thing obviously is that you're not asking them to do something that you can't do. As a quarterback, you know your limitations; you know what's tough on the guys. Maybe you're doing a lot of checks in the run game, but as an ex-player you look back and whoa, that's a lot of stuff we're putting on these guys. Just knowing the limitations of the positions and how much they can take all of the responsibilities, what they can get done, what's too much. From stuff like that to just little tips about, 'Hey, make sure you ice your arm every day, because eventually it's going to start getting sore.' Little things, but playing the position helps.

What's a typical week of preparation before a game? Video? Meetings? What do you look for in video sessions?

The first part of the week, you're just getting a feel for the next upcoming team. You put the game you just played to bed, watch it with the players. As soon as that's over on a Monday, you get right on to the next opponent, so right now, it's just a lot of film time, trying to familiarize yourself with the upcoming opponent. Then Tuesday starts to become more of a game breakdown. Here's what we're going to do with the running game, here's what we're going to do with our first and second down passes. As the week goes, it becomes more situational. The next day is third downs, the next day is red zone, short yardage. The first part of the week is really trying to get a feel for who you're playing and then as the week goes on it becomes more individualized and specialized in each category.

You have some experience as a radio broadcaster. Is that something you'd like to go back to, or would you prefer to stay in coaching?

I think I'm set on coaching as long as I can. If somebody wants to have me around as a coach, that's my first choice. The radio was fun, it's something that maybe down the road I'll come back to, but one thing about the radio was that I missed the football side. I missed knowing exactly what was going on at game day. I felt like I was an outsider. I really wanted to get involved in the game planning and what I enjoyed as a player.

Bruce Smith went onto the Bills Wall of Fame. You played with him from 1995-99. What are some of your memories of your playing time together?

The one thing about Bruce was that he was a relentless competitor. All of the accolades came for his pass-rushing ability, but he was a great run stopper, too. I recall him making plays down the line of scrimmage in the run game and just going 'Wow. This guy, he plays in every phase of the game.'

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