RB Leipzig head coach Julian Nagelsmann believes soccer and American football can learn from each other, hailing the “discipline” of players in the NFL as exemplary.
The 33-year-old is a fan of American football, and admitted that he stayed up late on Sunday night to watch the matches between the Cleveland Browns and Kansas City Chiefs, and half of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' game against New Orleans Saints before “common sense prevailed” as he had to sleep and work the next day.
“Our general manager Timmo Hardung is a huge Green Bay Packers fan, so that’s rubbed off on me a bit,” Nagelsmann said at a press conference ahead of his Leipzig’s Matchday 17 encounter at home to Union Berlin on Wednesday. “My heart beats for them a bit, their history is very interesting and different to most of the other clubs in the NFL.”
Known as a wily tactician, it is perhaps unsurprising that Nagelsmann appreciates the level of detail involved in the plays in American football.
“It’s a very interesting sport,” he said. “And I think we can learn a lot from American football in soccer, and our players can learn a lot from it as well. Especially in terms of their discipline in studying and executing the team’s playbook. I definitely think that’s an area that soccer can improve on.
“The game is based on an unbelievable number of plays, and the players have to understand a lot of specific terms and then act accordingly out on the field. They have to do all that extremely quickly, which is extraordinary.”
Nagelsmann conceded that the way American football is structured in the USA contributes to that: “In the NFL you generally only have one-year contracts, so if you make the wrong run three times then you’re out and you don’t get a new contract. That means you always have to push yourself to the limit as a player.”
Watch: Nagelsmann's tactics at Leipzig
Nevertheless, he again underlined his admiration for “the players’ incredible discipline in knowing the entire playbook and the runs they need to make very precisely”.
Still, Nagelsmann said he would like to see more freestyle moments of individual skill, as are common in soccer, in the NFL.
“You could see in the games that there were one or two tricks – I’d like to see a bit more of that. ‘Hitch and Pitch’ I think it’s called. That worked quite well in the play-offs a couple of times.
“So American Football can learn from football, but definitely vice versa too. And if any NFL coaches would like to have a chat about it all, feel free to get in touch!”