DAT, Lee, and the OODA Loop

Jeff Sullivan recently said

Finally, was randomly fortunate enough to watch the last 90 minutes of the scrimmage standing with former Cowboys linebacker Dat Nguyen, who now has a daily radio show on ESPN San Antonio. No exaggeration, learned as much about reading offenses in that hour and a half than in my entire life.

Amazing. He predicted about 95 percent of the plays before the snap just based on the formation, especially run or pass by where the running back was lined up, if he was cheating up to block or seven full yards from the quarterback.

Also offered up some neat sayings. My two favorite were, “Same deal, different dress,” and “Count the hats,” meaning how many players were on the line of scrimmage, or there about.

Asked him about Sean Lee in this new Tampa 2 defense and he said, without hesitation, “Sean fits any defense. He’s so good, so talented, so smart, doesn’t matter what defense he’s playing in.”

DAT was a master of the tape room. He studied hard to be able to recognize the other team’s tendencies. As such, he was able to react faster even if he was not the fastest LB. DAT got to the ball quickly by knowing where he was supposed to be to stop a play, rather than running fast to get to the other teams players. He was legendary for calling out the other teams plays so the rest of the defense could similarly react.

This is the OODA loop in action. An entity (whether an individual or an organization) that can process this cycle quickly, observing and reacting to unfolding events more rapidly than an opponent, can thereby "get inside" the opponent's decision cycle and gain the advantage. Much of the discussion of the OODA loop is taken from

The OODA Loop [for observe, orient, decide and act] is a concept originally applied to combat operations processes, often at the strategic level in military operations. It is now also often applied to understand commercial operations and learning processes. The concept was developed by military strategist and USAF Colonel John Boyd.

Boyd emphasized that "the loop" is actually a set of interacting loops that are to be kept in continuous operation during combat. These steps are constantly changing as events unfold


All decisions are based on observations of the evolving situation tempered with implicit filtering of the problem being addressed. These observations are the raw information on which decisions and actions are based. The observed information must be processed to orient it for further making a decision.

To paraphrase – you can observe a lot just by watching. Yogi Bera. It helps if you know what you are looking at.


Orientation is the repository of our genetic heritage, cultural tradition, and previous experiences – is the most important part of the O-O-D-A loop since it shapes the way we observe, the way we decide, the way we act. In other words, what you see, is based on your training. Unfortunately, experience is a harsh task master and the lesson is learned AFTER the result. In combat, you might not survive the initial lesson. Further some folks never learn despite repeated experiences

Fortunately good teachers and coaches can provide that experience and place it in context for others. The more the coaches work on fundamentals, the better the players can react.


Since the OODA loop was designed to describe a single decision maker, the situation is much worse than shown as most business and technical decisions have a team of people observing and orienting, each bringing their own cultural traditions, genetics, experience and other information. It is here that decisions often get stuck, which does not lead to winning, since in order to win, we should operate at a faster tempo or rhythm than our adversaries - or better yet, get inside the adversary's OODA loop.

Such activity will make us appear ambiguous [unpredictable] thereby creating confusion and disorder among our adversaries - since our adversaries will by unable to generate mental images or pictures taht agree with the menacing as well as faster transient rhythm or patterns that they are competing against.

In other words, speed kills. It makes it harder for opponents to react while letting you react faster. Things that can slow down another team's mental processes a little big allows you an advantage. For example, if you run well, the defense has to respect your ability to run, which opens up play action.

This works on defense as well. A team that rushes the QB well, can disrupt the play even if they do not actually sack the QB. Just by disrupting the timing of a play can be sufficient..


The OODA loop, which focuses on strategic military requirements, was adapted for business and public sector operational continuity planning. Compare it with the Plan Do Check Act (PDCA) cycle or Shewhart cycle, which focuses on the operational or tactical level of projects.

Note the relationship to quality and process improvements. This is what Garrett has been preaching since he took over as head coach.


Note the OODA loop as implemented by film work can be taught. Lee is a good example. Among the reasons why Lee is successful is that he works as hard in the film room as anyone since DAT. That was a reason why we drafted him.

Further, Lee has taught Carter. Last year, Lee took Carter under his wing during the off season. During their workouts together, Lee would make Carter call out the plays. Not only was Carter working out physically but he got much better mentally.

In recent years, the intelligence of the players and other intangibles have been a major focus of Garrett in drafting. he wants players with the RKG background and that includes passion and deep learning of the game. This should allow more speed and faster reaction on the field.

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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