Despite what the 3-7 record would indicate, last season was a successful debut for Sam Pittman at Arkansas. The numbers prove that. The Hogs' per-play yardage differential flipped, from minus-1.33 in 2019 (5.21 ypp gained vs. 6.54 allowed) to plus-0.12 in 2020. In 2019, they were outscored by 15.4 points per game. In 2020, playing an all-SEC schedule, that number dropped to 9.2.
Beyond that, the actions of Pittman's competitors proved it was a success. "I learned a lot of things as a head coach and continuing to learn. One of them is, as soon as your bowl game is over, or what was supposed to be our bowl game last year, people start coming after your coaches if they're any good," he said at SEC media days last week. "I'm very proud that we were able to keep our three coordinators and our strength coach."
Keeping defensive coordinator Barry Odom was especially valuable. Chased by rival LSU, Pittman managed to keep his defensive coordinator, his sounding board for advice on what life is like in the head coach's chair and, most important of all, his walking buddy.
That's correct. The Arkansas head coach and defensive coordinator like to hold mobile meetings on the sidewalks and paths around the football building in Fayetteville.
"I bounce things off of him frequently. He and I – believe it or not, he and I walk quite a bit," Pittman said. "Now, he looks like he does and I look like I'm on his back, but I'm really walking. We go out there and we walk and we talk and we discuss the team. It's a great 45 minutes so I can learn a little bit more about being a head coach."
Football coaches regularly exercise together, that's nothing new. Considering the hours they spend at the office, a regular exercise regimen is pretty much mandatory to maintain physical, mental and emotional health, with pick-up basketball seemingly the most popular option.
Whether they intended to or not, though, Pittman and Odom have taken up the best form of exercise known to man -- seriously.
Walking is just good for you, period. Walking is good for your heart, your joints, your back, your circulation, your brain, and your overall spirit. Seriously, walking has been linked to improved sleep, increased endurance, lower stress, an improved mood, and sharpened critical-thinking skills. How might those outcomes benefit a demographic working long hours in a high-stress environment?
Walking makes us more human. It is fundamentally human. No matter what changes are in store for our species millennia from now, walking will always be our primary form of transportation. The brightest minds of Silicon Valley will never disrupt the best way to get from here to there better than our own two feet. The first humans walked, and the last humans will, too.
On top of all that, walking is the only discipline that, even when done right, allows you to carry on a conversation for the duration of the exercise.
If all that research and Pittman's own testimony doesn't convince you that walking will make you a better coach, dear reader, consider this. Stand up, leave your phone at your desk (or, at least, put it in your pocket), grab a buddy and talk it over -- preferably while moving your legs in a brisk but not rushed manner for 30 minutes at a time -- and then see how you feel.