DeKALB – His natural instinct is to fix things himself.
That's how Northern Illinois coach Dave Doeren worked the past five years as Wisconsin's defensive coordinator. Fewer responsibilities meant more time for specifics. Doeren could dig into details, spend more time with a certain position group in practice, whatever the situation needed.
Five games into his head coaching career, Doeren said he has learned he can't operate the same way.
"I'm not the defensive coordinator," Doeren said. "For me to go down there and just, every now and then, jump in there and tell them to do something when that's not what [the assistant coaches] were telling them in the meeting, now I'm hurting the cause as opposed to helping it.
"Having gone through this process on four or five different staffs, I understand what my role is here."
Three days after his team opened Mid-American Conference play with a 48-41 loss at Central Michigan, Doeren said his job as a head coach is to guide players and keep them positive. During practice, he helps the scout team give NIU's starting offense and defense quality reps. Position coaches focus on their players.
It's the work of a CEO, overlooking the entire operation. That doesn't mean it's easy to step back.
"I think the process I'm going through as a head coach, you always want to do more," Doeren said. "You have to decide, at what point are you being a master of nothing? If I try to do everything, I'm not helping anybody.
"When I do see a fundamental issue with a player, I'll talk to him. But I really feel my role on this football team is to guide and motivate and lead, not to coordinate one side of the ball or the other. And I'm not going to do that."
Doeren's job makes him responsible for everything that happens in the program, but his daily demands prevent him from controlling every detail himself. As a defensive leader, senior middle linebacker Pat Schiller knows more accountability needs to be taken among players.
During Tuesday afternoon's news conference at the Yordon Center, Schiller was open and honest about the defense's shortcomings this season. The unit is last of 13 MAC teams in scoring (39.6 points per game), total yardage (499.8 per game), rushing defense (259 per game) and opponent third-down conversion (52.1 percent), almost the opposite production of a year ago.
Schiller said changes need to be made, specifically in attitude and approach at practice.
"I think it comes down to experience. We've got a lot of young guys on the team," Schiller said. "I like to take credit for that, being the leader on the defense. I need to re-evaluate some of the things I'm doing, try to get the guys ready, take a different approach. I don't really know.
"This week of practices I'm going to treat a little bit different. I'm not really sure what I'm going to do, but things need to be changed until we step up."
Doeren was adamant Tuesday every aspect of his team would improve. He said that included coaching.
Doeren has 16 years of college coaching experience, but this is his first time in this role. He has spoken frequently of a growing process for a defense that has only two starters from last season, but the same applies to him as well.
"I know, as I continue to do this job, I'm going to get better each week," Doeren said. "I did as a coordinator. I know my fifth year as a coordinator I was better than my first year. I'm going to continue to get better as a head coach as I go.
"By no means am I saying I know exactly what I'm doing every second of the day. I'm not blind to the fact that each week I'm going to learn something, and I'm going to take that situation and get better from it."