The Smart Football Glossary

Football is bathed in jargon. Other sports have their wonky terms but anyone who even casually watches a football game is bombarded with a cascade of code words, while even experienced fans usually can’t make heads or tails of what coaches and players say to each other on the sidelines. Some of this is inherent in a game made up of a few seconds of action interrupted by breaks for communication. And the phenomenon of platooning — where offensive players don’t play defense and vice versa — creates additional opportunities for coaches and players to communicate, and, like any other pressure filled profession, from the armed forces to medicine, communication in these circumstances is condensed so that the most information is conveyed in the fewest syllables.

wordcloud1All too often, however, discussing even the most rudimentary and fundamental football concepts is needlessly offputting, something exacerbated as too many announcers and analysts use streams of buzzwords to sound intelligent without actually conveying any information (something I try very hard to not do, though undoubtedly with inconsistent success). Unless you’re sitting on an NFL sideline trying to tell your position coach what the defense is doing, you are better off using as little jargon as possible and instead trying to explain what you see in English.

But in football, terminology is often destiny, and some terms have become so ingrained that being familiar with them is critical for any intelligent fan; on the other hand, others have become so misused that using them actually deters rather than enhances understanding. The goal of this football glossary is simply to unpack a limited set of football buzzwords in a way that will make watching games on Saturday and Sunday more enjoyable. The important thing, however, is not to focus on the terms but instead on the explanations: if we’re all on the same page with those, the names we given the underlying ideas — whether you call it Smash, China or Shakes — what we end up calling it is simply detail, not substance. I’m sure your high school coach had his own name for each of these below.

Arm Talent: A notorious bit of scout-speak that is either a pseudo-scientific way to describe something obvious (“That quarterback has a strong, accurate arm”) or an extremely clumsy way to describe something better served with colloqiual english (“He has the ability to throw the ball from different angles to avoid oncoming rushers and still find an open throwing lane through which he can deliver the football”).

Bang 8 Post: A particular version of the “skinny post” or “glance” routes, the “Bang 8″ or “Bang 8 Post” was developed by former San Diego Chargers head coach Don Coryell and calls for the receiver to run seven-steps straight downfield before breaking inside at an angle. The particular angle the receiver takes, however, depends on the leverage of the defender covering him: the receiver’s job is to take whatever angle is necessary to ensure he is between the quarterback and the nearest defender. (“8″ is the number for a post in the Coryell route tree, see “Route Tree” below.) “Bang” indicates that the route is not thrown as a deep bomb but instead is a rhythm throw thrown by the quarterback on rhythm as soon as he hit the fifth step in his dropback. Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin of the Cowboys ran the Bang 8 better than anyone in NFL history:

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What Gadgets I’ve Been Using: Garmin Vivofit Fitness Tracker, UE Bluetooth Speaker, Clever Coffee Dripper, Babyfood

I’m not a big gadget guy but I realized that I’ve been acquiring several over the past few months and thought I’d share a few that have been working well.

vivofitGarmin Vivofit. The biggest revolution in football right now is not on the chalkboard or even in the stadium; it’s on the practice field, in the weight room and often even continues once the players have gone home — it’s the rise of so-called “sports science.” I wrote about some of the ways Chip Kelly monitors and tracks his players, and most of the NFL and many of the best college teams are using this technology to monitor and track their players. We’re in a world of data.

The Vivofit fortunately does not cost $25,000, but I’ve found it still generates — and most importantly prominently displays — a great deal of useful data. The Vivofit, along with most of the other leading “fitness trackers,” focuses on tracking your steps, reminding you when you’ve been inactive too long, and even monitors the amount and restfulness of your sleep. I’ve been thrilled with mine and it has definitely served its purpose of motivating me to keep hitting and surpassing my daily goals, which can be set manually or automatically by the software based on my own history. These devices are all very new — just ask most major college football and NFL programs which are experimenting with trackers of varying levels of sophistication (and cost) — and I’m guessing the next generation will render the current crop obsolete. But until then I’ve been very happy. I chose the Vivofit over the Fitbit because I wanted a tracker that displayed the number of steps, miles, calories and so on right on the face of the device. All of these devices sync with an app to track your progress over time, but I like being able to check mine in real time. The Vivofit also displays red lines if you’ve been inactive too long, which gets to the purpose of these devices: It’s not to perfectly track my steps or calories (though I certainly expect it to be close), but instead to keep me moving. At that it’s been very effective.

– UE Mini Boom Wireless Speaker. Bluetooth speakers don’t always give you the best sound quality but it’s hard to beat them for convenience — connecting your phone, iPad or other device to this speaker is a cinch. I liked this one based on its small size — portable means portable even though I typically use it at home — and the sound quality has been excellent (considering it is bluetooth). It sounds good both playing my music, as well as a few baby songs.

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Smart Links — Strategery Round-Up: GPS tracking, bootleg passes, defending 3×1 — 7/15/2014

GPS tracking to measure exertion, speed and to prevent injuries (see also here):

Four years ago, Erik Korem and Joe Danos, who were FSU assistants at the time, brought the idea to [Jimbo] Fisher after seeing the devices used by an Australian rules football team. The Australian company that makes them, Catapult Sports, had never had an American football client, but Fisher was quickly sold on the possibilities of designing highly specialized training programs for his athletes that promised increased production and fewer injuries. “He knew at some point in time, we were going to be ready to face the best of the best, and we had to be a little bit different,” head strength coach Vic Viloria said. “His little bit different turned out to be really, really impressive.” . . .

The cost is dwarfed by the sheer scope of information the devices provide. Each GPS monitor returns about 1,000 unique data points per second, which for 95 players practicing for a few hours a day amounts to an overwhelming amount of information for coaches to dissect. Florida State now employs two assistants working full-time hours — Jacobs and Kratik Malhotra, a data analyst with a degree in electronics engineering — just to sift through the numbers. . .

Florida State’s run to a national championship last year hinged greatly on an unusually low number of injury casualties, which Fisher hardly chalks up to luck. With information gleaned from the GPS devices, Florida State virtually eliminated soft-tissue injuries — muscle pulls and strains — and Fisher adjusted the team’s practice schedules to reduce midweek workload and ensure his team peaked on Saturdays. The more FSU’s coaches learned about the data delivered by the GPS systems, the more the team’s conditioning and practices could be tailored to the specific needs of each player.

Defending 3×1 (trips) formations, Part IV:

There are many key items to look at when setting the defense up vs. 3×1, but if your opponent utilizes the bubble as a mainstay, I’d suggest overloading to the trips side of the coverage. Now this may mean rolling a safety down and playing a one-high look in these situations, or playing a version of TCU’s Special coverage, but whatever you do, I’d over play the trips side. First off, when coupled with the run game, the zone read can easily be defended as discussed in a previous post. The LB’s track the RB and the DE gets a two-for-one on the RB and the QB, usually giving the QB a give read. Now, if the QB, or the OC is savvy enough to simply call the bubble, instead of having the QB read it since the OC knows the DE is sitting on the give and the QB keep, he’s now made the DE a three-for-one player, because this gets the DE into pursuit quicker than if the QB were actually reading the play. Likewise the over shift in coverage puts more defenders closer to where the offense is trying to attack. Again, this is a big win for the defense. I recommend rolling into a one-high shell late, or even on the snap to gain a defender with leverage on the bubble.

NIU’s empty quarterback power and counter combination play:

Northern Illinois has a pretty nifty offense. It seems to be all the rage these days. However, when you watch the film, the vast majority of the offense relies heavily on the old, reliable power blocking scheme. In this case, since they run QB power from an empty formation, they’re kicking out the end with the guard in this specific usage of the power scheme. You may consider this a trap play, but it’s using the power blocking concept (specifically the “counter” play scheme, with the QB’s read acting as the “wrapper” typically filled by the fullback or pulling tackle). They run a lot of QB power, and this article will focus on their combination QB power play with the jailbreak screen.

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Smart Links — Defending packaged plays and trips, Auburn tempo, Noel Mazzone clinic notes — 3/31/2014

Courtesy of Dan Shanoff, a diagram of four verticals autographed by Kliff Kingsbury:

kliff

Is man-to-man the modern defense’s answer to packaged plays?

Holgorsen’s offense may be revered for its stars and its successes, but it’s like many others. It uses a lot of combination plays that can be a run or a pass depending on how a defense sets and reacts and how the quarterback reads it. WVU likes to run a stick-draw play where the quarterback can wait and hand the ball to a running back on a draw or wait and sell the draw and throw a simple pass to an inside receiver for easy yardage. Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty has the authority to hand the ball off on an inside zone or flick a pass to a slot receiver running a slant. Kansas State and TCU both hurt WVU when the quarterback would run outside or sell that action and then throw a pass to a receiver on the move in space created by the threat of a quarterback run.

In all those instances, the offense is at a greater advantage when a defense plays zone. The offenses try to target linebackers, nickelbacks or the hybrid linebacker/defensive back types in the area they’re trying to cover. The offense’s options force that defensive player to make a decision and the offense acts off of that….

“Quite a few teams use the zone read and that pop pass off the zone read,” WVU cornerbacks coach and former ECU defensive coordinator Brian Mitchell said. “You don’t want to put your defender in a run-pass conflict. He bites on the run and they throw a pass right behind him, or they run some kind of bubble screen off of it. When you go man, you take that out of the equation. He’s either a run defender or a pass defender, and you get an extra guy in the box with man coverage.”

The University of Miami has a site up with video of most of their major drills, called UDrills.TV. Below is an example of their Pat ‘N Go drill (an Air Raid staple):

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Request for Creative Design Help

I’m looking to hire a creative designer for a quick freelance assignment to create the design for a 3.75″H x 4″W printed insert for a charity event. Please email me at chris [at] smartfootball.com with a proposed price and a link to your portfolio. I can provide more details at that point.

Thanks so much.

Chris

Smart Links – Spurrier’s Mills, Oklahoma State’s Diamond, Tony Dungy, Seamus Heaney – 9/4/2013

Coach Hoover on Steve Spurrier’s 1995-1997 era Florida passing game. Coach Hoover shows one of my favorites from Spurrier, “Mills,” which his South Carolina team scored with for the first touchdown of the 2013 college football season. Compare this:

With this:

– I did a really fun podcast (which you can listen to here) with Sigmund Bloom and Matt Waldman from Football Guys.

Interesting look at how Mississippi State prepped for Oklahoma State and then tried to switch gears when the Cowboys went to a new look they hadn’t anticipated.

Will Veatch has some very interesting stuff on the Chicago Bears’ spread offense — from 1950. Well worth a read.

– Brophy with defensive back fundamentals from Tony Dungy and 3-4 reduction defense concepts from Marvin Lewis.

Make sure to get get your orders into the Smart Football store before the season gets too far in.

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Controlled Adversity: Hell Week

One of the main reasons to play football is that it is hard. The defining feature of playing the sport is every person who plays has to do one thing, over and over and over: get back up. And not just get back up right away, but get back up when you’re tired, filthy, and just plain cranky. Compared to other sports, football players spend hours and hours at practice for a payoff of just a handful of plays once a week, a few weeks a year. It’s a grind.

But that’s what makes it great. It’s a cliche that the controlled adversity a football player — and more importantly a football team — faces is preparation for real adversity in life, but it’s a cliche for a reason. Yet, particularly for high school football players who will never play again, it’s also one of the last times in their lives they will face that adversity not alone, but with a team of equals to share the experience with and rely on.

Last night I saw a screening of Hell Week, a short documentary airing tonight (August 22) on ESPN2 at 7:30pm, which captures a slice of that experience by following the Station Camp High School (Tennessee) team during their four night fall camp.

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Free Shipping in the Smart Football Shop for National T-Shirt Day

Make sure to make your orders in the Smart Football Shop today using promo code “TDAY2013” to get free shipping on all purchases.

shirt

You’ll find lots of good stuff in the shop.

Smart Links – QB Accuracy, Hook and Lateral, Free Shipping, Star Wars, Evaluating OLine, Wittgenstein – 3/8/2013

Jets offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said that accuracy in a quarterback is overrated. Seriously.

ShakintheSouthland on the hook and lateral.

Promo in the Smart Football Shop: Use the code “SPRINGTIME” to get free shipping in the Smart Football Shop.

College football’s best individual passing games since 2005. Also check out the best passing seasons since 2005.

– What was neoliberalism?

How Disney bought Lucasfilm. I enjoyed this; Bloomberg Businessweek has turned into a surprisingly good magazine.

Assembling the “billing block” as the bottom of movie posters.

Matt Waldman on the disconnect between evaluating and drafting talent.

Bruce Feldman always has interesting takes, this time on the low road many star NFL offensive linemen took to success:

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Smart Links – Warmack, Fluker, and Jones, Leigh Steinberg, Petrino, the GZA, the Quesarito – 3/6/2013

It’s draft season, but don’t just study quarterbacks and receivers. The big guys up front need some attention too. This clip of Chance Warmack, DJ Fluker, and Barrett Jones is as good of a place to start as any:

Leigh Steinberg on agents, sports, and representing athletes. After a slow start, I thought this was a very interesting and wide ranging discussion, of particular interest to would-be directors player personnel or GMs (or owners!).

Bobby Knight has a new book called The Power of Negative Thinking. Seriously.

Welcome to Hell!

SBNation on Bobby Petrino. Although a bit vague and inexact in trying to describe Petrino’s attack, the focus of the piece is in the right place, however, in that it tries to understand Petrino’s worldview through his obsession with schemes and tactics.

The quest for the Chipotle Quesarito.

Bill Gates on the book Why Nations Fail.

The GZA interviewed by… Neil DeGrasse Tyson.

A more realistic mock NFL draft.