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.

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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.

Smart Links – Woody Hayes on the Triple Option, Lighter Linebackers, Hugh Freeze’s Recruiting, Cam Cameron, Snickers – 2/14/2013

Share Valentine’s day the right way: with Woody Hayes serenading you with his explanations of the triple option (“The NFL doesn’t even try it.”). Go to about the 18 minute mark.

Also make sure to go to the 9:30 mark to check out the fashions. (I have some Woody Hayes related shirts in the Smart Football shop.)

Some thoughts on Cam Cameron as LSU’s new offensive coordinator.

Bruce Feldman on Ole Miss and Hugh Freeze’s recruiting.

Ronald Dworkin has passed away.

– Tragedy: Maker’s Mark is watering down its bourbon.

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Urban Meyer at the Ohio Coaches Convention 2013

Always good stuff here:

Smart Football’s Super Bowl Round-Up

Doesn’t get any better than this:

Below is a round-up of some pieces I’ve done relevant to the Super Bowl, as I’ve written about both the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens over the past couple of years:

Jim Harbaugh on coaching quarterbacks:

My final link is not about the Ravens or 49ers directly, as it covers some of the tactics Stanford used to defend Oregon this past season, but it contained some good wisdom from former Iowa defensive coordinator Norm Parker that I think applies to the challenge Baltimore has in facing San Francisco’s multiple attack:

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New Products and Designs in the Smart Football Shop

I’ve added new products and designs to the Smart Football shop — make sure to check them all out.

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As always, let me know if you have any feedback as well. I hope everyone enjoys these.

Smart Links – Chris Ault’s Pistol, Chip Kelly’s Non-Pistol, 3-4 vs 4-3, Chappelle Show, Next Wave of Dual-Threat QBs – 1/23/2013

Former Nevada coach and Pistol Offense auteur Chris Ault has been on a bit of a media blitz recently; check out interesting interviews he’s done with the New York Times¬†and the NFL Network. And in his interview with Mercury-News’ Jerry McDonald, Ault highlighted the fact that it’s myopic to think of this stuff as just the read and specifically the quarterback keep. Instead, what makes it all work — and potentially viable for the future in the NFL — is it’s just one piece of the puzzle but it actually bolsters the rest of what you do.

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Where it always begins

Q: Seems like common sense to take advantage of the athletic skills these quarterbacks have . . .

Ault: Absolutely. I’m not here to tell you that the 49ers should run the read 16, 17 times a game. You can’t do that in the NFL. But I think by running the read play, it’s in your offensive system and you’re going to run it five times, nine times a game, it’s one more thing you’ve got to defend. And then when you throw the play-action pass off it, that’s another thing. So it’s not just one dimension that you’ve got to look at, it’s a couple of things. You see Kaep run that 56-yard touchdown, and you say, great, that’s the read option. And it is great. But I think one of the things that set that up was a couple of the play-action passes out of the pistol.

Q: Atlanta saw to it that Russell Wilson did not carry the ball on the read option based on how they deployed their linebackers . . . Kapernick’s running on the read option can be taken away, correct? And in so doing, do you relinquish the middle?

Ault: That’s exactly right and that’s what happened in college. They would load the outside and take Kaep away, and that’s why it’s the read. You give the ball off. We really designed our pistol offense, where we want the running back to carry the football. That is first and foremost in our thinking. But all of a sudden, you just fall asleep, just like Green Bay, you’re handing it, and handing it and handing it, and he might’ve been able to pull it a couple of other times, but he waited until the right time. No question, they might just say, ‘We’re not going to let this Kaepernick run the ball.’ And we had that in college. Then, it gives you an opportunity to run the read and the play-action pass.

This was fairly prophetic by Ault, as Atlanta ended up trying to take away Kaepernick and in the process gave up over 125 yards and 3 touchdowns to Frank Gore and LaMichael James, as well as some big play-action passes. (Though not all of this was from the Pistol; LaMichael James’s touchdown came on the inverted veer.)

One of the persistent myths repeated in the otherwise very good New York Times piece mentioned above is that Chip Kelly ran the pistol at Oregon. This is, as I’ve mentioned before, incorrect, as Chip himself has explained:

Q. One of the recent trends in the NFL is more pistol formation. People are tracing that back to you. Your thoughts on what seems to be a melding of the NFL and college games.

COACH KELLY: Don’t know. Haven’t been there. Don’t run the pistol offense. That’s not what we do.

Chris Ault at Nevada invented the pistol offense. Just retired. Great football coach out there. There’s a lot of ways to play football. Pistol, don’t know that very well. We’re more of a spread run team.

Trends go one way and the other. I said this a long time ago, if you weren’t in the room with Amos Alonzo Stagg and Knute Rockne when they invented this game, you stole it from somebody else. Any coach is going to learn from other people and see how they can implement it in their system. Anything you do has to be personnel driven. You have to adapt to the personnel you have. There’s a lot of great offenses out there, but does it fit with the personnel you have? The key is making sure what you’re doing is giving your people a chance to be successful.

As Chip observes, whether or not these kinds of schemes will be sustainable in the NFL will depend in a large degree on personnel — the supply of multi-talented quarterbacks. As Matt Hinton points out, while this year’s NFL draft class has few true dual threat candidates (and few quarterback candidates to get very excited about at all, though there are some potential sleepers), there is another wave of dual threat guys working their way up through the college ranks right now.

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Bear Bryant: Mind Over Matter

I enjoyed this presentation on the Bear’s philosophy and best sayings: