Bear Bryant: Mind Over Matter

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

Self-Scouting and How the Bengals’ Jay Gruden fooled the Redskins’ Jim Haslett

Nowadays, some teams go crazy with self-scouting: stats, odds, percentages, tendencies, and so on. One can debate how useful it is that you run to the right 54.5% of the time out of a certain formation if you have only used that formation eleven times. But the best advice I’ve heard for self-scouting is to identify and counter what you “always” and “never” do. If you always run to the right out of a certain formation, or you never throw the ball when you show another look, or you always or never blitz or play a type of coverage in another situation, then you better counteract that because your opponent certainly will.

So it was this past weekend when the Bengals faced the Redskins. Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden noticed that the Redskins, under defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, always ran Cover 0 when facing any kind of wildcat formation where the quarterback was not the one under center:

“We had a pretty good indication that they were gonna be in Cover-0 when we went wildcat with whoever we had back there other than a quarterback, whether it’s a running back or wide receiver,” Gruden told Adam Schein and Rich Gannon on SiriusXM NFL Radio this week. “It took a little bit of time, but the free safety came out of the middle of the field, and came in the box, and we knew we had A.J. one-on-one against a safety.

“And it was just Mo’s job to just launch it as high and as deep as he could and let A.J. run under it,” Gruden explained. “And he threw a great ball, a much better ball than he did in practice, that’s for sure. It worked out great, obviously.” . . . .

“Actually, it was just for this game,” Gruden replied. “Because Coach Haslett, I was just watching their wildcat reel. And every wildcat snap they had, they played Cover-0. And I’ve been waiting for it. We practiced it this week, and I told them on Wednesday when we installed our group that this was gonna be play one of the game against the Redskins,” Gruden continued. “We practiced it four or five times throughout the week, and made sure we protected it number one, and gave him a chance to step into it and launch it. And he did.”

Now, there’s nothing wrong with going Cover 0 against a non-quarterback formation, but, as I was told long ago, if you don’t notice your “always” and “nevers,” someone else will. Video of the play after the jump.

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Smart Links – Denard Robinson, Diamond Formation, Force Players, Dictionaries – 9/21/2012

Excellent Matt Hinton piece on Denard Robinson and Notre Dame.

Oklahoma is using the Diamond formation again.

Malcolm Gladwell on Jerry Sandusky.

Excellent look at Ohio State’s problems against Cal with runs/formation strength into the boundary.

Wars and Dictionaries.

Is rap poetry, and why does it want to be?

West Virginia freshman found out he had diabetes on the eve of signing day.

I want this jacket.

The Montana project.

High school quarterback, coached by Todd Dodge, throws for 715 yards in a game.

Rethinking Bob Rubin.

Make sure to “Like” Smart Football on Facebook.

Smart Links – Kick-slides, Poker, Behavioral Econ, Single-Wing Playbook – 8/2/2012

Mike Mayock on the kick-slide:

Podcast I did with Brad of the Indy Colts site Stampede Blue.

Clemson walk-on is a Purple Heart winner.

– Gore Vidal has died; here are all of his writings for the New York Review of Books. I liked the one on Italo Calvino.

Federal court wisdom: “Entering one’s bedroom with a bottle in one hand and a cigarette in the other is not foreplay.”

Freelancers in a new world.

– Get your old school learn on: Princeton’s 1940 Single-Wing playbook (h/t Tog). There’s some pretty interesting stuff in here, from scramble rules to a signal system.

Interesting article on former Houston QB Case Keenum’s attempt to make the Texans roster. I’m not sure I agree with the sentiment that he — or anyone — “deserves” any particular NFL outcome, but I’m happy he’s getting a shot and he’s absolutely right when he talks about the importance of reps.

Robert Schiller on behavioral economics.

Lane Kiffin takes a page from the Floyd Mayweather school of recruiting.

Poker’s future.

I miss Howard already

This great video of Howard Schnellenberger and his Louisville team that thrashed Alabama in the 1990 Fiesta Bowl:

Louisville’s offense, led by future top draft pick (and NFL bust) Browning Nagle, stole the headlines, but it was the defense that would produce the most NFL stars — namely future NFL studs Ted Washington and Ray Buchanan. But of course no star shined brighter than Schnellenberger himself, strutting around the locker room. (H/t Bill.)

What Does (or Should) It Mean to be Crowned “Champion”?

Given that some form of a college football playoff now seems to be a reality, I am glad the BCS is gone and generally think this move to a playoff is a good thing, but I don’t think there’s anything inherently better about a playoff over any other system. There’s no “right” way to determine what a champion is in almost any sport. In thinking through this I was reminded of a piece I wrote a few years ago on the old site. I’ve included it below:

One way or the other

[A]ll this made me wonder what the designation “National Champion” is supposed to capture, anyway. The baseline that everyone — including the President-elect — seems to push for is a playoff. So we can use that to ask about each view.

Doyel’s argument seems to be that Utah doesn’t deserve to be #1 because —“People, please” — you wouldn’t really expect them to beat Texas, OU, or Florida, right? I mean, just look at all their bare victories over mediocre or mid-level teams. In other words, one could phrase the Doyel view as the “National Champion” is the team that you think is the absolute best team in the sense that, were they to be matched up against any other team in the country, they would always be favored to win.

That can’t be right, though. That’s not at all what a single-elimination playoff gives you. Had the 2007 Giants played the 2007 Patriots the week following the Giants’ Super Bowl win, would Eli and Co. suddenly have become the favorite? I think not. In March Madness, with teams playing every couple of days, do we really think that the better team always wins each game? No, and that’s kind of the point of a playoff.

Indeed, series-based playoff systems, like with MLB or the NBA, are presumably based on the very idea that one-game is not enough to determine the best team. So, if we still think the playoff is the best solution, then it makes no sense to say that Utah can’t be the National Champion just because you think the other teams might actually be better overall. Though, if you subscribe to the Doyel view of “National Champion,” then the BCS probably does a better job for you than a playoff would, because the system is all about crowning the perceived best overall team. Although it lacks the precision of a playoff, it gives you fudge-factors so that Florida’s and Oklahoma’s (though not Texas’s) losses can be overlooked.

So, maybe instead of crowning as National Champion the best team in absolute terms, that distinction is a reward for having the best overall season. I don’t really watch racing, but that seems to be what they go for with their points system. And many BCS defenders say that it makes “every week a playoff,” so the best overall season gets rewarded (let’s just pretend like that is true). Well, a playoff doesn’t give you that either: Exhibit A – the 2007 New England Patriots. They played unbelievably all year, blew everyone out, and then lost. No one — not even them — tried to argue that they should get a share of the Super Bowl via media vote or whatnot.

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NCAA’s Academic Policy for Recruits

The following piece is by Ben Malbasa, a head high school football coach in Cleveland, Ohio.

We have all seen the ads.  NCAA athletes compete in their sports as they transform into accountants, teachers, doctors, and other professionals while a voice reminds the viewer: “There are more than 380,000 student-athletes and most of them go pro in something other than sports.”  While certainly true, the airing of such ads during championship football and basketball contests featuring young men who often turn pro and do not remain in college calls to mind the Wizard of Oz telling Dorothy and her friends to “pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.”  The fact that the NCAA chooses to run the commercials, despite such an obvious disconnect between the mission of the NCAA and the reality of the young men competing in its revenue-generating sports, shows just how important it is to the organization to continue to market the noble ideal of the amateur scholar-athlete.

Think of the hat as a tie-breaker

While the NCAA does not sponsor a football championship, the marketability of the scholar-athlete has been on constant display as the powers that control college football have worked to implement a play-off system.  During the past several weeks, college football fans have followed the meetings with great interest, and if future national championship games are as fiercely competitive as the negotiations that produced them, then football fans will be in for a great treat.  Unfortunately, sports administrators engaged in far less negotiation, and college football fans gave far less attention to the process resulting in the NCAA decision to raise the minimum standards for incoming freshmen beginning in August of 2016 (students beginning as high school freshmen this Fall will be the first group evaluated under the revised system).  As a teacher and head football coach at a college preparatory school, I find these changes to be frightening; indeed, it appears that the NCAA has chosen to sacrifice academic rigor on the alter it has built to the highly marketable image of the NCAA scholar-athlete.

For the sake of clarity, it is important to understand the current and proposed systems. Today, a student must earn at least a 2.0 GPA in NCAA approved classes and earn at least an average of 21.5 on the four sections of the ACT.  In other words, a student earning a 2.0 GPA must score in roughly the 55th to 60th percentile in order to be eligible to compete at the highest level of college sports.  Under the regimen that will begin in 2016, a student earning the minimum 2.3 GPA must attain an average ACT score of 23.25 in order to obtain full eligibility.  Such an ACT score would place the student in roughly the 70th percentile. 

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Smart Links – Trick plays, TESF, Gruden’s Game Plan, Play-calling Jargon, All-22 – 6/25/2012

Let’s bring this one back — the old “Starburst” play, run by, of course, Spurrier’s old Florida Gators:

– That said, not all trick plays are worth repeating. This one worked but, well, I think we can keep it on the shelf. The over-the-shoulder:

The Crystal Ball Run reviews The Essential Smart Football. Also, Amazon dropped the price on the paperback version, and you can also find it on Barnes & Noble’s website.

My small role in inspiring noted author and gamesman Spencer Hall to write this must rank among my greatest accomplishments.

A scouting-report style look at Jon Gruden’s offensive gameplan.

Kirk Ferentz now owns the “Stanzi.”

Will NFL play-calling evolve into something simpler? I’m curious what role helmet-radios play in all of this. Also, there needs to be some argument for why they will not become simpler other than path dependence.

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Smart Links – Approval Matrix, Phil Steele, Illiteracy, Food Trucks – 6/4/2012

My radio hit with Doug Farrar and Rob Rang.

Iceberg lettuce remains in its rightful place while something else is surely mislabeled.

The greatest 7-on-7 team ever.

A great — and depressing — article.

Phil Steele ranks the SEC’s coaches.

What an article on bankruptcy looks like when the author has clearly never read through an actual bankruptcy docket.

The globalization of food trucks. A good thing, in my view.

George Soros’s buzzworthy speech on the euro and the Cliff’s Notes version.

MLB and boy shorts.

Part II of Q&A with Eleven Warriors on the Spread and Urban Meyer

You can find it here:

RRF:  In your study of Meyer’s time at Florida, what were the issues when Meyer’s offense failed?  In other words, what are the necessary predicate conditions for his approach to succeed?

CB: … The other issues they had on offense at Florida — and look, he won two National titles there, which isn’t too shabby — largely were focused on a couple of areas. One was, somewhat inexplicably, Florida’s red zone touchdown percentage cratered after Dan Mullen left. In 2008, when Tim Tebow was a junior and Meyer won the BCS championship game, against conference-only opponents Florida scored touchdowns over 70% of the 43 times they were in the red zone. The next year, in 2009, again only against conference opponents, they scored a touchdown only 29% of the 41 times they went into the red zone — and this was still with Tebow as their quarterback! That drop in touchdown percentage explains almost all of Florida’s drop from 43 points per game to 26 points against conference opponents from Tim Tebow’s junior to senior seasons. (I’m excluding non-conference opponents since we all know that a few games versus directional U can really skew the stats. And all stats are via the invaluable cfbstats.com.)

Read the whole thing.