The most popular Smart Football articles of 2011

The coming of each new year gives us a chance to look back, and 2011 was a productive year here at Smart Football. In addition to my pieces over at Grantland, I had a number of fresh pieces here on the site. Below are links to some of the most popular pieces of 2011, in no particular order.

Dick LeBeau, Dom Capers, and the evolution of defense.

Why every team should install its offense in three days (and other political theories on coaching offense).

What is the inverted veer/Dash read?

Buddy Ryan’s “Polish Goalline” Tactic.

Bobby Petrino’s shallow cross concept.

Snag, stick and the importance of triangles (yes, triangles) in the passing game

The “Diamond” formation and other mult-back pistol sets.

Teaching a quarterback where to throw the ball – Grass, leverage, and specific defenders

Combining quick passes, run plays and screens in the same play.

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Smart Football’s NFL Playoffs Wildcard Review

Wildcard weekend features several important matchups, though some wide disparity in teams: In the same weekend that the 13-3 and record setting Saints must play, so too much the 9-7 Bengals, 9-7 Giants and even the 8-8 Denver Broncos. At different times I’ve written about most of these teams; the weekend provides a good chance to review some of the concepts that these teams hope to ride to victory.

Keys to success

Cincinnati Bengals at the Houston Texans. My pick is Houston by seven or so. Make sure to read my recent exploration of their outside “wide” zone, which they learned from the master himself: Alex Gibbs.

Detroit Lions at the New Orleans Saints. This is far and away the best game of the weekend, and, though I have to go with the Saints, I think it’s a tough one to call. The Saints are particularly devastating at home, so I’ll pick them by three, but I would not at all be shocked to see Detroit pull off the victory.

In a year of dynamic offenses, New Orleans may well have the best one in all of football. A key part of that success is all-purpose “space player” Darren Sproles, who frequently serves as the fulcrum player in the Saints’ multifarious attack by lining up all-around the field and being both a rushing and receiving threat. I wrote all about those varied skills earlier this season here, for Grantland. Of course, Drew Brees is pretty good too; I’ve previously written about his favorite play, four verticals (isn’t it everyone’s favorite play?), for the NY Times.

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Chart of the Day: Airraid bowl success edition

It’s no secret I enjoy some well executed Airraid, and this bowl season provided three great examples. The last three quarterbacks Dana Holgorsen coached — Case Keenum at Houston, Brandon Weeden at Oklahoma State, and his current quarterback, Geno Smith at West Virginia — all led their teams to bowl victories, including two in BCS games. (Keenum was primarily coached this year by former TTech quarterback Kliff Kingsbury while Todd Monken took over at Oklahoma State and led their attack.) And each quarterback put up very impressive numbers. How impressive? See the chart below:

Ho hum, another day at the office

Each had a monster game in his own right, and most importantly they each won, but I enjoy the final column: The “average” quarterback that emerges. Based on the numbers, I’d take that guy on my team. And better yet, tell him to bring his offense with him.

Smart Links – 1/3/2012

Why are movie revenues dropping, by Roger Ebert.

Books that are never done being written.

10 New Year’s wine resolutions.

Recap of developments in particle physics in 2011.

Are brokerage accounts safe?

Intellectual property feudalism.

What was the least important event of 2011?

New podcast with the Solid Verbal on the BCS bowl games

I did a podcast with the great Ty and Dan of the Solid Verbal, previewing all the BCS bowl games. Listen to it here (and on iTunes as well).

Smart Links – 12/20/2011

Resources on the 4-2-5, TCU’s vaunted defense.

How the “Cowboy” (corner blitz) killed the wildcat. It’s because the “Wildcat QB” was not a passing threat. It’s a good read on what the wildcat did and does well (covering similar territory as I covered here).

Sean Payton, circa 1992, on quarterbacking.

Inside the mind of a college freshman quarterback.

Breakout players of the 2011 college football season. What Watkins and De’Anthony Thomas have been able to do as true freshman is just incredibly impressive, especially given how many roles each play for their teams. I could watch highlights of both guys all day.

Defending trips: Disguising schemes and staying disciplined. Very good link.

How pedestrians behave.

Ian McEwan and Christopher Buckley on Hitchens.

Paragraph of the day, red zone playcalling edition

Red Zone Play-Calling

On a first down Red Zone play, teams are more likely to score if it’s a run than a pass if they are at the 8 yard line or closer. Anything between the 9 and the 20 favors a pass on first down. That doesn’t mean that 100% pass is the optimal strategy, just that the play calling should favor the pass (or run inside the 9). For goal to go situations after first down, second down is the ultimate OC’s choice. From anywhere 10 and in on second and goal running and passing have nearly identical touchdown percents. On third and goal, the run still holds up strongly. A called run is more likely to score a TD on anything from the 6 and in than a pass, which owns 7 and up. Again, not saying the strategy should be 100%, but there is real value to favoring the run inside the 7.

There is more data driven situational analysis here.

Smart Links – 12/14/2011

Indiana’s buzzer-beater to beat Kentucky set to the theme from Hoosiers:

Craig James runs for Senative.

What happened to the Triangle Offense? And the last frontier of the Triangle, in Manila.

Coach Hoover on Tebow.

Amazon rewarding people who report on higher prices in stores.

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Klosterman on the people who hate Tim Tebow

Chuck Klosterman has a strong piece on the people who hate Tim Tebow. I liked this piece because it inverted the usual structure of the Tebow discussion, which I can summarize as “TEBOWTEBOWTEBOWTEBOWHARFHARFHARF”. (Or, as Spencer Hall has accurately put it: “YOUR STUPID NON-COLLEGE-FOOTBALL-WATCHING RELATIVE SAYS: ‘Oregon has the uniforms and the colors and the things, don’t they? What’s with that? Hey, what do you think of Tim Tebow? ‘Cause I’ve got some real strong opinions I’d like to share.'”) From Klosterman:

The crux here, the issue driving this whole “Tebow Thing,” is the matter of faith. It’s the ongoing choice between embracing a warm feeling that makes no sense or a cold pragmatism that’s probably true. And with Tebow, that illogical warm feeling keeps working out. It pays off. The upside to secular thinking is that — in theory — your skepticism will prove correct. Your rightness might be emotionally unsatisfying, but it confirms a stable understanding of the universe. Sports fans who love statistics fall into this camp. People who reject cognitive dissonance build this camp and find the firewood. But Tebow wrecks all that, because he makes blind faith a viable option. His faith in God, his followers’ faith in him — it all defies modernity. This is why people care so much. He is making people wonder if they should try to believe things they don’t actually believe.

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Smart Links – Strategery Round-Up: two-tight ends, the 3-4 defense, rocket toss and “Iso” – 12/8/2011

Old school Green Bay Packers’ use of two-tight ends:

Two good links from Ron Jenkins:

Wisdom from Woody Hayes:

[W]hen I first starting coaching listening to Woody Hayes talk about designing an offense. He talked about you start with your schedule and rank all your opponents from one to ten in terms of toughness to beat. Then you base your offense on beating the top 3 or 4 teams. That’s it. Once you are done there you just make sure you’re sound against everything else.

The importance of choosing your coverage in the 3-4 defense:

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