LSU vs. Alabama: The Zen Riddle

Can a game be great even though the quarterback play is only average (or even below average, depending on how you adjust for the competition)?

Your answer probably determines whether you thought last night was a good game or a bad one, or even whether it was fun to watch or was boring.

The gift that keeps giving: Buddy Ryan’s playbook

Check out this gem from the early pages of Ryan’s playbook (linked to in the prior post):

Brave New World: Watching film (game and practice) in real time on iPads

What do West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen and Supreme Court Justice Scalia have in common? Answer: They both take their work home with them via their iPads. In Scalia’s case, the Supreme Court staff and his law clerks load the casebriefs and cases on his iPad for remote viewing. For Holgorsen, it’s film — practice, WVU film, opponents, film, and so on. As he explains in the linked clip (beginning at the 1:50 mark), coaches and even players nowadays frequently take video home on their iPads or even download it on the fly to review and continue the process of getting better. He even mentions that some schools give iPads to all of their players.

Very interesting, and increasingly available to teams at all levels. And, after the jump, is a photo West Virginia QB Geno Smith tweeted of his aforementioned iPad with game cutups:

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Funky name, good site: FishDuck.com’s breakdowns of Oregon’s schemes

This is a fan created site that does a good job breaking down Oregon’s schemes. What a huge advantage it is to be a fan of a team like Chip Kelly’s — very fertile material, and this site does nice work in analyzing all of it. Check it out.

Smart Links – 10/13/2011

Why have NFL passing yards gone up so much this season?

Bill Belichick breaks down plays from the Patriots’ win over the Jets.

Calvin McGee on the spread offense.

Buck and strong safety fire zone, against both the run and the pass.

Peyton Manning, dealing with his injury.

Bruce Feldman joins Ty and Dan on the Solid Verbal.

Al Davis, 1929-2011

I will have more to say on the passing of Al Davis, but, for now, it’s enough to say that it’s unclear whether there was any more influential figure in the history of professional football, or ever will be. Al had his enemies and his grudges and there are many incidents that don’t always reflect so well on him, but those won’t be what I remember. I will remember the owner who was a coach, who learned from Sid Gilman, taught Bill Walsh, and hand picked and groomed John Madden (who was an obscure college assistant coach under Don Coryell — Al knew what he was doing). I will remember the man who was commissioner of the AFL and was never afraid to fight the system from within. And most of all I will remember the man whose teams, for the better part of four decades, lived up to not only his famous adage “Just win, baby!” but also to his more serious motto: “Commitment to Excellence.”

So blows the autumn wind.

New Grantland: Darren Sproles and the rise of the “space player”

My new piece is up over at Grantland. Check it out.

Scan the list of the NFL’s total yardage leaders and you’ll see their names. Most of them have the title running back — Matt Forte, LeSean McCoy, Jahvid Best, and Ray Rice, to name a few — but there is no one prototype for these players. Indeed, in the same group you’ll also see receivers, most notably Wes Welker of the Patriots, a “slot receiver” who is the undisputed master of the underneath route and the receiver screen (although this year he’s been doing all that and more). An older example is former Pro Bowler Eric Metcalf, who made the rare switch from running back (where he ran for more than 600 yards in two different seasons with the Cleveland Browns) to wide receiver (where he had more than 1,000 yards in 1995 while playing in the Falcons’ run-and-shoot offense), all while returning kicks and punts. But without a doubt, today’s top space player is the New Orleans Saints’ runner/receiver/kick returner/human Molotov cocktail Darren Sproles. Sproles is straight-ahead fast, but he is a great space player because of his other attributes: quickness, lateral agility, a second gear to blow by defenders, and a low center of gravity. Sproles returns kicks for the Saints but, then again, every time he touches the ball it’s like a kick return — he’s in space, and one missed open-field tackle against him might mean a touchdown.

Read the whole thing.

Smart Links – 10/6/2011

Advice from Steve Jobs.

The tire juke drill for runningbacks.

Texas defensive coordinator Manny Diaz has no qualms about taking risks.

History of the Erhardt-Perkins offense.

Love the fullback pop pass.

Re-conceptualizing the strong safety in the 46.

Celtics great Bill Russell joins the lawsuit against the NCAA regarding the use of former players’ likenesses.

Civil Rights leader Fred Shuttlesworth has passed away.

Seth Davis, an intelligent guy, fails economics.

Closing the book on Bryce Brown.

A mixed bag, but a couple of these deleted scenes really are great.

New Grantland Blog: LaGarette Blount and the Power O

It’s up over at Grantland:

The game-winning play is one of the oldest plays in football, and is used at every level, from high school to the NFL: the “Power” or “Power O” play. It’s called “power” because the goal for the offense is to get extra blockers to the point of attack, i.e. where the ball is going, to simply outnumber the defense. (It also sounds tough, and coaches like that.) There’s more strategy on why teams like to go to the power play on a given down and distance as opposed to a zone run (as we saw this season with Darren McFadden), but there’s no question it was the better look against the Colts on Blount’s 35-yard touchdown run.

Read the whole thing.

New Grantland blog: Darren McFadden’s touchdown

It’s up over at the Grantland Triangle:

The key play for McFadden and the Raiders was his 70-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, which came on the Raiders’ base run play: the inside zone. The theory behind “zone running” is that, given all the multitude of shifts and maneuvers a defense can present — and the many formations offenses use nowadays — you need clear rules to run the ball effectively. The zone allows the offensive line to work together, double-teaming the defensive linemen before sliding off to block the linebackers (the “second level defenders”), while the running back has freedom to find the open crease. Against the Jets on this play, McFadden attacked the interior of New York’s defense before bouncing it around end for the big gainer.

Read the whole thing.