Smart Notes – Brady’s 99-yard touchdown pass, Solid Verbal, valuable video games, pro combat uniforms, defending the option – 9/13/2011

Tom Brady, in the method predicted, carves up the Miami Dolphins:

How great was the 99-yard pass? And it was so simple. The Dolphins had played a lot of man-to-man coverage, primarily man-free with a single deep safety. The Patriots lined up in no-backs but with a tight-end in the game: The beauty of this is that the no-backs invited the press-man pressure but the tight-end let them protect with six blockers as opposed to five. And then the route combination? Literally the first pass that every high school installs: The hitch/seam combination. The outside receivers run five-yard hitch routes; had the Miami defensive backs played loose, Brady would have taken the quick pass to the flat. Instead they pressed and the slot receivers faded their routes to the outside and turned it into a fade route. Brady actually didn’t throw away from the safety, as the free safety rotated to Welker. But the safety looked like he was trying to jump the seam, and instead Brady lofted it over his head. Great stuff. The Patriots entire gameplan was extremely simple; their other best play was four verticals off of play-action with Brady hitting those tight-ends in the seam.

Big moves. Ty and Dan are taking the Solid Verbal to Grantland.

Just what you were waiting for. Nike’s pro combat uniforms are here. And, um, yeah:

I’m just waiting for uniforms that light up on contact like those old L.A. Lights shoes.

South Carolina is preparing for Navy’s triple-option:

To get ready for Navy’s triple-option rushing attack, the Gamecocks’ defensive unit practice without a ball. The Midshipmen lead the nation in rushing, averaging more than 400 per game. The key to stopping an option attack is to be disciplined and not blowing assignments, Ward said. Which was why the Gamecocks’ defense practiced without a ball. “It was different, but it made you concentrate on your assignments,” Holloman said. “You can’t follow the ball and I think it’ll pay off for during the game.”

All good, but remember that you can’t only rely on playing assignment football against the option; they’ll figure out those assignments and screw with them.

The quest for the golden cartidge (i.e. a video game cartridge worth $5000) is a real thing:


Smart Notes – NFL Week 1, Northwestern’s tricks, 82-6, twitter wisdom – 9/6/2011

Football is back:

Five things to watch in week one of the NFL. Among them:

Julio Jones vs. the Bears Tampa 2: Really anxious to watch the rookie WR play this Sunday in Chicago. I know he has talent, size and deep ball speed—but I want to see him at the line of scrimmage vs. Lovie Smith’s Tampa 2 scheme. The Bears’ CBs (Peanut Tillman and Tim Jennings) will work to re-route the Falcons’ WR and force an inside release. Can he consistently win and get into the route stem when the Bears show their Cover 2 shell? Because if he does, then we get to see him work a deep half safety on the 9 (fade), 8 (post) and 7 (corner). That’s good football to check out.

Northwestern with that sprint-draw from gun, via Sippin on Purple. Good breakdown of an underused play.

So, that happened. Hal Mumme apparently scheduled for his McMurry University team — a Division III squad, meaning they don’t have scholarship athletes — to play Stephen F. Austin, an excellent FCS level school (i.e. whose roster is made up of scholarship athletes). The result, was, uh, ugly:

Hal Mumme’s McMurry University’s team took a record 82-6 loss to Stephen F. Austin last Saturday.

McMurry is a Division III team in Texas. Stephen F. Austin is ranked No. 14 in FCS, the same division that includes Eastern Kentucky, Jacksonville State, etc. Stephen F. Austin outgained Mumme’s team 668-120. McMurry quarterback Jake Mullins threw for just 79 yards and was sacked five times. The score was 53-6 at halftime.

Ever the Civil War buff, Mumme had a quote after the rout.

“I know how Lee felt after Pickett’s Charge,” McMurry coach Hal Mumme said. “It’s all my fault. I just asked them to do something they couldn’t do.”

I generally like Hal, but there must have been a payday or something involved. Wow. (Though McMurry is supposed to be transitioning to Division II.) Of course, Hal was also up to his old tricks. I’m not against going for it, but I’ve never heard the logic before that it’s actually better for the defense to give the other team the ball in red zone as opposed to their own twenty. Worth the trade-off of going for it, sure, but not that you were actually helping your defense:

With nothing to lose except a football game, McMurry went for broke from the start, going for it and failing on fourth down on its first four possessions. Three of those were in McMurry territory, including a fourth-and-8 from the 28. The Lumberjacks took advantage with a field goal and two touchdowns to take control before the game was eight minutes old.

“If I’d punted it, I didn’t think our defense could slow them down,” Mumme said. “Nothing against our defense, but we had to make big plays and get them off the field in three plays if we were going to stop them. It’s easier to do that when they’re in the Red Zone than when they’re back 80 yards away. They’re just like us — they throw it down the field real well.”

Bill C on week one. Great stuff. See also this:


Smart Football’s college football viewing guide: opening weekend

After perusing the television listings and gametimes, I’ve set out a rough chart to see how much football I can force upon myself. Games of interest sorted by timeslot.

The best moment in football -- leading the men to the field

Thursday, Sept. 1.

Murray State at Louisville (ESPNU, 6:00pm): Obviously watch the game to see the good work Charlie Strong has done with Louisville’s development on defense and as a team generally, but also watch because Murray coach Chris Hatcher is an old Airraid guru who continues to throw the ball around. Hatcher won a Divison II National Title at Valdosta St, but his stint at Georgia Southern didn’t go quite as well. It’d be a shock if Louisville didn’t control the game, but, hey, Pat Forde already picked the Cardinals to lose this one.

Friday, Sept. 2.

TCU at Baylor (ESPN, 7:00pm): If you’re watching football this is your choice, and it’s actually a pretty good one. Art Briles and Robert Griffin III should continue to put on a show at Baylor, but Gary Patterson’s vaunted 4-2-5 defense should be able to control the game. Even if you don’t watch live (it’s unlikely that I will), it’s worth the DVR to study that Patterson/Briles matchup.

Saturday, Sept. 3.

Appalachian State at Virginia Tech (11:30am, ESPN3): This one has a big point spread, but Appy State is one of the best spread offense teams around; as VT defensive coordinator Bud Foster said in just a bit of hyperbole: “They’ve got a great scheme and they’ve been doing it a long time. I’m not sure what they do wasn’t invented right there. . . . A lot of people take credit for it, but these guys run it as good as anybody.” Foster knows a thing or two about defense, and his team will be stretched by the Appy State attack. Anytime there’s a disparity in levels talent should win out, but this one could get interesting.

Minnesota at USC (2:30pm, ABC or ESPN2): You can see my rationale for watching Jerry Kill’s debut over at DocSat. (It still could get ugly though.)

South Florida at Notre Dame (2:30pm, NBC): Notre Dame has a lot to potentially lose in this game, as if Brian Kelly opens this season with a stumble against a (supposedly) lesser but still talented opponent, good will might be in short supply. South Florida shouldn’t roll over but neither should it score a lot itself; the outcome of the game will largely depend on if Dayne Crist can show why he was picked to be ND’s signal-caller. This isn’t so much of a DVR-and-study game as it is one to keep your eye on: If it’s close into the fourth quarter, tensions will be high and the natives will be restless.


Smart Notes – Gameday, Minnesota’s simplicity, tackling – 9/1/2011


Yes, that’s the ticket. I don’t know if Minnesota has the talent to succeed but new coach Jerry Kill will make them better:

“[The Golden Gophers’ new offense is] kind of hard to describe,” said quarterback MarQueis Gray, more comfortable with running the plays than labeling them. “It’s not an option, but there are a lot of decisions to make like that, real fast.” . . .

Better that the defense doesn’t know — which is sort of the whole point of the Minnesota Method, or the Gopher Go, whatever you want to call it. According to [offensive coordinator] Limegrover, the Gophers playbook includes stray elements of the West Coast, the spread, the pro-style — sort of a chef’s surprise of play design, with one bedrock principle: Can the players execute it, and execute it well?

“The important thing is that everyone is comfortable with it, especially the players,” Limegrover said. “You can have the greatest play ever designed, the Mona Lisa of offense, and if your quarterback can’t pull it off or your line can’t block for it, what good does it do you?” Instead, coach Jerry Kill’s staff drills their players in being fundamentally sound, concepts that are adaptable in a variety of offensive sets. The offensive line, for instance, is taught only three or four basic blocking schemes, giving the players time to polish them. And every offensive play must fit into one of the blocking blueprints.

“Last year, we had a ton of plays for the offensive line,” said left tackle Ed Olson. “Now we can focus on just a few and get it right. Coach Limegrover is trying to make it as easy as he can for us.”

Whither tackling? Tim Layden explores the state of tackling today:


Smart Links – Finebaum, Mazzone, Clemson, high-fives – 8/18/2011

An EDSBS commenter called in to the Paul Finebaum show multiple times, thus joining two of football’s greatest communities.

Hemlock on Noel Mazzone’s slide protection.

Will Leitch’s interview with Michael Vick.

And the Valley Shook prepares for LSU to play Oregon.

Coach Hoover on ball security.

Dacoachmo on sprint-out passing.

– Three from Shakin the Southland: New OC Chad Morris believes in guys earning their spots; review of Clemson’s second-scrimmage; and on the 3-4 switch and multiple fronts.


Recruiting pitch: You get a dollar-for-dollar credit towards future education for every dollar we make directly from you

The good Senator has a very interesting idea, bouncing off of a statement by Desmond Howard:

“But if you want to play the education game, then check this out. If they get my likeness for life, then they should be committed to my education for life. So if Mark Ingram 20 years from now, when they’re still selling his jerseys in Tuscaloosa, says ‘You know what? I want to get my Ph.D.’ Guess who should pay for that? They should be committed to his education for life. They’re still selling his jerseys.”

I could not agree more.  Well, actually, I could:  if the school is still selling those jerseys when the player’s kids are college-aged, they should get a free ride, too.  It’s the least a system that professes to promote both amateurism and academics should do.

This is a great idea. People who say we shouldn’t pay players (and many of whom say we should) often point out to students that they do get something of value: an education. So imagine this recruiting pitch:

“Come to this University and play football and you will receive a free education and room and board at a premiere university. In addition, if the University and the athletic department make any money by selling products with your name or likeness, like jerseys, athletic posters, and so on, you will receive credit that can be used at any point in the future to pay for additional education at this University received by you, your spouse, or your direct children.

Coaches be crazy

One of the best parts about football being back is we get to hear all the really weird things football coaches say. Indeed, during practice, being a coach often means a steady monologue by the coach to his various players where they get to showcase their, ah, unique personalities (to an entirely captive audience, no less). One of my favorite weird personalities is new West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen, who (along with his staff) gives us a window into their coaching style through the promotional video below (h/t to reader Peter):

The best part of the video comes at the 0:23 second mark — Holgorsen: “You’re so focused on me that you’re completely oblivious to your surroundings . . . . That’s not necessarily a bad thing.”

Not to be outdone, ESPN Page 2 put together the answers from the SEC coaches to their coaches questionnaire. Given that the SEC pays its coaches more than any other conference, it’s not a surprise that, for the most part, these guys are generally pretty unique personalities (except in Bobby Petrino’s case, where the unique feature is how entirely without affect he is). For example, Les Miles could not have answered this question more perfectly, while Saban — effectively forbidden to use clichés by the question — seems entirely flummoxed.

[Q:] Which cliché is most overused by coaches?

Les Miles: I have no idea. I am not that coach. I don’t operate that way. I fight for unique and accurate ways to be descriptive. I don’t necessarily handle it that way.

Nick Saban: Well you know, I really can’t say one in particular. We all talk about focus and preparation. And sometimes I think we talk to our players about these things, and I’m not sure our players understand what these things are or how to do these things. We probably should spend a little more time explaining to them exactly what we expect so they can do these things better. If we talk about intensity all the time, I’m not sure a player could tell you what intensity is. Sometimes I define that qualm.

Nick is surely right that “[s]omtimes I define that qualm” is not destined to become an overused cliché. Not to be outdone, Spurrier is always good for a one-liner:

How do NFL players memorize all those plays?

Dilfer said it’s a three-year process to own a particular playbook. Owning a play is different from memorizing it, Dilfer explained. “Owning it to me goes from knowing it to understanding it to it becoming instinctive,” Dilfer said.

How does one own the plays? “If you’re not spending an hour every day in your playbook, you’re cheating your teammates,” Dilfer said. He stated quarterbacks should study three hours per day, given their extra responsibilities in commanding an offense.

It can take a while just to lock down a playbook’s language. “A lot of coaches use numbering systems,” Dilfer added. He said odd numbers are typically used for plays to the right, even numbers for plays to the left. Many offenses use T and D words for formations: T for Trips, where three receivers are lined up on one side, and D for double sets, such as double tight ends.

Dilfer cited an example of one play with a different meaning in two systems. “Red Right 22 Texas is a West Coast play,” Dilfer explained. “In another system, it’s Split Right Scat Right 639 F Angle. What some players will do when they go to a new team, is when it’s Split Right Scat Right, they go, ‘Oh, that’s 22 Texas.’ They hear one thing and they put old language on it; you have to learn the new language.” Leinart admitted as much in his transition from the Cardinals to the Texans.


Dhani Jones, a middle linebacker for the Cincinnati Bengals, said memorizing plays isn’t as difficult as understanding their philosophy. “I don’t drop the language (from previous systems),” said Jones, who’s also been on the Giants and Philadelphia Eagles during his 10-year career. “It’s just different words that are used. Quarters coverage is the same as Cloud coverage is the same as strong-side rotated coverage. They’re just named differently.”

Smart Notes – Solid Verbal, Oversigning, Holgo, Linebackers, Em Dashes – 5/26/2011

Shameless self-promotion. Make sure to listen to me on Ty and Dan’s great podcast, the Solid Verbal.

Watch it, Dana.

Dana Holgorsen gets himself removed from West Virginia casino and must apologize. Although it’s arguable that he should apologize simply for being a patron of such a fine establishment, it appears that the casino stopped serving Dana — who accompanied by other West Virginia “officials” — drinks, and he had to be escorted out. Obviously this is not exactly news except in the offseason, but it’s an important lesson: with greater power and prestige (and money) comes greater responsibility. When you’re the inside receivers coach you can probably damn well do whatever you want, especially at offbeat places like Lubbock, Texas. If you’re the coach-in-waiting at almost any BCS school, the scrutiny is that much higher; it’s a trade-off. I think Dana will learn from this and learn to fly under the radar, but he better hope that the security tape doesn’t emerge.


Oversign this. Blutarsky chimes in on Mike Slive’s new oversigning principle:

The Athens Banner-Herald has learned that proposed legislation to be considered at the SEC meeting to address “roster management” includes:

Limiting the size of a football signing class in each academic year to 25, down from the current level of 28. The NCAA adopted that SEC-sponsored legislation put forward in 2009. The 25 limit would cover those who sign from Dec. 1 to August 1. The rule now runs from the February signing day to May 31, which allows schools to exceed 28 by enrolling signees before or after those dates. An exception would be made for mid-year enrollees included in the current academic year’s initial counters. . . .

There currently are no limits on how many can attend summer school, which can leave a recruit already on campus to be asked to delay enrollment until January if there’s no room. The proposal would go into effect in summer 2012.

Giving the SEC office more oversight in medical scholarship exemptions to review and determine outcome for cases. A team doctor, trainer and athletic director would need to sign off on each case.

Keeping early enrollees from signing an SEC financial aid agreement until they are enrolled and attend class at the school. Currently, recruits can begin to sign a financial aid agreement after their junior year of high school, which keeps other SEC schools from recruiting them.

That’s… interesting. I expect most SEC coaches will go ballistic over the first item there. I wouldn’t anticipate as much opposition to the other three, although I think most of us can easily speculate on those who would be unhappy with their implementation.

Honestly, I give Slive a lot of credit with these. It’s clear his intent is to restrict certain tactics which allow coaches to limit recruits’ options. Of course, the devil’s in the details; never underestimate the ability of an SEC football coach to find the weak spot in a rule which can be exploited. But, overall, I like what I see.

Also see Brian Cook on the subject.

Linebacker play. Shakin the Southland dropping knowledge:

What is the Norris-LaGuardia Act? The legal issue at the core of Brady v. NFL

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit has now dedicated a page to all of the filings in Brady v NFL, et al, so I’ve caught up on the reading. The gist of the case, legally at least, is as follows. The NFL owners and the NFL Players Union fought and negotiated as part of the labor process, until negotiations broke down. In response, the NFL “locked out” players, meaning that they weren’t allowed in the building to use facilities and would not be paid, and the players, in a unique move, “decertified” their union, professing to become not a union but simply a collection of individual players, represented as a “class” in this lawsuit (i.e. you have plaintiffs who are similar to other potential plaintiffs in order to limit everyone needing to file their own lawsuit) and by a “players association” rather than a true-blue union. The obvious and stated purpose of decertifying was that it lets the players sue, and with a decent argument: Although, in the intersection between the labor laws and the anti-trust laws, there is an exemption for certain acts in the labor context that would be illegal if labor law didn’t apply, the NFLPA felt that by decertifying they could essentially force antitrust scrutiny of the owners’ behavior. Exhibit A of a case where otherwise illegal anti-trust conduct was exempted because of the intersection between labor law and antitrust was Maurice Clarett v. NFL, decided by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (New York) and written by then-Judge (now Supreme Court Justice) Sotomayor. Clarett sued the NFL, arguing that the NFL’s rule that you had to be out of college for three years before you could declare for the draft was an unlawful restraint of trade. The district court agreed, but the Second Circuit reversed holding, among other things, that the fact that the NFL had a collective bargaining relationship with a union (even if Clarett wasn’t part of it) shielded the NFL from anti-trust scrutiny even if it could not impose such a rule in the non-union context.

Felix Frankfurter, who drafted the Norris-LaGuardia Act, left us with a final enigma: When will we get some football?

Hence the decertifiation of the NFLPA and the players’ core argument of this case: you can’t lock out non-union employees. There is stuff in the NFL’s response about a “sham decertification” (really a separate issue, though it is important background for the judges), the NFL’s primary response is different, and more technical. The argument is that, whatever the merits of this case — whoever is right or wrong — the Norris-LaGuardia Act says that federal courts simply cannot issue an injunction in this case. In other words, the NFL’s argument is that even if the players were right, a federal court cannot order the remedy they want. This sounds technical and boring, but it’s surprisingly interesting and there is an awful lot of history packed into the few words.

The key language in the Norris-LaGuardia Act prohibits federal courts from issuing injunctions “in a case involving or growing out of a labor dispute.” The Act defines a “labor dispute” to include “any controversy concerning terms or conditions of employment, or concerning the association or representation of persons in negotiating, fixing, maintaining, changing, or seeking to arrange terms or conditions of employment.” That is broad language, and that is essentially the NFL’s argument: This case certainly “involves” or “grows out of” a “controversy concerning” the “negotiat[ion]” or “arrang[ment]” of “terms or conditions of employment”; the two sides were fighting about wages, salaries, and benefits — the way that giant economic pie called the NFL is divided — and so no injunction can issue. End of case.

There is slightly more nuance to that to be found in the NFL’s brief (written, in chief, by the excellent former Solicitor General Paul Clement), but that is the upshot and it was, essentially, accepted by a majority of the Eighth Circuit:

“The district court reasoned that this case does not involve or grow out of a labor dispute because the Players no longer are represented by a union. We have considerable doubt about this interpretation of the Act. . . . The Act does not specify that the employees must be members of a union for the case to involve or grow out of a labor dispute.”

The Eighth Circuit only had to determine a “likelihood of success on the merits,” and will not render a final judgment until after oral arguments in June, but everyone — including the players in their brief — recognize that a majority of the Eighth Circuit is inclined to read the language of the Act broadly and in the NFL’s favor.

But the player’s contrary argument, whether or not ultimately successful, is fascinating, and highlights the unique role and changing nature that laws play in society.