Smart Links 4/16/2010

– Jon Gruden with Tim Tebow: Nothing too dramatic here — and who knows if it will hold up when the lights are on — but Tebow’s throwing motion looks pretty smooth here to me. If nothing else just further evidence that the kid will work to improve anything you tell him is a weakness. Again, we’ll see if he can really fix a motion he’s had since he was at least 16, but he’s clearly worked at it. Footwork looked pretty solid too. (If I was running a team, I’d consider him as a third-to-fourth rounder and get him into camp and make him work on this stuff for the next year.) As a bonus, see here for Gruden tearing Colt McCoy down pretty good. And he’s right — even about the accent stuff — though there’s no reason the NFL playcall should be as long as it is. (McCoy remains a better pro prospect at the moment than Tebow.)

Do football writers know football? To be fair, reporters need to be experts on different things, and being a beat reporter and Xs and Os guru is not really realistic. That said, one reason I write is to try to provide a window into strategy and analysis, and that is important to the average fan is because so much sports commentary is about assigning credit and blame, if you don’t understand what the coaches were trying to do or you don’t understand what the players were being asked to do, it is hard to know who to praise and who to chide. (Also see this post for Orson Swindle.)

Can Charlie Strong succeed at Louisville? I say yes, but (a) it will take a few or two to undo the Kragthorping, and (b) Strong will find that he and offensive coordinator Mike Sanford (former Utah OC with Meyer) won’t be able to just run the Florida O at Louisville; it’ll have to evolve.

– The secret of the Airraid: “distilled offense.” (H/t Brophy.) Lede: “Talk to a few players and you’ll get the impression that Louisiana Tech’s old playbook was the college football equivalent of War and Peace. The new playbook? It’s more like a pamphlet. That’s if you could even call it a playbook. The players don’t necessarily refer to what they’re running as plays, but ‘concepts.’ Change a few details and a single concept grows into an offensive attack that looks overwhelming to opposing defenses, but could be executed by the Bulldogs with their eyes closed.”

The “greatest play in football”?

Why yes, the NCAA is quite interested in Reggie Bush’s testimony.

Tips on running the option.

– The West Virginia Mountaineers will honor the 29 coal miners killed in the Upper Big Branch explosion by wearing helmet decals with a white circle with 29 in the middle. (H/t WizOfOdds.)

Defending the counter-trey. (You can find a quick primer on the counter trey here.)

Why blitz?

Did Ohio State steal Oregon’s signals in the Rose Bowl?

Doc Sat on Brian Kelly.

Sorkin vs. Krugman

– And as an addendum, I have a lengthy piece on the NFL for the NY Times online on Monday; I will link to it when it is up. I also have some other topics I’d like to finish this weekend and schedule this week. Once I do I will post a schedule of what to expect on the blog this week.

  • DrB

    Yes its the greatest play ever. I’ll take that to my grave.

  • Definitely agree with #2 (though I suppose I understand).

    I NEVER watch the 4-letter BooYah Network except for college football, but I happened upon their NFL Live program a few weeks ago (covering the draft/off-season) by chance, and noticed the stark contrast in how they package stories compared with NFLN.

    It seems ESPN was framing everything in sensationalistic light (everything was either HOT or cold)…..whereas NFL Total Access/Path to the Draft is pedestrian and just delivering updates or profiles.

    1. ESPN went on a 5 min monologue about how DMcNabb is “being disrespected” and how “the way they are treating him” is ‘a slap in the face to all the team”, and ranted about how McNabb should do this and do that. Completely vitriolic….

    NFLN stated that there was nothing going on with the McNabb situation. Pointed out all the scenarios the Eagles FO would be in (they are not under the gun and don’t “have to” do anything) and the options McNabb might have if trade. No one was going bananas, just delivering perspectives.

    2.ESPN was reporting SBradford was refusing to deal with the Rams and said they weren’t committed to winning. They explained the trouble Bradford would create by being perceived as a ‘trouble’ player (prima donna).

    NFLN interviewed Bradford on their program and he explained that he has no idea where people are getting talk that he doesn’t want to deal with the Rams and said he’d be fortunate to play for the Rams. A draft pick looking to get drafted and felt his pro day went well. Level-headed

    Those two scenarios made me wonder “was it necessary for ESPN to be so over the top” in how the present stories, as the average sports dope, won’t be able to distill this with reality.

    NFL could otherwise be just a full time advertisement for the product, so naturally they aren’t as critical against the merchandise. But when you think about it, its football – what is there to

    ESPN, however, packages everything around the drama of players/coaches with vitriolic ‘sportscasters’. The main focus is the antagonistic relationships.

    Is this really necessary?

  • Troy

    Re: #2, I’ve been following football for less than a year, mostly thru ESPN, FBO, Brophy, this site and a few other blogs. So when someone like me, who’s never played or coached and had only the most rudimentary understanding of the game until 9 months ago, can recognize the ignorance of “analysts” like ESPN’s Mel Kiper and Adam Schefter, something’s up.

    It seems like sports fans (no matter the sport) fall into two rough groups: those who care about the game, and those who only care about the score. Fans who only care about the score want to see the highlights, read stories about the stars of the game, and compare simple-to-understand statistics. Fans who care about the game want to understand how an offense/defense works, how each player’s role factors into the team’s success or failure, and they want statistics that allow for fair comparisons of players/teams. The specifics of football, coupled with the way it’s presented on TV, make the knowledge gap between fans of the score and fans of the game much wider than it is in other sports. So what you end up with is most content/analysis aimed at the fans that care about the score, while fans that care about the game scratch their heads and wonder why anyone with a brain would predict that the Jags will take CJ Spiller with the 10th pick, when RB is about the only position on their roster that isn’t in need of an upgrade.

    My main issue with most football commentary isn’t so much that it’s wrong, but that it’s devoid of meaningful content, which is a symptom shared by most mass media attempts at analysis of anything.

  • Matt T.

    I know this isn’t really the right post, but where can I find out about this “tag” concept? I’ve never played, but I’m interested in learning all I can.

    A Google search has been fruitless.

  • Matt T:

    The “tagging” idea is very simple. You take a given pass “concept” — i.e. a particular play where everyone knows their assignment. Let’s say “all curl,” where the outside receivers run curls, an inside receiver sits on a hook over the ball at 8 yards, while the runningbacks or slot receivers head to the flats. That is a very good concept.

    But if the defense adjusts, the coaches can call a “new play” simply by calling “all curl” but then “tagging” a particular route. For example, they could call “All curl X Post.” Now the X — an outside receiver — will run a post route. The QB would know that he looks for the deep post first; if it there, he throws it, but if not he goes through his normal “all-curl” progression to the other side (hook to curl to flat). Another tag could be “All Curl H-wheel.” This would tell the slot to, instead of just running to the flat, to run to the flat and then “wheel” up the sidelines. If the coaches had called a steady diet of “all-curl,” the defense might expect the H receiver to sit in the flat, and may well be surprised when he bursts up the sideline deep. (It also can have other salutary effects on stretching a defense.)

    As you can see, the possibilities are endless, though what ends up happening is that a team will have a base set of “concepts” and then a wide variety of variations they can use. And the advantage is it minimizes the new teaching. Unless you’re “X” or “H,” you don’t really care about the tag, and even if you’re the quarterback you know it only somewhat affects your reads.

    Hope that helps.

  • Tyler

    @ Matt T.

    As addendum to what Chris posted, I’ve found that “tags” work most successfully when they are practiced and implemented in specific gameplans. We practice our base passing concepts endlessly in the spring and fall, but “tags” are often focused on for specific opponents tendencies (coverage and personnel.)


    As for Ohio State stealing Oregon’s signals, I doubt it. Ohio State played a very simple defensive game on defense. They were simply better prepared and better athletes than Oregon. Ohio State forced a give by Masoli on every read play, except for the inverted options, and OSU’s defensive line and linebackers simply blew up Oregon’s zone-blocking.

    I’m thinking of making cut-ups from that game to teach linebackers how to sift through zone-blocking linemen. OSU’s players used hand fighting and shoulder leverage excellently.

  • Rob

    One comment on the option “musts” link.

    Point III and VI are wrong (well, 3 is wrong and 6 is incomplete). 3 says you must seal the playside linebacker. 6 gives three options for an “excpetional” option time, option off the DT, the DE or a DB.

    There is no reason not to option off the OLB too. That is left out of 6 and makes 3 completely wrong. I know that I know much less football than the writer of the piece, but I also know the Paul Johnson thinks it okay to read the LB instead of blocking him. In fact, its the default in the TO for the 2nd read (although often changed). Im not going to argue with Johnson about it.