Paul Johnson don’t want to hear it. It doesn’t get much better than this. Frank Beamer is still steaming from his team’s 28-23 loss to the Yellow Jackets two weeks ago. The Virginia Tech coaches sent in about eleven plays that they believed constituted illegal blocks that should have been flagged — a fairly routine thing to do, though the Hokie coaches believed several of those blocks came on game changing plays. Apparently the ACC officials confirmed that at least four plays included illegal blocks, though that news was leaked by Beamer rather than the ACC itself. Paul Johnson is not impressed:
Yellow Jackets coach Paul Johnson, a man with a reputation for bristling at criticism, fired back after his team’s practice Monday.
“They got out-schemed. So, it’s illegal to out-scheme them, I guess,” he said. “We blocked them the same way we blocked them a year ago and they weren’t complaining when they won.”
Zing! A different article quotes Johnson saying, “That’s a joke. Put the tape on and watch. Tyler Melton cracked the free safety. He doesn’t even block him. He shields him.”
“They got out-schemed. So it’s illegal to out-scheme them, I guess.” Somewhat supporting Johnson was the ACC saying Beamer should not have disclosed the results:
Doug Rhoads, who oversees the league’s officials, said the Hokies coaches shouldn’t have disclosed the conference’s admission of mistakes and he wouldn’t specify the number of missed calls.
“I would only say that Virginia Tech, just as every team on that weekend, submitted plays for my review,” Rhoads said. “Out of those plays, there are a few the officials missed, a few that were the right call and a few that were judgment calls somewhere in the middle. ”
Johnson said he also submitted about a dozen plays to the ACC that he thought should have been called holding on the Hokies.
“It’s part of the game,” he said. “Nobody from the conference called and told us that we did anything illegal.”
Two non-committal comments. One, Paul Johnson’s offense has always relied on “cut blocks,” which are legal, but when done improperly can result in being illegal “chop blocks.” The line is a thin one, and is not always easy to call. The relevant parts of the rules state:
e. Blocking below the waist is permitted except as follows (A.R. 9-1-2-IV-XI):
1. Offensive linemen at the snap positioned more than seven yards from the middle lineman of the offensive formation are prohibited from blocking below the waist toward the original position of the ball in or behind the neutral zone and within 10 yards beyond the neutral zone.
2. Backs at the snap positioned completely outside the normal tackle (second player from the snapper) position in either direction toward a sideline, or in motion at the snap, are prohibited from blocking below the waist toward the original position of the ball in or behind the neutral zone and within 10 yards beyond the neutral zone (A.R. 9-1-2-XXVI). . . .
So the basic gist is it is illegal if it is a block “back” towards where the ball was snapped from. It’s completely legal on the edge, however, or any inside-to-out block. The way Johnson using his wingbacks and tackles to block downfield can result in gray areas. Again, not necessarily bad or illegal or even unsportsmanlike, but not always easy when the defender is a moving target.
The second thought here is just that it appears to be the season for complaining about calls, particularly in the SEC but also elsewhere. I can say I’ve seen some really horrible calls this year — many documented on film — but I do hope this isn’t a larger trend. It’s not just coaches too. I’m tired of seeing receivers stand up and look for/beg for a flag after every incompletion, and quarterbacks turn into kickers acting for the personal foul penalties for hitting them. The NFL has proposed a rule that would make it a personal foul to grandstand for a flag to be thrown. That’s a rule I could support, though its enforcement too would be difficult.
- Jimmy Clausen, great quarterback? This is not really newsy — he is second in the country in pass efficiency and eighth in yards per pass attempt — but Jimmy Clausen is playing very, very well this year. Indeed, maybe his weakest performance of the year came last week against Boston College, and he still threw for 246 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions. For anyone who watched him the last two years, however, this is very interesting: Clausen came in with a lot of recruiting hype, but how did he suddenly morph from befuddled underclassmen into a real playmaker? One answer of course is the exceptional Golden Tate, but there is no question that Clausen has both hit a lot of big plays and protected the football. As Art from Trojan Football Analysis remarked after USC’s win over Notre Dame,
[W]hat caught my attention in the recent Notre Dame game was how easily the Irish appeared to move the ball in the second half through the air. When this happens fans and the media usually jump on the staff for making poor adjustments…Or they vaguely complain about “zone schemes” or “prevent defenses”. Sometimes the criticism is right and sometimes it is just arm chair quarterbacking mixed in with the benefit of hindsight and second guessing.
. . . Only once on these 13 big pass plays did USC run anything resembling a true prevent defense with 3 DL rushing and 8 men dropping into coverage. Clausen escaped the 3 man pressure on that play, scrambled and found an open man. Conversely, USC did run some type of +1 or +2 blitz on 5 of the 13 plays — all five saw completions by Clausen. Notre Dame had two completions in the game of over 21 yards. One came on a trick fake FG play that caught USC off guard. The other come with cornerback #36 Pinkard in straight man coverage versus WR #23 for the Irish [Golden Tate]. Clausen made some very good throws and reads in the game. I doubt USC will face a QB of his caliber again this season unless something funny happens in the BCS rankings. Jimmy Clausen strikes me as very improved compared to the previous two seasons and clearly had more talent around him this season than the previous contests. My respect for his skill level is considerably up after this most recent game.
Art backs it up with analysis of the thirteen plays he mentioned, along with video of those completions, shown below. I particularly liked the very first pass. It looks simple but USC showed a straight “Cover Two” look with the corners in press coverage to take away short, quick routes. It turned out to be a zone-blitz though, with the cornerback blitzing. Clausen saw it, as did Tate, and they hooked up for a simple hitch pass that Tate turned into a first down. A big key to good quarterbacking is in making those kinds of plays look easy. I guess with Charlie Weis, there’s a long-tail in quarterback development, but you can’t say he hasn’t gotten Clausen to that point.
- Crabtree’s debut. I, like many others, was very interested in Michael Crabtree’s debut. And like just about everyone else I came away pretty impressed:
I’m particularly a fan of the route he ran on his second catch, the deep 18 yard out route. He gives the defensive back a slight stem inside, then regains outside leverage before pressing his body into him and then breaking for the ball. Just an impressive route: it’s those little things that get players open — it’s not just running straight upfield and turning around. The slight “weave” he does is what sets up his out cut. It kept the defensive back off balance, and it also will set him up for later plays. Now, the NFL is a tough league, and what succeeds one week might not once there’s more film out there.
For his part though, 49ers head coach Mike Singletary was impressed:
Coach Mike Singletary said Crabtree’s debut was just as impressive on Monday. “I wanted to see it on film, just like when you see a good movie,” Singletary said. “You want to see it again.”
Singletary praised Crabtree for the effort he made to stay in shape during his holdout and the crash course he took to learn the 49ers’ playbook after he signed.
I will simply say that, like all rookies, Crabtree will struggle at some point and be frustrated. But also that, despite what went on off the field, he has always shown a real diligence with his play, his preparation, and his commitment. Indeed, at Texas Tech you watched the way he blocked, and you knew he was a good receiver. Here’s to hoping it works out.
The addendum to this was the surprisingly good play of Alex Smith, who had seemed to be relegated to the dustbin. He’s another guy you have to hope does well, or at least better than he’s done. If he can do what he did in the second half against the Texans, the 49ers have a chance.
- Head injuries. More on the NFL and head injuries, dementia in particular. Congress is to hold hearings on the issue this week. I think this is a far better use of their time than investigations into the BCS.
- Why do bankers (or athletes, or top coaches) earn so much? Here’s an interesting take on banker’s pay, but the general answer is that athletics is a pyramidal winner-take-all field: you get in with few financial rewards on the chance that you might win the lottery. Unfortunately for NFL players, most of them manage to overspend anyway and wind up in bankruptcy:
The 78 percent number (i.e., 78% of NFL players go bankrupt within two years of retirement) is buoyed by the fact that the average NFL career lasts just three years. So, figure a player gets drafted in 2009, signs for the minimum and lasts three years in the league: He will have earned about $1.2 million in salary. Factor in taxes, cost of living and the misguided belief that there will be more years and bigger paydays down the road, and it becomes a lot easier to see how so many players struggle with money after their careers end.
- Peyton’s greatest season? The PFR blog breaks down just how good Peyton’s season has been so far, as it ranks a close second to his record-setting 2004 campaign.