This has already gone everywhere:
There are two lessons to this: (1) this kind of trickery doesn’t always translate well to actual playing time, and obviously playing quarterback requires a lot of skills beyond this sort of thing and (2) this is still great stuff, but, related to (1), the football being an extension of you is merely necessary rather than sufficient to be a great quarterback. You can see this latter point in basketball: if you ever visit an NBA or even college practice, you can see the players doing unreal things with the ball, but in a game, with the pressure on and defense, it’s much more difficult. That said, you can also take the lesson that it takes more than being able to throw a couple of nice passes in backyard football (or to hit a few shots at the local gym) to be great. The real thing is always harder than it looks.
- Emory Bellard has passed away. Bellard, father of the wishbone (he wanted to call it the “Y” offense), was the original from-high-school-to-the-big-leagues-with-a-wacky-offense guy:
Bellard was on Darrell Royal’s staff at Texas in 1968 when the Longhorns developed a formation with three running backs that came to be known as the wishbone.
He coached at Texas high schools for more than two decades and won three state titles. His success landed him on the Texas staff, and while other assistants relaxed during the summer before the 1968 season, Bellard was busy trying to figure out a way to utilize a strong group of running backs after Texas endured three straight mediocre seasons.
Bellard’s idea was to put a third running back a yard behind the quarterback, flanked by two more running backs a few yards behind to form what looked like a “Y.” Quarterbacks had three options – hand off to the fullback, keep the ball or pitch to one of the other running backs.
Bellard’s insight was to take the Houston veer, which was already in place and working well, and to add the third back to make the formation symmetrical, so that the defense didn’t know which way the ball would go. Ironically, Bellard may have done more than anyone else to spread the offense (or any offense) by teaching it to then Oklahoma assistant Barry Switzer and Alabama legend Bear Bryant:
The other thing Campbell remembered was the way Bellard helped all callers in regards to the wishbone. Darrell Royal allowed it, even when it came to calls from Barry Switzer at Oklahoma.
“Emory wrote a book and I got a copy when I saw him last summer at a coaching clinic at San Angelo,” Campbell said. “He wrote how Darrell told him to help them all. One of the first who came to see about the wishbone was Bear Bryant. Darrell told Emory, ‘Give him everything we’ve got.’ I was always impressed by that. And Emory was gracious to everyone who came to see him.”
One of those was Hatfield.
“We took our defensive staff from Florida to A&M to see Emory,” Hatfield said. “We were playing Alabama and couldn’t stop the wishbone. We wanted to learn it. The funny thing about that, the day we got there to start spring practice, Emory had decided to tinker with it. They moved both halfbacks up in a dead-T much closer to the line. He just always was looking for a new advantage. That lasted about one week and they scrapped that.”
That’s what Campbell remembers, too.
“You’d go in his office and he’d be drawing plays, smoking that pipe, looking for a new play, a new formation, a new way to do something,” Campbell said. “He loved that. And he always drew on draft paper. He wanted to know how many steps apart the linemen’s splits were, how far back the linebackers were, the exact spacing of every player on the field. To do that, he drew on draft paper. He was exact.”
Switzer said the wishbone saved their jobs at Oklahoma.
“We had Jack Mildren and great players around him, but we couldn’t get them all on the field,” Switzer said. “We couldn’t get Greg Pruitt on the field. He was a wide receiver. The wishbone got them all out there in the same backfield. We were about to get our butts fired before we went to it.
“I remember getting a call when Emory put it in at Texas. One of our alums in Austin called us and he said, ‘You aren’t going to believe what they are doing at Texas. It’s the ugliest thing you’ve ever seen. They’ve lost their minds.’ Well, when I saw it, I recognized immediately that it was fantastic. I argued for it in the spring before we finally did it that next fall during the open date. We were wallowing around 1-3 when we did it.”
As for Bellard’s help, Switzer will be eternally grateful.
“He didn’t have to help us,” Switzer said. “That offseason, Chuck (Fairbanks) called Darrell and he gave us permission to call Emory. And Emory answered all of our questions on the phone, all of them.”
- Rich Rodriguez: Did he make progress? Rich Rodriguez keeps saying that he was making progress at Michigan and he keeps, rightfully, being taken to task for it. What is this about? To me it’s simple: Rich Rodriguez never fully embraced being a head coach; he always thought of himself as offensive coordinator. And the stats make it pretty clear that he did, in fact, make lots of progress on offense. But everyone outside the program knows that it is not enough, and anytime your defense goes from standard-Michigan-defense (even slightly substandard) to whatever was on the field the last couple of years, no person in their right mind can label that progress, Denard Robinson’s brilliance be damned. Now, it’s possible to be offensive coordinator as head coach — Bill Walsh was essentially that, and Chip Kelly is doing a great job of it now — but it’s not easy and you absolutely have to have the right people around you and you have to trust them. It’s obvious there was a breakdown there at Michigan. If I’m looking to hire Rich Rodriguez to be a head coach (which I think can still be a great idea), I’d like him to admit his mistakes first.