Love it

In a day with a lot of mixed football news, stuff like this is what it’s all about. Some great blocks, too.

New Grantland: The Evolution of the Hybrid Defender

It’s now up over at Grantland:

More recent is the rise of the true hybrid safety/linebacker, players seemingly designed to provide answers for players like Gronkowski and Graham. This is the next logical step from Johnson’s method for building Miami and the Cowboys. Instead of taking high school safeties and making them linebackers, coaches are taking athletes who can hit and play pass coverage, and simply letting them make plays. That means everything from blitzing the quarterback or stuffing a running back in the backfield to running step-for-step with a tight end or slot receiver. NFL coaches have begun referring to this as their “big nickel” package, which is a bit misleading because “nickel” is a term invented to describe some smaller part of a team’s overall defensive game plan. The reality is that just as NFL offenses rarely line up with two true running backs, NFL defenses rarely line up with three true linebackers. Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu were the two best safeties of the last decade or so, but their successors — in body type, athleticism, and playmaking ability — may not play safety at all. Regardless of the position at which he’s listed, he’ll likely be a linebacker in a safety’s body.

Read the whole thing.

New Grantland: The Case for an Improved San Francisco 49ers Offense

It’s now up at Grantland:

Still, I can’t help but feel optimistic about the Niners — even their seemingly pedestrian offense. Despite the obvious personnel deficiencies — other than tight end Vernon Davis and running back Frank Gore, the Niners had few players capable of scaring opposing teams last season — Harbaugh and his offensive coordinator, Greg Roman, consistently did more with less than any other offensive staff in the NFL. They did it with ingenuity, whether it was adapting the “jet” or “fly sweep” to the NFL, or making maybe the best — and gutsiest — call of last season on Alex Smith’s — Alex Smith’s! — sweep for a touchdown late against New Orleans in last season’s playoffs. And while none of the new additions on offense are sure things, they do provide something that will buttress the staff’s creative options: depth.

Read the whole thing.

Run and Shoot in Action: Mouse Davis Passing Game Cut-Ups

The Run and Shoot remains one of the most powerful offenses ever invented, and is well worth studying:

The above clips show some of the key concepts in the ‘Shoot, versus various coverages.

I have a chapter in The Essential Smart Football on how teams have assimilated run and shoot concepts to today’s game. In addition, I’ve written extensively on the shoot; below are some good links.

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Only four plays in football?

While reading through some old defensive materials, I came across this quote:

Not sure which one this was

There are only four plays in football and they happen in this order:

  1. Perimeter Run
  2. 3-Step Pass
  3. Pass
  4. Inside Run

Agree or disagree? Is that helpful to think of things in that way, particularly as a defensive coach or player?

Smart Links – Kick-slides, Poker, Behavioral Econ, Single-Wing Playbook – 8/2/2012

Mike Mayock on the kick-slide:

Podcast I did with Brad of the Indy Colts site Stampede Blue.

Clemson walk-on is a Purple Heart winner.

– Gore Vidal has died; here are all of his writings for the New York Review of Books. I liked the one on Italo Calvino.

Federal court wisdom: “Entering one’s bedroom with a bottle in one hand and a cigarette in the other is not foreplay.”

Freelancers in a new world.

– Get your old school learn on: Princeton’s 1940 Single-Wing playbook (h/t Tog). There’s some pretty interesting stuff in here, from scramble rules to a signal system.

Interesting article on former Houston QB Case Keenum’s attempt to make the Texans roster. I’m not sure I agree with the sentiment that he — or anyone — “deserves” any particular NFL outcome, but I’m happy he’s getting a shot and he’s absolutely right when he talks about the importance of reps.

Robert Schiller on behavioral economics.

Lane Kiffin takes a page from the Floyd Mayweather school of recruiting.

Poker’s future.

I miss Howard already

This great video of Howard Schnellenberger and his Louisville team that thrashed Alabama in the 1990 Fiesta Bowl:

Louisville’s offense, led by future top draft pick (and NFL bust) Browning Nagle, stole the headlines, but it was the defense that would produce the most NFL stars — namely future NFL studs Ted Washington and Ray Buchanan. But of course no star shined brighter than Schnellenberger himself, strutting around the locker room. (H/t Bill.)

Spread Punt Protection: Theory and Practice

This article is by Patrick McCarthy. You can follow him on twitter at @patdmccarthy. Any and all questions are encouraged. After graduating from the University of Minnesota, he played and coached in France and Sweden while also coaching at St. Thomas Aquinas HS (KS) and Neenah HS (WI). Since then he has coached at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, Southwest Minnesota State University, Culver-Stockton College and most recently as the Head Coach of the Kuwait Gridiron Football National Team.

In the elaborate math problem that is a football game, each side continually seeks to create a two on one or other favorable numerical matchup; one on ones are not enough. A major reason for this is that, given disparities in size and speed, all “ones” are not necessarily made of the same stuff. And nowhere is this more evident than with special teams, and nowhere on special teams is this more important than punt protection. Frank Beamer calls his punt teamPride”. The worst punt team in the nation averaged net punting 26.3 yards (Alabama, actually, which is a different discussion for a different time – I’d assume their opponent average starting field position was impressive). There aren’t a whole lot of offenses that can average over 25 yards a play with a certain call, nor will teams gladly cede more than a quarter of the field during a snap on defense – and that is the very worst end of the punt spectrum.

Goal is to avoid this

The protection aspect is closely tied into the coverage responsibility of the punt team; if there is no opponent to protect against, then every effort is given to get that member of the punt team into coverage. While watching on TV it is difficult to get an understanding of punt protection schemes that teams are employing. The only time a reply is shown is if there is a block or botched snap, and often times the camera cuts from an offensive or defensive player on the sideline to the ball in mid-air which does not lend itself to appreciating the nuance of the punt game.

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Advanced Trends in Packaged Reads and Concepts

This article is by Patrick McCarthy. You can follow him on twitter at @patdmccarthy. Any and all questions are encouraged. After graduating from the University of Minnesota, he played and coached in France and Sweden while also coaching at St. Thomas Aquinas HS (KS) and Neenah HS (WI). Since then he has coached at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, Southwest Minnesota State University, Culver-Stockton College and most recently as the Head Coach of the Kuwait Gridiron Football National Team.

Decisions, decisions

This spring I had the opportunity to visit the practices of several college programs in the Midwest. My primary focus was on the offensive side of the ball, and a recurring theme with all teams (and has been noted before) was the proliferation of read run plays and how they are packaged with other concepts, whether run or pass. Many of the following plays are in a similar vein as attaching a run play toStick’. The majority of teams also pair these concepts with an up-tempo no huddle while giving their quarterback the freedom to take any of the options or check into another play. Multiplicity within one play call through packaged concepts and the willingness for Coordinators to let the players on the field determine what the defense is giving them for the taking appears to be the direction that offenses are taking in the foreseeable future. Another interesting trend was that an increasing amount of teams are incorporating gun run concepts into non-traditional spread personnel groups (21/12 personnel groups) and out of the Pistol backset.

Many of the advancements of the sport in the last 10-15 years have been based off of the zone read, subsequent adjustments — reading the defensive tackle, or the linebacker (which I will call Key for clarification for the duration of the article) — and the defense’s response in the ever evolving battle of “who-has-the-chalk-last-wins.”

Below are some wrinkles off of the Read/Key concept packaged with other schemes that I encountered this spring.

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The essence of the thing, in one word: Practice

“The talent’s fine,” Holgorsen said. “The biggest thing was the culture shock, trying to train these guys how to practice, from a throwing-the-ball standpoint.” Holgorsen said East Coast-bred players don’t grow up with 7-on-7 summer leagues and passing drills. Many don’t get an extra hour of athletics in school. “The skills were underdeveloped. They didn’t understand how to practice what I was I talking about.”

Holgorsen and Leach faced the same kind of transition 12 years ago when they went to Tech and installed a new-age offense. Holgorsen didn’t face that at Houston (Art Briles, a Leach disciple, had just left UH) or OSU (Gundy and offensive coordinator Larry Fedora at least were running no-huddle, fast-paced).

“But when we went to Texas Tech, it was about like going into this situation,” Holgorsen said. “Very slow. Huddle. Try to call plays and try to do things to make the defense good. We just had to teach ’em. We weren’t going to stray from our philosophy.

“We just had to coach it. We kept pressing forward, we kept improving, finally the light came on in the last game.”

Read the whole article here.