*The Essential Smart Football*

That’s the title, and it’s by me. It’s available on Amazon, in paperback, and will be available in eBook form sometime in the next couple of weeks, but you can order a paperback copy today either here or here. For international readers, the book is also available on amazon.co.uk, amazon.fr, amazon.it, and amazon.es.

In the next few weeks I will post additional details on the book and my process in putting it together, but it is a collection of pieces, roughly two-thirds of which consist of older works that have been expanded and professionally edited, and another one-third of which are new. If you’ve read every single thing I’ve ever written you will recognize the portion of the book that is not all new, though as I said I have expanded and edited each piece. But this book  is my considered judgment of what I think constitutes the best and most essential of my thoughts on football — The Essential Smart Football.

I chose to publish this myself for a variety of reasons, among them the evolving landscape of the publishing industry, but I still had a great deal of help — including from my loyal readers — for which I am truly thankful.

If you have any marketing inquiries, please don’t hesitate to contact me at chris [at] smartfootball.com. I truly hope everyone enjoys the book.

Smart Links – A Beautiful Preakness, ESPN Radio, Dogs, Bo Jackson – 5/21/2012

What a beautiful race in the Preakness. I actually had I’ll Have Another in the Derby (it was luck) but did not attend the Preakness so did not make any bets. But I would’ve bet on Bodemeister, which all but had the Derby locked up until he just couldn’t close. Surely, in the shorter Preakness, Bodemeister’s late race struggle would not be repeated? I’ll Have Another had other ideas.

- Q&A with Allen Kenney of Crystal Ball Run about The Essential Smart Football. I discuss difficult questions like, “Who is the Christopher Hitchens of football?” (A tough question.) A more serious excerpt, regarding how one determines what are football’s most important strategies and ideas:

Brown: To some extent it’s going to be in the eye of the beholder. But the nice part about football is, at the end of the day, it’s about two things: winning games and developing men. . . . The hard part in judging importance is that importance is not always so obvious. While there are few geniuses in football, there are “ingenious” ideas, and those ingenious ideas tend to multiply and reproduce throughout football very rapidly. And, yet, those who came up with the ideas may not have the talent or the circumstance or even the fan support to see the benefit. In football, innovators are not always rewarded.

In a lead in to a chapter I quote Goethe: “Daring ideas are like chessmen moved forward; they may be beaten, but they may start a winning game.”

- Me on ESPN Radio, 1080TheFan.

- Burnt Orange Nation on TESF.

- Barack/Nixon.

- Bo Jackson’s Greatness.

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Smart Links – Big East Coast Bias, FIVE (yes FIVE!) Verticals, Relegation, Facebook – 5/18/2012

My Q&A with Mark Ennis of Big East Coast Bias about The Essential Smart Football and more. Me:

The basic arithmetic of the game at every level of football right now is this: Almost every good team is one-back based [(even true option teams)], which means they can throw the four verticals and other passing routes, against which defenses would like to play two-deep safeties. But increasingly the quarterback is a running threat of some kind, so defenses would really prefer to play with one deep safety or else they are outnumbered in the running game. Eventually — just like the reactions to the original T-formation, the wishbone, the pro-set, the power-I, and so on — defenses will figure out how to get numbers where they need to go while defending the passing game against teams (like those Airraid guys) that will find the open grass anywhere and make you pay. And when they do, they will hit offenses like a ton of bricks. But we’re not there right now. And after that, something else will come along. Then it will be time to write another book.

- Runningback blaster and sideline drill.

- Bill Connelly on college football relegation.

- Dana Holgorsen versus Nick Saban, tale of the tape. Quote: “MENTOR: Saban: Bill Belichick, who once sent Saban to Haiti for a shipment of bat fetuses for reasons known only to him. (/bat fetus goes to three pro bowls, signs 6 year deal with raiders).”

- Facebook’s IPO as savior of California’s budget.

- Two-Gap/One-Gap vs One-Back Zone Option.

- The ultimate dot com.

- Article about the internet reposted on the internet.

- After the jump, Missouri’s infamous five verticals pass play:

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Quarterbacking the Steve Spurrier Way

I’ve been going through the Smart Football home archives, and I found this old gem: Quarterbacking the Steve Spurrier Way, back from Spurrier’s Florida days (this is from the mid-1990s), where the Ol’ Ball Coach, with some assistance from a slightly mulleted Shane Matthews, demonstrates proper quarterbacking fundamentals. What Steve shows doesn’t feature the latest technology in quarterback mechanics, but the video is exactly right when it says that — for that era, at least — when you’re talking quarterbacks, you’re talking Steve Spurrier. Part 1 of the video is below and Part 2 can be found after the jump.

The video (including in Part 2) doesn’t really cover the schemes Steve used to use back then, but that is something I discuss in The Essential Smart Football, among other topics.

Update: Part 2 is now up, and it can be viewed after the jump. (Apologies for some of the technical difficulties in the quality of the video; it’s obviously from a pretty old VHS tape.)

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Smart Links – Schiano’s waterworld, Clemson’s tackle over formation, Ronald Coase, Notre Dame clinic notes – 5/11/2012

Greg Schiano’s two-drink rule. I think this is fantastic: Every Tampa Bay Bucs player is required, during team meetings prior to workouts or practice, to drink two “drinks,” i.e. water or Gatorade. In modern football, meetings make up an ever larger portion of a player’s day, and increasingly the kind of technical “no-you-step-this-way” sort of teaching takes place in the meeting room, while watching film. As a result practices are more fast paced and frenetic than ever — every moment on the practice field is extremely valuable. And, of course, players’ health and hydration, particularly in places like Tampa Bay, are crucial. There’s not a pro, college, or high school team in the country that couldn’t have a manager put two cups of water at every single seat for meetings, with the requirement that players drink the water before heading off to practice. As Schiano says, “Doctors I’ve talked to say if you are too thirsty, it’s too late.”

- Notre Dame’s 2012 football clinic notes. I was pleased to see new Notre Dame offensive coordinator Chuck Martin has added in the best new offensive idea of the last couple of seasons, the idea of “packaged concepts” that include run and pass plays in the same play.

- Clemson’s tackle over formation.

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Manny Diaz Gets It

From an excellent interview Texas’s defensive coordinator did with LonghornDigest.com:

But statistics were also changing for in-game analysis. Whereas it might once be considered an advanced metric to look at red zone efficiency, Diaz said Texas is focused on red zone touchdown efficiency.

“You can win a national championship by making people kick field goals in the red zone,” Diaz said. “And you can finish last, in theory, in red zone defense. It just doesn’t make sense.”

[...]

That phenomenon has given rise to statistics like Slow Grind — the number of plays a defense forces an offense to take to score — and the FootballOutsiders.com S&P+ Ratings, a play-by-play success rate that factors for situation and competition. Looking at the latter rating, you can see Diaz’s 2011 Texas defense come to life through the numbers. The Longhorns finished No. 4 nationally in the statistic, but were especially good on running plays — a major Diaz focus — and on winning passing situations (defined as second down with eight or more yards to go, or third or fourth down with five or more yards to go). Texas was third nationally in Rushing S&P+, and second only to national champion Alabama in Passing Downs S&P+.

“Those are the tenets of our defense,” said Diaz, who follows both S&P+ and Slow Grind. “We’ll show those kinds of things to our players during the season just to reinforce what we already know. There aren’t usually any ‘eureka’ moments, but it works more side-by-side with what we see on film.”

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Purdue (Joe Tiller, Ed Zaunbrecher, Curtis Painter era) Quick Passing Game Cut-ups

The below cut-ups are of Purdue’s quick passing game from the 2006 season. Although Purdue threw for 4,000 yards that season, they’re not the greatest cut-ups in terms of offensive execution as it was Painter’s first year as a starter and Purdue had begun its decline under Tiller. But I think it’s very good teaching tape because the the passing concepts are very common ones, the formations — two-by-two, ace, trey, trips, etc — are used by virtually every team in football, and as a result the film is very good for studying the defenses. And in that vein if you watch the film by studying the alignment and techniques of the safeties, whether you can spot the blitzes pre-snap, and where the soft spots in the defense are, you can then begin analyzing where you would’ve gone with the football. Many of these quick passes here are checks at the line; as a result it’s good to think about whether they were the right checks and the right decisions on where to throw the ball.

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The second lives of football players

On the heels of the news that Warren Sapp — who made over $60m during his pro football career — has filed for bankruptcy, this is of interest:

Through the injury-plagued seasons — the first signs that his career may be coming to a close — and two years after his retirement, Searcy still lived as if he were untouchable. His denial that the end was near became clear in several real estate transactions.

In 1998, Searcy bought a condo in Miami for $865,000. In 2000, he bought a house in Clermont, Fla., for $399,900. In 2001, he bought another house in Baltimore for $870,000. “I was punch drunk,” Searcy says. “It was a facade, what I was living. I still wanted to give people the impression that I was big-time. I’d see the guys who were still in the league in the night clubs, and I had to look the look. I was in character.”

In 2002, the bank foreclosed on Searcy’s Baltimore property for $550,632. In 2003, another bank foreclosed on his Miami condo for $568,263.

Read the whole thing.

New Grantland Blog: Analyzing Cleveland’s top two draft picks

It’s now up over at Grantland:

The Cleveland Browns had an interesting first day of the 2012 NFL draft. On the one hand, Cleveland got two of the draft’s most productive players: Brandon Weeden, quarterback from Oklahoma State, who threw 71 touchdowns over the past two seasons, and Trent Richardson, an absolutely ferocious running back who rushed for more than 1,600 yards as the offensive centerpiece for Alabama’s championship squad.

And yet, we’re starting to see that drafting a running back so high — the Browns traded up to get Richardson — is typically not a great idea. And Weeden? Well, let’s just say that picking a rookie quarterback who is 28 years old is not exactly without risk.

Read the whole thing.

New Grantland: Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III: The Future Is Now — The stars are aligning for a generation of great NFL quarterbacks

It’s now up over at Grantland:

Ever since the rise of the T-formation and the modern notion of the quarterback as passer and team leader, young QBs have received varying amounts of training for the position. If his father was a coach — like Elway’s was — or if he happened to live in Granada Hills, California, he might learn the sophisticated skills necessary to continue developing. But if not, it was unlikely that he’d ever receive that sort of necessary coaching. The long history of quarterback draft busts has taught us that athletic ability alone does not make a quarterback. A great quarterback is instead one of sport’s oddest confections: He is the athlete whose success depends as much on his brain as on his body. One can’t help but wonder how many would-be great quarterbacks never had the chance to develop because no one taught them the intricacies of the position; like some football equivalent of Gray’s Elegy, who knows how many mute inglorious Mannings remain forever obscure to history.

In recent years, however, the situation has changed. Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III are harbingers of an approaching age of quarterbacks who are both better athletes and better trained at a young age than ever before. In a decade or so, the debates about a player like Tim Tebow — that NFL teams must choose between quarterbacks who are passers and quarterbacks who are athletes — will seem quaint and ridiculous. Nowadays, coaches at the lower levels put their best, smartest, most charismatic kids at quarterback and develop them. The new age we’re entering will be something of a Hunger Games for young quarterbacks: By the time they reach the NFL draft, they will be among the best, most talented, brightest, and best-trained candidates we’ve ever seen. Instead of asking ourselves what traits we prefer, we’ll be asking why we ever thought we had to choose.

Read the whole thing here.