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.

Draft Day 2012: I could watch these guys all day

In honor of the yearly spectacle of reading name off of a list as prime time television event, do yourself a favor and just watch clips of Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, two total maestros of the art of quarterbacking. In terms of the draft, I don’t think you can go wrong with either one, but feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments. Happy drafting.

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Washington State’s Spring Game: The Return of the Pirate

Spring games typically don’t make for very compelling watching, but anytime you have a new coaching staff, the interest is heightened somewhat because it’s the first and often only glimpse at how the new staff’s schemes will mesh with the existing talent. And of course I’ve been looking forward to the return of Mike Leach to the sideline, and to see how his offense may have evolved in his couple of years away from the game.

As expected, one answer is simple: Not much, nor should it be much different. The offense got lots of mileage early out of four verticals and the mesh concept, for example. But there’s some somewhat new stuff here, primarily in the use of pistol sets from the backs, some multiple runningback sets and motion with those guys in the backfield, and even some play-action and “pop” passes. Much of it is familiar to offenses run by other Airraid graduates, but is somewhat new to Coach Leach’s more traditional attack. I expect Washington State to have a few struggles in the fall, but it should be fun to see how quickly the offense comes together and what new wrinkles Leach adds in.

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“A very wise coach once told me, ‘If you really want play-action, you better pull a guard’” — Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III agree

The title is a quote from former Stanford and current San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman, from the video clip below. And it’s absolutely true. While much is rightfully made about whether a quarterback does an effective job of selling a run fake on play-action, the reality is that the offensive line plays just as big of a role in convincing a defense that a play is a run. Indeed, the play-action pass is probably the best weapon offenses have, one far too often underutilized by modern spread offenses. As Bill Walsh once explained:

Let's go deep

The Play-Pass is the one fundamentally sound football play that does everything possible to contradict the basic principles of defense. I truly believe it is the single best tool available to take advantage of a disciplined defense. By using the play-pass as an integral pant of your offense you are trying to take advantage of a defensive team that is very anxious very intense and very fired-up to play football. The play-pass is one of the best ways to cool all of that emotion and intensity down because the object of the play-pass is to get the defensive team to commit to a fake run and then throw behind them. Once you get the defensive team distracted and disoriented, they begin to think about options and, therefore, are susceptible to the running game.

It is no surprise then that maybe the two best play-action teams in college football season were Stanford and Baylor, two teams that just so happened to produce the two best quarterbacks in college football, Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III. In reviewing the game film of both players, I couldn’t help but marvel at how many of their touchdown passes were well designed, well executed “shot plays” that, while impressive, pretty much just required both quarterbacks to throw the ball to wide open receivers. And a huge part of that was because both of their offenses involved heavy doses of play-action with pulling linemen.

Just think about what kind of effect that has on the defense. While both players were impressive in their play-action fakes — and someone like Peyton Manning is even more impressive — if you’re a linebacker or safety and you see a pulling guard, you basically can’t help but tell yourself: “It’s a run.” Especially since run plays that involve a pulling guard means one thing: “power,” in the lowercase sense of lots of bodies will be at the point of attack so the defense needs to match numbers as well. And in the case of both Stanford and Baylor it also means “power” in another sense: the “Power-O” play where the linemen block down and a backside guard pulls to lead. Stanford, being a more of a pro-style offense, runs the traditional Power-O numerous times every game. Baylor, being a spread team, typically used the vaunted “inverted veer” play, which is the spread offense’s read-based adaptation of the old Power-O. Regardless, for opponents of both, a pulling guard meant trouble for Stanford’s and Baylor’s opponents run defenses, which, through the use of play-action, in turn meant trouble for their pass defense. That Bill Walsh guy just might have been onto something.

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Noel Mazzone’s Offensive Philosophy and Inside Zone with Built In Quick Screens

Good stuff from former NC State, New York Jets and Arizona State assistant and current UCLA offensive coordinator, Noel Mazzone. Particularly good stuff on practice philosophy and how to have base plays and how to solve problems (i.e. with constraint plays). Says he goes into a game with no more than about 32-35 plays, total. Also, make sure to watch the eighth and last video, as it covers Mazzone’s packaged concept where he combines a quick three-step pass combo with a slow screen to the other side, which I’ve discussed previously.

Update: The videos have been taken down. There’s a comment that the clinic asked the person who uploaded them to take them down; if so, I didn’t know they were uploaded without any permission. I will try to address some of Noel’s stuff in the future on here.