Smart Links – Mandel Initiative, Obama’s Football Throwing Motion, Drag Concept, Bear Bryant, Hemingway – 5/24/2012

I did a podcast with Stewart Mandel of SI.com, which you can listen to here.

Wherein I critique the President’s form for throwing a football for New York Magazine.

My podcast with CheeseheadTV’s Brian Carriveau.

– Friend of the site Dan Gonzalez now has his own website, and has a great three-part series on his “Drag” passing concept, which you can check out here.

Do yourself a favor and read this.

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Smart Links – Solid Verbal, Roll Bama Roll, Algorithms, Kiffin – 5/22/2012

Me on the fantastic Solid Verbal Podcast, discussing Saban, Malzahn, Leach, Quarters coverage, my book, my preferred approach, and plenty more. Always a fun podcast to do.

Roll Bama Roll reviews The Essential Smart Football:

Obviously, The Essential Smart Football is about a lot more than just Alabama football and there is a ton to learn from this book once you get through the Saban-specific pieces. Brown’s articles look at a lot of trends and themes that affect the game as a whole examining how they came about and where they are likely to lead. The only thing more thought-provoking than the subjects he chooses are his insights on them (the pieces on the decision-making process of players and the “constraint theory” of offense being particularly interesting).

This is amazing.

This, on the other hand, is not very helpful.

Bribes and corruption in the other football.

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Peyton Manning (and Tom Moore)’s Indianapolis Colts Offense: How a Handful of Plays Led to a Decade of Success

For thirteen seasons — spanning three head coaches, two Super Bowl appearances, one Super Bowl victory, four NFL MVP awards, and countless incredible games — Peyton Manning led the Indianapolis Colts. In eleven of those seasons, the Colts won at least ten games, including for nine straight seasons, not counting 2011’s disastrous Peyton-less year. But now Manning is a Bronco, in a new town, playing for a new team, and in a (somewhat) new scheme. I am not as confident as some that Manning’s injury won’t prevent him from playing at the incredible level he played at for so many years, and I am also not as sure of the Broncos coaching staff as some. As a football fan, however, I want nothing other than for Manning to take the field this fall, clad in Denver orange, and to light up the NFL all over again. But time will tell on all of that.

You know what I'm callin'

Yet what Manning accomplished during his time with the Colts cannot be undersold. The yards, the touchdowns, the records, and, most of all, the wins are testament to that. Yet what really interested me was how they did it. Specifically, how Manning and the Colts — for thirteen years — ran the same tiny little cluster of plays, from the same tiny little cluster of formations, with the most consistent personnel in the league, and brutalized NFL defenses year-in and year-out. The obvious answer was they had some pretty good skill players during that time, from Edgerrin James to Marvin Harrison to Reggie Wayne, Brandon Stokely, Dallas Clark, and Joseph Addai. And even more obvious is simply that the triggerman, who was constantly checking and audibling and gyrating at the line to get exactly what he wanted, was simply so good. But that alone doesn’t answer the question of why they were so good yet so simple; one could make a pretty good case that if you have the best, most experienced, and most in-tuned quarterback in the league you could out-complicate defenses.

That’s not the route the Colts went, however, and much of it had to do with the ornery fixture on the Colts sidelines who called Manning’s plays (though what they did was more of a conversation than traditional “play-calling”), Tom Moore. Moore, whose coaching experience goes back to the early 1960s, became a Colt the same year Manning did, and the two shared a symbiotic relationship until Moore semi-retired in 2009 and then fully left the team sometime later. And together, using the simplest tools around, Moore and Manning made great music.

“I can give the playbook,” [said former Colts backup quarterback, Jim] Sorgi. “There is not that many teams they’re going to play who don’t know what they’re going to do. It’s all about execution. Their coaches are like, ‘We’ll tell the other team what we’re doing. They got to stop us.’ That’s what they do. That’s what they’re all about. And not many teams have been able to stop them yet.” Sorgi said he knows the strengths and weaknesses of the Colts’ offensive personnel. He was on the Colts longer than all but nine players on their current roster. He worked with Manning and former offensive coordinator Tom Moore, who installed the system that perennially keeps the Colts among the top teams in the league.

“Being there six years, I helped put in a lot of the information that they use,” Sorgi said. “But sometimes, how much you know doesn’t really matter. It’s about executing against him.
“I can give the defense all the information that I can, and it’s, ‘Can we get to Peyton? Can we knock him down? Can we get to him before the ball’s out?’ You can know what route’s coming and still not cover it.”

Jim Sorgi was not kidding.
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*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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