Hello MHRers! This is my first post and I just wanted to introduce myself and talk some things about football that hopefully help you guys look at the game a little differently to what you already do or at the very least understand how I look at the game of football. I may sound like I think I know everything, but I don’t – I’m probably just getting carried away. Everyone will probably view me as some form of far out there person after reading this post, but really I want to learn so tell me what you think – or don’t - about whatever I write!
For context - I’m Australian. I admit that until I watched American Football, (or played it on good old Nintendo 64, NFL Quarterback Club 96!) that I thought no sport for 'men' needed that many pads. So I fit that part of the Aussie stereotype. However I think I've come to learn and love the game on the gridiron. I love the physicality of the sport and the need to perform at the absolute peak of your ability on every single play. There isn’t rest while you are on the field. I love the complexities of the plays, schemes, packages and the chess match of what to play when and who to have on the field. I love the how it seems almost 50% of games are decided in the 4th quarter.
So with some context in place I will try to share with you some things from my point of view. Don’t, get me wrong. I fully expect this to be a massive learning process for me much more than it is me teaching you guys much about football. So please be vocal in your commenting and help me get up to speed.
The spread offence.
This is a particularly poignant topic for a Denver fan because we just drafted the most potent spread offence QB in the history of college football. I don’t know everything but one thing I do believe is that the spread offence itself can succeed in the NFL. Sports are all about execution and I believe the key to spread offence is the execution – and therefore professional athletes are going to be better at executing it. McD even said today in the article with quotes about Passing Camp week two that essentially he is looking for execution.
A few quick notes about the spread that Tim Tebow ran at Florida. (From my Australian eye, watching at 4.30am on Sunday mornings.) And possibly how come it is a good avenue to explore in the NFL.
- The main running play was a play designed to isolate the DE and make him defend two players (the QB and the RB). Essentially people think that won’t work in pro football because the defence is faster. But so is the offence!
- To replicate that play in the pro football why not just more use ‘options’? Why not have 2 RBs spread out to the side of the play the isolated DE is on? That way, if indeed the defence is faster, you have 3 people including the QB who could run the ball?
- Spread football is a great way to isolate your best attacking players against the other teams defence. In this way it is an extension of the use of a TE in the modern NFL. Antonio Gates is a great tight end because he is a WR caught in goliath’s body – so put him up against someone who can’t contain that kind of athlete. If you have players like Demaryius Thomas, who are devastating with the ball in hand, you want them to have the ball as often as possible. A pass play has many variables that would often combine to stop him recieving the ball, but a running play is a safer way to give him ball in space. Imagine Tim Tebow, Knowshon Moreno and Demaryius Thomas all flanking around the left tackle to isolate the DE and knowing that any of those players will keep the ball and run upfield!
- Would it make a difference if someone developed the spread and named it something else for people to like it? (Hehe.)
Safety and Corner play.
In watching gridiron, there is one thing that invariably happens in a game that causes me to get up out of my seat and either yell or throw something – a DB is caught one-on-one with a fast WR streaking waaaay downfield. As the ball is passed and coming close the DB will make a very valiant diving, stretching, lunging attempt to swat the ball away or catch it because he knows he is the last person who can stop a touchdown. He fails, falls over and then the WR catches the ball and enters the end zone unimpeded.
Now, I know I’m influenced by watching Rugby Union and Rugby League. So I’ll explain where I’m coming from. A fullback in rugby union is essentially the last line of defence. When he misses a tackle, someone scores. So I get angry when a fullback tries to strip the ball, or rushes up and tries for an intercept – because he is the last man and needs to make a tackle.
In the NFL it seems that lots of safeties or corner backs go for the low percentage play and try for the defended pass instead of making the tackle when they are the last man. Now as I said, I don’t know everything about this game, but to me it seems more useful for the DB to switch into ‘rugby fullback’ mode and do the right thing, ignore the ball and as the WR goes to catch the ball – hit him. Ideas?
Spiral backward pass
I suppose this could be linked in as an extension of spread talk, but I think a QB with a spiral pass is an excellent asset. Typically a running play in NFL involves a hand off. Sometimes they involve a backward pass but those are usually thrown end over end. I believe the spiral pass is a way to improve QB, RB, FB, WR interplay because: It is a faster pass, more controlled and easier to catch.
Since it is a faster pass it gives the QB more options in a running play. For instance there is nothing stopping a WR going on a jet sweep and the QB NOT handing him the ball at the snap, but taking the ball and faking to the normally placed RB and THEN throwing a backwards spiralling pass to the WR as he comes right round the back of the play and straightens back up-field somewhere between the tackle and the other flanked out WR. The WR takes a controlled easy to catch pass and is suddenly in an open field situation – isolating one of your faster players against slower opponents?
An observation about off-season participation in NFL – to me it seems that these players are paid millions of dollars and lots of times get to decide whether they participate in off-season activities or not.
This view may be tainted most by my ‘Australian goggles’ because here in professional sports most teams get around 4 weeks off per year and from then they are back into full-time training to prepare for the next season. In Australia the highest paid footballers of any different code will earn a maximum of about a million per year. The average is around 250k probably.
I understand that the player’s bargaining agreement with the managers in the league gives the players more of an option for off-season workouts, but if I was a GM I would just make it worthwhile for players to turn up. Either give them bonuses or penalties for not and write it into their contract.
Every year you hear the excuses ‘learning the offence’ or ‘another year with this coach’ because players don’t perform as well as expected. Eliminate some of those excuses and make sure all of your players are present all of the time. Am I too radical here? Sorry if I sound like the wacky man from down-under!
Out of Sport conduct
I don’t want to focus on the negatives of the NFL, but one thing that does get in the media a lot is that players seem to spend a fair bit of time getting in trouble. I won’t name names or point the finger because everyone makes mistakes. But what are the systems in place to give the players opportunities to be involved in activities that are going to either deter them from getting into off field trouble or keep their focus when they are away from the field so they don’t have the time/energy to get into trouble.
In Australia there seems to be a big problem with Rugby League players getting into trouble off the field, whereas the problem seems to be less regular with Rugby Union players. I believe the difference is because a rugby union player is assigned a mentor in their chosen field of business or study and they are set clear goals for study and learning through out their career and get regular chances to meet with their mentor to discuss life after football and where they believe that path will take them.
Are there any areas of the NFL that offer that or give that opportunity to younger players?
If I was a young bloke coming out of college where I just finished a marketing degree it would probably help me to live my privileged life the best I can if I was spending time with an ex-NFL player who now works in marketing somewhere.
I hope I don’t sound like too much of a rambler, but those are just my Austrailan goggles looking into the exciting world of American Football. Eager to learn and share ideas – even if I do sound like some sort of Sarah Palin equivalent of a football analyst! At worst I gave you something to read in the off-season didn’t I?