Monday, November 7, 2011

Rants from an IDLE Coach #1

With time on my hands from being out of work, it has allowed me a lot of time for thinking, introspection (Both personal and professional), analyzation, and reminiscing. Professionally, you get to really analyze what you do and why you do it.  You also get to go back and relate what you do to the lessons you've learned. With that I've decided to add a new feature - "Rants from an idle coach." In it I'll take 1 or 2 points - maybe a lesson I learned a long time ago, an analysis of something I see, or just some thoughts on the profession. For you that are here strictly for the technical aspect - don't worry - these will just be fill ins. (Part III of the rocket article will be coming next.)

Rant #1
A lesson learned:
It's not unsound if you can't exploit it!

How many times do you look at a film or see a defense  or even face one that the first thought to come to your mind is "That's not sound!" Maybe it doesn't have gap integrity vs. the run. Maybe it doesn't keep contain vs. dropback. Maybe it just can't line up to certain formations.

But is it unsound or is it just a "tilted" perspective?

Like you I use to  complain vehemently. It was common to hear me say "I can't believe they played me like that. It was totally unsound. And they beat me!" In my desire to fit everything neatly into a nice "fundamental" view of football - I just couldn't believe that people could play me in and beat me with these bastardized defenses. It was also a way to justify what I was doing.

What I was really doing by putting the blame on the opposing coaches ineptitude was taking away my ability to see the real problem: my offenses lack of an answer or the ability to get to that answer and I also took away a chance to make our offense better. Basically, I was justifying my own ineptitude.

That all changed with a post game conversation with Tony DeMeo. As we usually did , Tony and myself would have these conversations often after games. One day, the conversation about unsound defenses came up and Tony made the statement "It's not unsound if you can't exploit it." Light bulbs went off. I had it all wrong. What I was pointing as the culprit for failure was not the reason at all. The reason was my offense was incomplete. All the defense was doing was stopping my offense. If I couldn't take the "unsoundness of the defense" and use it to my advantage - it wasn't unsound.

Lets give a couple of examples:

First look at the bastardized pass rush defenses of Rex Ryan. The infamous third down defenses where he puts 7 on one side and 4 on the other creating a supreme overload. Are these defenses gap sound - absolutely not but if NFL teams pass 100% of time on third and long - then they're sound. It's the offense that's unsound for not exploiting this.

If you look at Indianapolis a couple of years ago they ran every time they saw these defenses making them unsound, gashing them, and in essence making them all but disappear.

In a second example, lets take an extreme that would never come up but will illustrate this concept. Let's say the defense puts all 11 players on one side of the formation (again this is unpractical but just used for an example.) but your offense could only run the ball to that side - who's unsound. By structure the defense but not in this scenario. The object of defense is to stop the offense. There are no style points for following a preset pattern and looking sound. In this case the defense stopped what the offense did.

So how do we use this? First of all if you face a defensive structure that you cannot exploit it should send bells and whistles off that you need to tweak your offense. The key here is that you have to be able to get to it when they're in it and not a play late. If they lined up in that extreme defense and the next play you ran a play to exploit it you are basically a play behind. (Think about the 7/4 Rex Ryan defense and the offense decides to run the ball on the next 3rd and long only to find the defense has aligned conventionally.)

So not only do you have to have the plays to attack the weakness (Or as Woody Hayes said "attack across a broad front.") but you have a method of recognition to find the weakness and a packaging / audible system to get you into the right play at the right time.

(To further illustrate this think about the 46 defense in its popularity. It certainly had many flaws but was a bitch against certain things. The teams that had the most success and eventually drove the 46 out as a "Main line" defense were those that ran a small handful of plays against it, recognized it, and checked when it appeared. They made the 46 "unsound."

In the 90's, vs. Florida state UVA did this by checking into speed option on a Thursday night game every time they saw the 46. They scored 2 TDS on long runs vs.the 46 which FSU had crushed people with up to that point. I remember the announcer saying "There something unsound about the way FSU is playing that defense." UVA is what made it unsound.)

Hopefully, this gets you to thinking a little bit about the way you do things.

Next up Part III of the Rocket series

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