One size fits all
I think the growth of the spread offense is great. I love it and have studied it. I am intrigued by the concepts I have seen over the last couple of years. Why wouldn't I be enamored by it, given its roots in the option game. What I can't stand though is the constant labeling of everybody who runs the "spread" a genius and anybody who doesn't as a dope, antiquated and a bad coach. Last I checked there are still 11 people on each side and any sound scheme, no matter how old or "boring" (by announcer's standards)is still sound. There are some great coaches that run the spread but not everyone who does it is a genius (or even average for that matter) There are also great coaches who still get under center and run the I, flexbone, wing-t and other things. Coaching is not about what you run but how you run it! (By the way, last I saw, Alabama was still under center 70% of the time)
(The same thing happened when Bill Walsh ran his West Coast offense. Everybody who then ran the "west coast" was considered a genius and everybody who didn't was considered behind the times. Only after much hiring and firing did people figure out that the genius was in Bill Walsh not in the playbook. And by the way, the term "west coast" came from Bill Parcels and it wasn't used in a complimentary matter! In fact Walsh said he didn't know what're term meant. Can anybody generically define the term "Spread?")
It's not really the coronation of the spread coaches that gets me. After all, everybody has a opinion. That's basically what this column is! It's the three offshoots I see from it.
First, good coaches are getting fired because they are not in the spread. Perhaps the first was Bobby Sutton in the eighties at West Point. Competitive as he was, the athletic director stepped in, declaring that he was going to take Army football "out of the dark ages!" The results were a disaster. When the light went on, Army football went through it's worst downswing ever.
I've seen this mistake done over and over again. High school, college, pro (see "West coast offense" mentioned above.) So coaches, rather then using their minds to win, use them to keep their jobs. They are scared to be different. Not be the flavor of the month.
Secondly, this has influenced hiring. Particularly on the high school level. (You really have NO chance today on the college level if you're different! You won't get to the interview.) I don't know how many times I've heard administrators who never played the game say "we really need somebody to come in to run the spread and get people excited." Winning is exciting and the object of the game last I read. I and fellow experienced coaches, who I consider friends, talk about this often. We can't count the times a school bypassed a veteran coach (us or others) to hire some young whipper-snapper who proclaimed himself the guru of the spread and would get the place into the twenty first century!
As I said there's nothing wrong with the spread if the guy really knows it buts let 's look deeper into the issue. Most schools are open because they are losing. Most administrators admire the spread because they see teams running it properly against them. In most of the interviews the administrators will tell you they are not as good as the other teams. So you want to do the exact same thing as the other team? That's like me making milk chocolate kisses with inferior chocolate and selling it in Hershey! Why would you want to roll out the same product with inferior parts.
(Two years ago Georgia Southern put up over 500 yards rushing against Alabama and its #1 ranked defense. They were in the game to the end. What do you think the results would have been if Georgia Southern was forced to run Alabama's offensive?)
I will tell you an interesting scenario that fit this bill. I was offered a interview this past year. I did my research into the school and its football program. Apparently, they had moderate success a couple of years ago running the flexbone. Nothing great 6-4 7-3 5-5. This was about 4-5 straight years. The head coach was fired for not being exciting and up to date. They brought a spread guy in. Result 0-10. He was fired and replaced with assistant (I think) of former coach. He ran flexbone again and was 7-3. He was immediately let go and replaced with a new spread guy who went subpar again. The point is not that the other guy ran the flexbone, it's that the other guy had success.
The third reason this has become a pet peeve of mine is probably the most menacing to coaches that don't run the spread. With all the hoopla out there, players (and parents) feel they can't make it if they don't run a spread offense in high school and college. Brett Farve ran the Wishbone! So did Steve Young! Dan Marino was in the wing-t! As was Joe Thiesman! More recently Demetrius Thomas came out of a flexbone college. But announcers keep preaching it. Result is kids transfer. Parents complain to schools. Alumni complain to schools. (see reason number two above) Coaches, to keep their jobs, change to something they don't know as well.
Truth is - if you're good enough; you're good enough. College coaches also get paid to teach you. They get paid a lot more then me. If you have the ability you should be able to be taught and progress. To make this statement is ludicrous. It's like saying if you've run the 100 meters in high school then you can never learn to run the 200 meters in college. (By the way didn't Antonio Gates and Jimmy Graham not even play college football? So it's better not to play then to play in a different offense?)
I have been fortunate to meet many great coaches. So who I consider geniuses I their own right. Truth is, in today's culture some would have never had the chance.
Again, just my opinion. I am sure there are many who will disagree.
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