NFL Week 6: Culture War

Back in the 1990’s, former UCLA basketball legend John Wooden was being asked what he thought of North Carolina’s Dean Smith. He felt that Smith should have more titles but felt that he “over-coached”. In other words he was too wrapped up in gimmicks he pioneered like his “four corners” offense instead of just playing basketball. Too busy showing off his genius ideas instead of just conducting his team. The same can be said for offensive play-calling in the NFL right now.

The first question The Chancellor has is : What’s the rush?? Why does it seem every NFL team is lined up in multiple receiver sets 60-70%of the time even when they have deficient quarterbacks?? Take last night’s game betweeen the Cardinals and Rams. Arizona’s Coach Wisenhunt was asking Kevin Kolb to perform like Kurt Warner. This offense has struggled mightily even though they were 4-0. Why not trim the number of multiple receiver sets and run the football out of traditional sets which would make Kolb’s reads easier??

The tactic of running the football at a defense wears them down from a physical point. The other factor is when you stay with traditional sets (1 or 2 running backs/ 2-3 receivers/ 1-2 tight ends) it forces a defense to stay with 3-4 linebackers and 4 defensive backs. Constant running of the football slows down the pass rush, and makes the linebackers a step slower in defending the pass. Why?? They have to wait until the quarterback doesn’t hand the ball off before they drop into coverage. How many times last night did it seem Kolb threw a 15 yard pass and it seeemed like 20 Rams were around the football?? This is “over-coaching”

When you’re coaching a football team you have to adjust to what your personnel is best suited to. If you have a quarterback that struggles against exotic defenses, don’t put him in multiple receiver sets that forces him to face them.

Over the last four weeks, many teams in the NFL have suffered from this affliction. Take the Buffalo Bills versus New England last week. After taking a 21-7 lead in the 3rd quarter, the Bills stayed in multiple receiver sets and promptly had 3 straight 3 and out series allowing the Patriots to roar back. One problem was by not running down the clock any, they gave the Patriots too much time to come back. How much time?? Enough for the Patriots to score 45 points in a little more than a quarter. That’s pathetic.

Teams are getting away from simple tactics that wear down a defense. We addressed running the football but what about getting to the line of scrimmage quickly and forcing the defensive line to be in their stance for 15-20 seconds?? Anyone who has played defense will tell you how this fatigues the body. If a quarterback is mixing his cadence here he can cause a few encroachment (defensive offside penalties) as well. Drain the play clock down to 5, or 3 seconds.

The reason you don’t see this is because everyone is in shotgun and the ball is snapped with a silent snap count once the quarterback lifts his leg. So the defense KNOWS when the ball is snapped too! Another lost advantage in how you can slow down a defense a step.

Did we say everybody?? That’s not totally true and what we are seeing are several teams still adhere to many of these tried and true tactics. The Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, Seattle Seahawks, Minnesota Vikings, and the SanFrancisco 49ers are the vanguard of these old school tactics. Look at their combined records. Carolina has lost a couple of slugfests but the commitment to the run has been there. These teams are wearing teams out by pounding the football and resting their defense. They use the clock to their advantage and use play action passing where the quarterback has 1-2 quick reads and the ball is gone. Plays set up by the running game.

This culture war between teams in a myriad of formations versus these traditional teams has been very lopsided. In weeks 1 & 2, San Francisco bloodied the noses of Green Bay and Detroit while feeding them heavy doses of Frank Gore (the U) and Kendall Smith. Not the gimmicky draws from four receiver sets. We’re talking seven man sled, knuckles in the dirt, firing off the ball power running plays. The only game the 49ers lost was when Minnesota did it to them.

Now we just watched the Vikings put it to the Lions last week in Detroit no less. Sure Percy Harvin got the game off to a roaring start returning the opening kickoff, but the Vikings beat em up for the next 80 plays of that game.

Understand this, the more a team practices wide open offense, the more they will have trouble powering for 3rd and short and goalline situations. They’re not conditioned for it. You’re also conditioning your defense to not be prepared to play against a power running team. This has afflicted the Dallas Cowboys for the last three years, yet their fans put it all on Tony Romo. The problem is systemic and goes back to their coach, Jason Garrett, over-coaching.

So it’s at this point, you have to start to believe what you’re seeing. Minnesota is for real and may be there in the end to fight for their division crown. Seattle has a shot at theirs and Arizona might if they stop trying to ask too much of their quarterback. Of course the 49ers and Falcons look to be on a collision course for the NFC Championship, but we’re only a quarter of the way through the season. Besides the Chicago Bears and those Vikings should have something to say about it.

Who is going to win this culture war?? Our CEO thinks one of the power running teams will. Teams have caught on to Green Bay’s offense and the only pass first teams that will go deep in the playoffs reside in New England and Pittsburgh.

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