Fri, 27 May 2005
The No Huddle Offense
I was fortunate to have had Sam Wyche as my Head Coach in Cincinnati, this guy had a very unique way of looking at problems and some very ingenious solutions to these problems. Sam to me was a mad scientist that was so far ahead of the curve on innovation in the game of football it was ridiculous. Where most people would see problems, Sam saw opportunity. As a player I really enjoyed playing for him, because I learned all the time. He is a teacher and does a wonderful job teaching the nuances of football.
Now, don't get me wrong Sam was as nutty as anyone I ever been around. But I really enjoyed playing for him. Although, at the time I didn't realize it as much as I have should. I could tell Sam Wyche stories until I was blue in the face and still have much more to say. The only thing predictable about Sam was his unpredictability. As a player you spend a great deal of time trying to figure out your coaches, so you kind of know what to expect. With Sam you just didn't know...which was good and bad.
Regardless of what the Buffalo Bills say...the Bengals were the first team in the NFL to put in the NO HUDDLE offense. And if it wasn't for Boomer Esiason calling his good friend Frank Reich and raving about the offense I doubt seriously that the Bills would have used it as much as they did or at least they would have been much slower in implementing it.
Defenses began to use situational substitution quite a bit in the early 80's, what happened was the defense would bring in the big run stopping lineman and linebackers on first and second down and then bring in their pass rushers and small backers/nickel guys on third and long situations. You would see a hoard of guys run in the game and another hoard run off the field. The defense was just trying to get their best personnel into the game to deal with the expected type of play that they would face.
Sam saw a weakness in this and began exploiting it, what he saw was 16 or more defensive guys on the field at one time and that as you know is against the rules. So Sam exploited that by coming up with a simple "SET ALERT" play, When Boomer saw a platoon of guys coming onto the field and another platoon running off ...he would scream set alert and we would rush to the line of scrimmage and run a QB Sneak on the first sound. After a few "too many players penalties" and easy five yard gains for us the opposing team had to make a decision....do we stick with the run stoppers or do we put in the nickel or come with a hybrid. The only time we would let them make substitutions was when the clock was stopped for time out or incomplete pass.
From the simple beginning of a QB sneak, a whole offense was developed that could be run from the line of scrimmage. Many people say that it was no difference than the old "hurry up" offense. But it was much different, the hurry up has been used for years to save time and score quickly at the end of the half or game. The "No Huddle" is not the same tempo....we could take our time if we wanted or up tempo the offense if we thought that gave us an advantage. It was flexible and potent...we moved the ball on a lot of good defenses with this and it was . It was espionage type of stuff with code words for formation and more code words for direction and finally code words for play types and another set of code words for snap count.
It wasn't all smooth in the development and many times it was hilarious...I am not sure you have ever saw the movie the Dirty Dozen...In that movie they have a rhyme that corresponds to each step of their mission. Well we had the same type of rhyme where each number rhymed with the type of play we were going to use. At meetings Sam would say the number out of the blue and we would then recite the corresponding rhyme...needless to say when the bullets started flying the rhymes went down the toilet with half of the guys getting it and the other half scratching their heads.
So then we developed plan B ...code words for everything, we always worried that defenses would pick up the codes so we changed them often as far as I could tell no one ever picked up what we were doing...lets face most defensive players I met would never have been picked for Bletchley Park code breaking duties during WWII. Most of these guys had a tough time just remembering where to line up. I learned to never over estimate the intelligence of the defensive guys.
Ok back to the point of this blog the no huddle turned into a complete offense that we could run at any time. It trained us to ready for anything, because you never knew when you would get the "AT THE LINE" call from Boomer. AT THE LINE meant to line up and get ready with hands on knees. You learned that you didn't want to get in a stance until you heard all required information. Once a play was establish and snap count we could get down...I usually went over the ball earlier than the rest because just in case we did get the set alert call I needed to be ready to snap the ball right away.
A funny thing happened the first season we put in the "NO HUDDLE" we were still in pre season and playing the Detroit Lions in Detroit. Sam had the idea of practicing the "NO HUDDLE" in the parking lot of the hotel before the game. We had just installed hand signals for plays which were going to be used in noisy situations where we couldn't hear one another. The funny thing was we were only expecting 30-40,000 people for the game and in pre-season the crowd is pretty quiet...but just in case we had all these new hand signals ready. So here we are in the parking lot of the Hilton and we are going over our hand signals and for some reason some guys were having trouble remembering what the hand signal represented. Boomer would then give the hand signal and if he thought some guys didn't understand he would mumble or cough and say the play so they could hear it. After a while of this Sam was getting pissed at Boomer, didn't want him saying what the play was...so after his tirade he started looking around and found a old guy who was cutting the grass... he waved him over and the guy came over with his lawn mower. He is a professional football team that has a game in a bout 5 hours in the parking lot of the Hilton which is strange enough...but now here is a guy who was cutting the grass a few minutes before and now is amongst the team. Sam looks a t the guys and say hey can you rev up the lawn mower while Boomer does the hand signals. The guys looks bewildered buy says sure...so the guy rolls his lawn mower in front of the offense and starts revving the mower. Sam wanted to simulate crowd noise...and it was as noisy as hell and then all the rocks/pebbles on the parking lot around the mower was were being whipped around and hitting guys in the legs, guys were screaming like little girls...and Sam just laughed his ass off....meeting adjourned.
That Sam was a character!
Tue, 24 May 2005
First Downs and Scoring Touchdowns
You have seen it over and over in pro football, a team is moving up and down the field with ease until they get into a situation that they need to get the final yard to score or get a first down. Why do great offenses stall in these situations. I have theory that I would like to share with you.
First off I have to make a disclaimer...I haven't seen any statistics to back up my assertions that teams are having more problems in Goal line and short yardage situations. It is just anecdotal evidence witnessed on my part.
My Theory: Over the past 20 years game of pro football has become more of game of horizontal movement on the offensive line. Instead of displacing players vertically, plays and players are taught to get movement horizontally. Simply put, players are not knocking back players they are moving opponents side to side. When the inside zone became a big part of most of most pro teams offenses in the mid eighties, lead stepping offensive lineman went out the way of dinosaurs. Now, it became drop and crossover steps that were being taught to pro offensive linemen. The inside zone play is a play that counts on 2 big guys getting a push at the point of attack and then one man coming off late for a LBer who most of the time will flow over the top of the rolling double team. The lineman who releases then simply screens LBer as he tries to come back on the cutback. The running back starts as if he is going to hit the tackle area and then if he sees flow over the top he will cut it back behind the two behemoth linemen. If he sees a hole in the tackle area he simply takes to the hole and takes what he can get.
But why was the drop cross over steps taught in the first place. I think there were a couple obvious reason. First players were having a hard time moving defensive players vertically. It take a physical mismatch for a offensive lineman to move somebody back. The day of the 6'6 275lb NG was over. Now there were NG's and T's who were short and stout, in the 6'2 320lbs. range. These guys are built to stand their ground, it takes a hell of a man to push these guys around.
Reason number two when you take a drop and crossover it reduces the chance of defensive lineman skimming the combo block when 2 guys are working together. When you lead step into a combo block there is a small area known as no man's land where because you are firing out and stepping forward and the player you are working with is taking a short lateral step, if the defensive line plays the angle right there is a chance that he may split the combo block. The drop cross over all but eliminates that threat. But what you gain in security you lose in vertical movement and power. What usually happens in this scenario is the defensive lineman absorbs the initial shock of two players on him pretty well...there isn't a lot of movement, but as the d lineman rises to find the ball carrier, that is when the rolling combo gets him moving it may be horizontal movement but it is movement just the same.
Sun, 22 May 2005
May 22, 2005
Sun, 15 May 2005
My attempt to podcast at the bars last night was feeble...I guess I'm not ready to bring out the gear and use it openly. My good friends just laughed when I asked them and asked if I had lost my mind. So I put it all away and saved what ever dignity I had left..LOL Their reaction to my podcasting was reminiscent to the dog in the old RCA Victor logo...their heads were cocked to the side and they looked bewildered. I am sure when I left they had a good laugh. Has Ole Dave lost his mind? These guys never heard of podcasting and didn't share my enthusiasm for it. But they could recite the slogan on the front of a Budweiser bottle without looking at the bottle. Which is a good accomplishment LOL We went to Barry O's and tipped a few back and then went out to eat at Old Chicago Pizza. I had a great time...but until I find a way to do this without looking like a dork...I will be podcasting in the sanctuary of my home/hotel room.
Category:general -- posted at: 1:48pm EST
Fri, 13 May 2005
Hello everyone I will be doing the show in Omaha, NE until Weds. Just hanging in my hotel room tonight.
Mon, 9 May 2005
As you can imagine, game day in the NFL is a special time for players. I thought I would give the listeners/readers a taste of what it was like. I guess the logical place to start this adventure is the night before the game. We would all meet at an area hotel about 5:30-6 pm the night before the game we then would check in and relax for about 1 hour or so. Then we would have a team dinner...this is when the boys would load up on a grand assortment of food. When I first came into the league steaks (yes plural) seem to be the food of choice. As time went on guys seemed to eating less steak and more pasta (Damn Nutritionists!). This was no place for the timid, regardless of what was the emphasis, there were massive amounts of food being consumed. All this was followed by the ice cream dessert station...Banana Split heaven.
After the gluttony we then went into meetings and tried not to fall a sleep. In the beginning of my career this was pretty simple stuff...coaches would just give a speech to the team and then we would break off into groups by position...the offensive line would take a meeting room, the defensive line would take another and so on. As the years passed this simple meeting turned into a mini film festival, complete with highlight films with all the bells and whistles. Didn't have to worry about falling a sleep during this iMax presentation...LOL
Then it was off to our rooms usually about 10 pm with bed check at 11pm we would try and get phone calls and the ticket situation all figured out. If the NFL wanted to increase productivity a simple way would be to have one guy in charge of acquiring and distributing tickets for the players. It is not the players can't handle it...it is the timing. The whole ticket situation comes to a head right before the game, when the players should be concentrating 100% on the opponent, many would be on the phone trying to dig up tickets for their guests or making phone calls from the locker room making sure their guests were squared away. It seemed that it was the skilled players (anyone that can score a TD) that had the most demand from friends and family for tickets... so I guess what I am saying it didn't affect me personally that much...
Bed check-Not much to report here---Coach knocks on door, whoever is closest to the door answers, coach peeks in room and checks around, coach says good night and leaves. Most of the time they didn't even bother entering the room. I could tell coaches hated doing this chore. I am sure they had to draw straws for this task. I never heard of anyone from the teams that I played that would try to sneak out the night before a game. But training camp is another story... Flash back of the Ben Gazarra Show...it was like a jail break at times.
Ok, to save some space and time here is the material I go over in the podcast...check it out
Ok let's pick this up again at the locker room after I have studied playbook, been taped, stretched, and even grazed with my fellow offensive linemen on the field. After I returned I would then put my jersey on my shoulder pads. Now this sounds like a simple process. But for an offensive lineman it was anything but simple. You see nothing puts the fear in the minds of an O-Lineman more than being grabbed by the defensive lineman. Because once he gets a hold of you ..put a folk in you, your done. It doesn't matter in the running game but the passing game is where it makes a big difference. So linemen would go to extraordinary lengths so they would not be grabbed. The following is my jersey process/ordeal ...
Step 1: Go to the trainer get a bottle of rubbing alcohol and get a towel from the shower room. Step 2: Pour the alcohol on the towel and rub down shoulder pads to take off any sticky tape residue from last weeks game. Step 3: Let dry and then put on the two way or carpet tape on shoulder pads...the more the better. The idea was to get as much area covered as possible. Step 4: Remove backing from tape and then carefully put jersey on the pads. Since the jerseys were always sized small it was even difficult to get the jersey on and that was without anyone being in the pads. Usually started with one shoulder and then the other, then the chest plate and finally the back. I always checked to see that neck hole was centered and name on back of jersey was on straight. But as Ron Propiel says ..and that's not all...Step 5: If we were at home I would take the shoulder pads into the sauna and turn the heat to high and leave them in for about 5-10 minutes. The dry heat would melt/cure the adhesive on the tape nicely and then I would take another towel and rub down the pads for a good seal. The jersey and the pads became one, there was no way anyone was going to grab me today. This trend was set by the Pittsburgh Steelers and was soon copied by everyone. WD-40 became a staple to every equipment man. Not to fix rusty equipment but to spray on the O-Line jerseys to make them extra slick...man it was out of control. Today even the D-Line has the tight jerseys...big D-linemen look like stuffed sausages in those things. The NFL began cracking down on the WD-40 and so that practice was eliminated as the jersey companies began making those tight jerseys direct from the factory. If a shoulder pad company wanted to improve their pads a simple fix would be to build in velcro on their pads. One part would be attached to the pads and the other would be sewn directly to the jersey on the should areas, chest plate and back plate....These would go like hotcakes. Every O-lineman would want them. Watch some company will take my idea and make big $$$ ..oh well
PS ..if you try the Sauna thing...make sure it is a dry sauna and not a stream bath.
After I had jersey on pads I would visit with the QB and discuss any different calls or keys that would be used for this game. This time was used to build QB's confidence and gauge where he was at mentally for game.
When team bus arrived the locker room became electric. Players would quickly get dressed in t-shirts and shorts and then head to training room for last minute touchups on their tape jobs. Some players would put on on their headphones and rock out to their favorite tunes while studying playbooks. Others would begin to make the transformation from a mild mannered Clark Kent type of character into a raging maniac. Some players would joke around while others became deadly serious. Each guy had his own method of getting ready. I always felt I played better if I just was myself and stayed somewhat calm.
Our coaches usually made their rounds visiting their players and made sure the guys were good to go for the game. Sometimes they would get all their guys together and discuss any last minute changes to the game plan. All these things were designed to eliminate mistakes on the field. I think for the most part it did help get everyone ready.
About 2 minutes before the start of the game the officials would make a quick walk through of the locker room. I was never quite sure what they were looking for...maybe foreign objects. LOL
Then the head coach usually had the last word before we said the pre-game prayer. He usually would talk to team captains and tell them what we would do if we won the coin toss (almost always we would choose to receive the ball) and which goal we would defend if we lost. Then he would give the keys to victory speech. Nothing magical, he would just state what we needed to do to win. No dumb penalties, eliminate turnovers, rush for X amount and remember to finish strong and believe that no matter what happens on the field we would find a way to win in the end. Occasionally the coach would have an impassioned speech....but this was few and far between, I think if felt the team wasn't ready to play. He would become emotional, but usually the team was ready to go
Then the team chaplain would come in for the team prayer...The team prayer was always comforting to me, we had guys from all the the country some guys from the city , some from the country ... but this was a time when you could feel the power and unity of the team...This was when it was apparent that the whole of the team was greater than the sum of the parts ....and then that illusion would be destroyed when someone would scream let's kill them and off we would hit the field.... LOL
Then it hit you like a ton of bricks...60-70,000 people screaming at the top of their lungs. The excitement generated before the game is something that cannot be explained it really has to be experienced and you never get tired of that feeling. You feel as nothing can stop you and you become transformed into another person. for a short time you feel bullet proof. Unfortunately this feeling only lasts until the first play...then it's back to being Clark Kent.
Player introductions were held moments before kick off, When I played for Cincinnati the offense was introduced far more than the defense ...but the rolls were reversed in Philadelphia, probably because our defense in Philly was quite a bit more dominant than our offense. It was quite a rush to be introduced as a player I just tried to think about picking up my feet high so the turf monster didn't get you. Nothing is more embarrassing than being introduced taking a few steps and falling on your melon.
After introductions everyone line up for the National Anthem and the game was soon underway.
Wed, 4 May 2005
History of Cinco de Mayo
Tue, 3 May 2005
2005 NFL Draft
The Player Haters
Another NFL Draft has come and gone. I always found it funny that as soon as a team makes a pick an ESPN talking head puts his 2 cents in about the quality of the pick. I realize that if you put the draft on TV you need someone to tell the listeners what's going on, but the whole concept of rating a teams draft at this point is just a load of crap. Most of these guys are rolled out once a year propped in front of a camera and then locked up in their homes digging up BS stats. No wonder they sound so disgruntled.
Who the hell are these guys, if they are so damn smart why aren't NFL front offices beating down their doors trying to acquire these geniuses. I'll tell you why, this is all smoke and mirrors.
From the Wizard of Oz: "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!!"
It doesn't help that ESPN has about 8 hours of draft coverage, you can only say that player x has good speed and player y good strength so many times before that gets old. A solution would be to either break it off after 2-3 hours or get some new guys in the booth. Instead you are forced to embellish and make sure everyone knows you had breakfast with coach Z and that he said player x has a few problems, they never say what the problem is, unless it is already public. He doesn't say Bubba is a serious rinser/booze pig or just a drunk. Instead he says that Player x has had some personal problems. That is when that little voice in your head Mr. Subliminal starts whispering...oohh is he a coke head or roid guy or steals cookies from the Girls Scouts. He is now labeled and that is just the tip of the iceberg. What about medical privacy..The NFL is probably the only place I can think of that people are dissected in ways that would be illegal in most work places. Medical privacy HIPPA laws are thrown out the window. Not only are they not honored but are thrown out completely....(a rant for another day). On draft weekend and the days leading up to it, not only are the 255 players that are drafted publicly scrutinized...but all the players who are supposed to get drafted but don't are also included in this mix. Now think hard, when is the last time you watched the NBA or MLB draft and they said half of the crap they say about these college football kids. It is not right and should be stopped.
Most of the things these guys say is just regurgitated combine stats or something they heard at a bar talking to a scout. And I tell you what most scouts I met are not the brightest guys in the world. Most are ex-coaches that couldn't cut it or had some kind of problem (drank too much). Group Think is a big problem in analyzing players. Things are exaggerated and then Toppers Syndrome sets in. Scout A says something about a player in front of a group of scouts and scout B thinks he needs to top that info and so he adds a layer of shit. Before you know it, some poor athlete, who just completed a great college season is being thrown under the bus. Just so the scout can seem like he is cornucopia of football knowledge.
Can't Miss Players That Miss
Players seem to get all of the blame when they fail to live up to pre draft expectations...the finger should also be pointed at the offending organization. When a pattern exists of bringing in the top picks in the draft and doing nothing with them. Something is broke in the organization and it must be fixed...fast.
Why Can't Miss Players Sometimes Miss
Dumb Ass-can't grasp playbook
Player's Confidence Shot
Mismatch Systems-Option QB trying to play QB in the pros or an O-Lineman who is not used to pass protection. Less obvious is a great running back in college who ran the ball 30-40 times a game is now is being asked to run 10-15 times and catch ball out of back field. Most obvious in offensive players
They are thrown in the mix before they are ready-asking them to do things that can't yet do.
Most are hardworking and competent ...but
Don't believe for one minute that each team is equal in developing a player. This is not even close, some coaches are great, some just plain suck. Some teams take great players and waste them. By wasting them I mean well coached players in college are sent to a team that have terrible coaches. There are some real whack jobs in coaching, These wankers will talk football buzz words without really knowing what they are talking about. Each year some coach comes up with a term that he serves up at a coaches clinic and then all the other poser coaches pick up on and beat that term to death. Buzz words are used as vocal cues to remind a player to use proper fundamentals or make adjustments to certain schemes. When pressed with questions by the player these poser coaches are the guys that will tell a player "just be a football player" . Huh! OK
Beware of Coach Buzzword
Buzz Word Alert:
BURST-As in that player has a burst or burst to the ball. Now, just substitute the following: run like you stole a purse and the cops are after you.
RUN DOWN HILL-How it's used "Son, I want you to run down hill and meet the ball carrier"
this term is a load of rubbish substitute "Son, I want you to run to the ball carrier and hit him like he stole your mom's purse".
Vocal cues work, but it has to be more than words. The coach has to understand what exactly he wants the player to do and why doing it this way is better.
Some teams do a horseshit job of developing a players physical skills. I know of a strength coach that wouldn't allow players to lift certain types of lifts because...well they could get hurt, even though the player did the same type of lifting throughout his college career. Can you say - C.Y.A or Cover Your Ass. This guy had no business being a strength coach. Oh I get it, it's not "Be All You Can Be" , it's more like "Be Here as Long as You Can Be".
Some Teams don't test their players...for strength or speed. I am serious there were teams when I played that did no testing. none...but that team did have a cool jukebox in the weight room.
I actually talked to a coach that had his players take a rubber mallet in each hand and had them strike an anvil over and over. When I asked the coach why, he said have you ever shaken hands with a blacksmith...At this point I just said what the f@#$ and walked away...this guy was a pro strength coach...Oh by the way if you ever try the rubber mallet workout..watch your head, I tried it and the rubber mallet bounced up and almost took my head off.
It is the responsibility of the Front Office to get players signed in time for most of camp. Players who miss most of camp won't play, there is just too much to learn. If you can't sign them in time don't draft them. A rookie player who misses camp is almost guaranteed to be on the sidelines the first year. Some of these guys are never heard from again. They sit on sidelines for 3 seasons and then are released and then get picked up by someone else and become star.
If teams spent half has much time and money developing their current talent as they do acquiring new talent, they would see big changes in team performance.
So next time you're watching the draft and some loudmouth draft analyst starts up, turn down the volume and remember the weatherman with that fancy Doppler radar who said there was no chance of rain.. Yeah Right!