Monday, November 28, 2005

Football 492: Advanced American Football Theory

I am an avid fan of the National Football League. Well, calling myself just “a fan” would probably be an understatement. I have personally attended roughly 175 NFL games in my lifetime. Being only 21 years of age, that means I have been to every home Steelers game in my lifetime except 3. Additionally, there have been only a handful of Sundays in my life in which I have not watched an entire NFL game, and only a few more in which I haven’t watched multiple NFL games. I think I am more than an average fan… I would call myself a modern football expert. You might disagree, but based on this characterization of myself, I would like to teach you some theories that I have formulated. I have developed immutable football theory for both on-field strategies as well as for front office football activity.

I will start with commandments that should apply to off-the field activity.

1. Never fire a capable coach. This is perhaps the most important thing I have to say, so if you remember nothing else, remember this. Never be that guy at work who is always saying “Fire Cowher, we’ll never win with him!” The Steelers have the best aggregate record from 1992 to the present in the entire NFL. They are also the only team to have only one coach during that span (in fact, there is no other team that has had less than 3!). Look at all of the best teams in the league right now (Indianapolis, Denver, Dallas, Seattle) and look at their Head Coaches. They have all been there a few years, and are all proven winners. Seattle stuck by Mike Holmgren, a championship coach in Green Bay, despite having some mediocre seasons strung together. So many experts called for Holmgren to be fired, but Seattle stuck by him. Now they are the best team in the NFC.

Realize why keeping your coach around is so important. During the salary-cap era in the NFL, the roster turnover is amazingly high. Teams, on average, change about one-third of their roster every season. This kind of instability makes it very difficult to build off of the previous season’s momentum, which is important to becoming a Superbowl contender. Thus, having the same head coach every season provides some semblance of continuity, far more than switching head coaches every few seasons.

So, Ravens fans take note – just because Brian Billick is having a poor season does not mean he should be fired. He led you to a Superbowl, and he has never had a losing season. I hate him, and I hate the Ravens – so I hope they do fire him – but it would be a huge mistake. Green Bay and Philly should also take note – your coaches did not suddenly forget how to coach football, and change is not a good thing.

2. Team Chemistry is actually important. Football teams should care more about team chemistry and makeup than they do. Successful teams place character at the top of their list for potential draft picks or free agents. This might seem obvious with all of the recent Terrell Owens news, but most NFL teams will never learn their lesson. The Steelers value character, so much so that they did not even try to re-sign Plaxico Burress, a player who was never in trouble with the law and was a big contributor on the field. They didn’t attempt to resign him because they felt he was soft and that he wasn’t a hard worker. The Steelers receivers are clearly not as good this year, but the offense is more highly ranked. Go figure. The Saints, Vikings, Raiders, and Philadelphia don’t seem to value character very highly, and look at their records. The Broncos, Colts, Steelers, and Chargers value it very highly, and look at their records

Now, onto on-field strategies:

1.Blitzing is stupid. Endlessly, football announcers talk about how important it is to pressure the quarterback, and I agree. But, to blitz a lot is just foolish. Sure, rushing an extra guy sometimes (that makes 5 rushers) works pretty well, and can fool an offensive line. There is absolutely no reason, however, to rush 6 guys or more. Almost every time a defense does this, the extra guys seem to get in each other’s way, and the result is a huge gain when the quarterback passes it over their heads. I can’t really prove this to you until you start watching NFL games – most sacks come on 5 man rushes or less, and most big offensive plays happen when 6 guys cross the line. Don’t blitz.

To this end, people think the Steelers blitz a lot. Heck, they are often called “Blitzburgh.” But the Steelers don’t really blitz that often. They play a 3-4 defense, so they get to the quarterback by sending their 3 defensive lineman, plus one linebacker (somebody different every play), and sometimes 2 linebackers (that would make 5 rushers). The Steelers rarely send 6 guys across the line, and they certainly don’t do so on 3rd and long.
Now, a rebuttal to this would be that statistics show that offenses only score 12 percent of the time or something when the quarterback is sacked even once on a drive. I understand this statistic, but I wish there was a statistic that says the percentage of time that the offense gets a first time when the defense sends 6 guys on a blitz. I bet the number is above 60 percent.

2. Do not punt on 4th and less than 4 inside the 40 yard line when you are losing. I am so sick of seeing teams punt it into the endzone from the 40 yard line on 4th and 2. The average NFL play averages 5.3 yards – and most teams convert about 50 percent of their 4th down conversions! A first down in this situation almost assuredly gets you 3 points, and maybe 7. A punt gets you, at best, 24 yards of field position, and often less than that. It doesn’t make any sense.

Even more importantly, it sends a message to your team that you don’t think that you can get 2 yards for a first down. Psychologically, this is very detrimental. I have absolutely no evidence of this, other than to say that there are a few teams that I have noticed punt a lot in opposition territory – Buffalo, Miami, and Arizona. All three teams are terrible.

3. Run, run, and run some more. The team with more rushing yards in a game wins something like 80 percent of NFL contests. Why don’t people understand this? Only one passing team has won the Superbowl in the last 15 years that I can think of (St. Louis). Passing-first teams are often good, but not great (Kansas City, Philadelphia). Running first teams are much more consistently good (Indianapolis despite having Peyton, Pittsburgh, Denver, Green Bay before this year, San Diego). Rushing teams are better, enough said.

Nothing displays this more than NFL teams around the goal-line. This might be an entirely different law, but the fade route is the worst play in football. Teams try it all of the time, and it has about a 3 percent effectiveness rate. I made that up, but it is in fact the worst play in football.

Well, I have so much more to say about football than this, but this post is getting long as it is. I’ll post more about football every week probably during the season. Please post your thoughts on football in general here, but I’m more interested in your thoughts on homosexual marriage below, so please continue that discussion in the meantime, as you await a post on contraceptives, which should come in the next day or so.


At 7:46 AM, Blogger RedHurt said...

This post is really really long, but I like it, because I like football, and I like what you said about chemistry and character, and I like that you gave some praise to my broncos.

That being said, I think the chemistry on the colts is key, and it's part of what let them rip the steelers apart last night. I love the steelers too, and think that Polymalu is amazing, and that the team is full of solid guys. I'm still incredibly impressed that manning, james, and harrison have been able to pool their talent into such an effective machine. No-huddle offense doesn't work without a high degree of intelligence and chemistry on your team, and I think it's one of Indianapolis's major advantages over other teams.

That said, the funniest thing I've ever heard by a commentator was last night when one of the announcers said, "Peyton Manning looks like he's doing a rap video". Because he kinda does, waving his arms around and whatnot.

I still like watching passing more than rushing, though. A game full of successful 5 yard rushes is really, really, really boring. Effective? Yes. Boring? Yes.

In conclusion, I get KILLED playing any NCAA football game against ANYONE.

At 10:41 AM, Blogger Barnabas18 said...

Thanks for justifying the time I put into this post by at least commenting once on it.

Yes, the Colts beat my Steelers last night, mainly because they followed my commands.

Do you think this is the kind of post that people are interested in, or should I stop talking football in the future?

At 10:47 AM, Blogger RedHurt said...

I think some people will be interested in talking football - standingout and I will be, anyway - but you should probably make them shorter. My first impulse was to skip it and maybe come back later because of how long it looked. As long as your "nonsense" or "personal" posts are balanced with some good "issues" posts, I think you can keep most of your regular readers. That's my style, anyway, and the readers are all my friends, so I'd probably have to start writing absolute crap before they'd get bored enough to ignore it. You're probably in the same boat. So write about whatever you want. I think the world needs and people enjoy inspired writing more than writing about specific issues or topics.

At 2:50 PM, Blogger Hans-Georg Gadamer said...

I skipped it but that is because I am not sure how you justify "conservative Christian" belief with Kant's seperation between the noumenal and phenomenal realm. Good way to shut Hume up, but kind of shuts God up too, don't you think?

Go football team of choice! Score goal units!

At 7:15 PM, Blogger Jackscolon said...

Speaking of announcers, I think the most frustrating thing is listening to them shorten terms that shouldn't be shortened. Example- "He's out for three weeks with an achilles" or my personal favorite "hopefully this will result in an invitation to the Fiesta/Sugar/Orange". C'mon, say bowl. People may still want an invitation to the fiesta on it's own merit, but no one wants an invitation to the orange. It doesn't make any sense.

Redness: The key to winning video game football is being able to pick out the difference in zone and man defenses and having an audible to exploit it. Run passing plays to space against zones and look for single coverage in man- it really is that easy. A quick check is to see where the db's are playing in relation to the wr's, if they're up it is most likely man, if they're playing off it's a zone.

"Do you think this is the kind of post that people are interested in, or should I stop talking football in the future?"

I think it's totally sweet, however, you totally know more about football than I do and you covered quite a bit. So that makes it difficult for me to A) argue something because I don't know what to argue and I can't win B) bring up a point you missed, cause I really don't have anything to add. However, I'll still read it and at least give you a "Nice post, you rock" comment, unlike Charles, who ignores sweet posts like "The Politics of Polarization."


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