June 30, 2010

Book Review: Football’s 46 Defense by Rex Ryan

I Love Rex Ryan.

It's true. The man is crazy like a fox, aggressive as hell, and brash like you read about. At least part of this is because of the fictional character Rex Ryan from NFL humor blog KissingSuzyKolber, which I think may not actually be all that fictional. Ex: Careful, naughty, hysterical language compared with Real Life Naughty Language. I ask you, WHICH ONE IS THE REAL REX???

Humor aside, Rex Ryan is a phenomenal coach who just does things differently. I've seen diagrams of some of his blitz schemes that he's actually run with the Jets and they are both BRILLIANT and INSANE. Probably the most ridiculous example would be a blitz where he rushes three on two to the blitz side and then has a 1 tech loop to outside contain on the other side, all while playing standard cover 3 behind it. The quarterback gets the perception of pressure, but the defense gets the security of full, uncompromised coverage, so it's really a win-win for the D.

I Really Like The 46.

I think that it behooves just about any defense to have a 46 front change of pace. My D of choice is a 3-4, which I think matches up brilliantly with the 46, but I know 4-4, 4-3, 3-3 coaches who all have 46 packages in their playbook. The 46 lets you cover up your LBs, puts immediate and central pressure on the OL and QB in passing game, and, all things considered, is relatively cheap to install. If you run man coverage and shade your DL, you can do it. If you don't, you still can because the DL's assignments are very simple and you can run some pretty simple 3x3 zone out of it.

On With The Book

This book is thorough and easy to understand while presenting the ins and outs of the entire scheme. It's like getting a simplified version of the DVD set for much cheaper. You come away with a great understanding of how to install, adjust, and coordinate the 46 in a way that follows Ryan's acronym K.I.L.L.: "Keep It Learnable and Likeable". There's two sections that are great and fairly scheme independent: the first on loaded zone coverage and the other on 3 technique play. Both can be easily translated to other defenses quite easily.

June 29, 2010

Frickin’ Kickers…

I've been watching the World Cup, all I'm left with is the impression that this is what (American) football would be like if all the players were punters or placekickers. Every time some skinny dude falls on the ground and rolls around grimacing in pain because a mosquito bit him, I just want someone to walk out from the sidelines, grab him by the hair, and drag him off, making his team play 10v11 until his va-jay-jay swelling has gone down. F***ing sack up, you're embarrassing your countries.

Coach Dos: BAMF

This isn't going to be a terribly long post, but I just wanted to point out someone who I have been learning more and more about: Robert Dos Remedios, M.A. CSCS. Coach Dos is the head S&C coach at College of the Canyons in Southern California and is a growing name in the S&C community for his slightly different approach to lifting. He does a lot of non-traditional exercises for conditioning in addition to the usual 'jacking iron' that every football S&C coach will do. I could try to explain it more, but frankly I just don't have the background to accurately give detailed info on his stuff. Instead, I'll link you two cool sites that I really enjoy: Dos' Website and Dos' Youtube Channel. Two things to consider from his YouTube stuff: 1-no 'fatties' in his CoC football videos, and 2-how mentally tough do you think his guys are after doing some of his workouts? A lot of coaches pay a lot of lip service to wanting to have tougher athletes, but having done some of Dos' cardio strength workouts, I can tell you that finishing those with max effort takes you to a special place and you're PROUD of yourself when you're done.

You can find a lot of neat products from Coach Dos at his website, including his two books that are both easy reads and have lots of great stuff in them. As an aspiring HC, I think there's absolutely a place in every program for his kind of stuff.

June 27, 2010

What I Hate Defending: Series Based Football

Well, If You're Gonna Stop That...
If you ask a defensive coach what they hate to defend, you'll get a lot of similar answers, some of the most common being: triple option, the doublewing, and unorthodox schemes (frequent unbalanced formations, archiac offenses like the single wing, warp-speed no huddle, etc). And there's good reason for all of that, all of those things are a mother ****er to defend. Triple option makes you wrong, even when you're right. Doublewing takes your normal approach to defense and turns it on its ear.
But what I don't see much of and don't relish seeing, is true, series based football. When I say that, what I mean is that the plays being run are part of a progression and are made to take advantage of defensive adjustments to the base play. If you can't stop the base play of the series, you will continue to see it until you do stop it or until you adjust to it in such a way that you're exposed elsewhere.

Then We're Going To Do This...
An example of this would be the Belly Series in the Wing-T. The Belly Series offers a base play that is truly a bitch to defend, Belly Crossblock. Run and read correctly, the play can hit almost anywhere on the defensive front and have success. Stopping it in practice is just brutal for my D because our LBs have to fit precisely and trust others to be where the have to be, our DL needs to play with phenomenal gap integrity, and we have to wrap up on a tough fullback (we've got 3 GOOD FBs, too) when we are in position to make the play. But what makes it rough is that Belly Crossblock is just phase 1.
If you're stopping Belly Crossblock by having your OLB fold inside (assuming a typical 4-4), then the next step is to run Belly Option. Belly Option shows the exact same backfield, the exact same playside blocking scheme, and the exact same mesh as Belly Crossblock. Your OLB folds inside, our QB pulls and runs option with the motioning WB. If you're stopping B-C with great backside flow from your BSLB, then the choice is to run Tackle Trap. If you're stopping Tackle Trap by chasing it down, we can run Trap Option. If you're just doing a phenomenal job playing the run in all it's phases, we can run Belly Keep Pass and make you wrong.

So you drank the Kool-Aid, huh?
Kind of, but that's beside the point. As Chris Brown at Smartfootball.com likes to say, these are great examples of constraint plays, plays designed to keep the defense from effectively shutting down what you want to do. These plays are designed to have the same backfield action, same mesh, the same LOOK to the defense for the first precious moments before suddenly becoming something else. It's misdirection, it's opportunism, it's efficiency in action. What is important about these is that you aren't calling them based off of a hunch or a gamble or "because I want to". There are very specific defensive reactions that you can look for and use against the defense in order to make them wrong for trying to be right.
There's nothing imprecise about it, it's all about observing the defense and then taking advantage. The big question becomes Who made the play? and then your decision making process is much more simplified. If the OLB made the play, you run either Option or Keep Pass. If the BSLB made the play, you run Tackle Trap.

Ok, That Sounds Difficult...
The long-term effect of playing a truly series based offense is that your players will inevitably fall victim to the dread of all defensive coordinators: TRYING to make the play. For a long, long time, my alma mater has read the same "10 Commandments" before every game, a 10 item list of what our players need to do for us to get the win. One of the most important commandments has always been, in my eyes, #7 which simply reads: Do your job.
When your 3 technique stops trying to step and strike and follow his BD-SD rules and instead starts trying to make the play, you lose some defensive integrity. When the WILB starts watching the backfield instead of keying his guards, a little more is gone. When your FS starts getting tired of tackling a RB who has a full head of steam at 8 yards and starts trying to get him at 4 or 5, more is gone. Your players get tired of incorrectly defending the same series again and again and again and your defensive discipline is lost. Frustration sets in, people start trying rather than doing (Yoda knows his shit), and the snowball starts turning into an avalanche.

So Who Are The Worst Offenders?
That's just the thing! Potentially ANY offense is a series based offense if the OC has the foresight, creativity, and PATIENCE (!) to make it so. The Wing-T is a fairly complete offense in that it has several main series (Down, Sweep, Belly) with at least 3-4 constraint plays to each series, in addition to other minor series (Rocket and Jet, to name a few more popular ones), but it by no means has a lock-down on the concept. Spread to throw offenses can be series based, spread to run offenses can be series based, as can I formation offenses, veer offenses, single back zone offenses, all of them CAN BE. What I think separates the really good OCs from the rest is that they have the ability to recognize what defensive adjustments can happen, they have the creativity to figure out how to put those adjustments into conflict, and they have the patience to exploit them when it matters rather than right now.
A popular saying that I've heard from offenses coaches goes "Run your reverses early and your leads (FB iso) late". By following that piece of advice, the theory is that you'll have the defense off-guard from the get-go and unable to make effective adjustments when you want to pound it home at the end of the game. But the good OCs are the ones who see an adjustment and tuck it into their back pocket for later. Maybe not later as in 2 quarters from now, but maybe just later on in the drive. For example, after running Belly Crossblock for a 3 yard gain on 3rd and 3 and noticing that the OLB made the play, rather than going to Belly Option immediately, waiting on it until there's a better chance to score (+25 yardline) or a more important situation (crucial 3rd down).
A particular OC in my league had a bad, bad habit last year in his playcalling with regards to his passing game. In the first drive, he would ALWAYS run a 3-step hitch play, without fail. If that drive lasted to a 3rd series of downs, he would call hitch-and-go nearly every time. If not, hitch-and-go was coming on the next possession. He's always been an impatient playcaller, but this was a particularly glaring tendency. He had the fastest and most dangerous collection of skilled players in the county and loved to "hang a half hundred" like Bear would say, but they underperformed against disciplined teams. If he'd thrown the hitch more often and waited for a better moment to run hitch and go, they would have assuredly had more success.
Case in point: against us he ran one hitch for 4 yards and FOUR hitch-and-gos for 0 yards because he didn't have the patience or discipline to establish the play we HAD to stop. We had no business being competitive with them if you were to compare rosters, but we squeezed out a 20-16 win with 1 offensive TD allowed by staying disciplined and opportunistic. It wasn't because of any particular schematic brilliance on my part. They run a pretty vanilla offense and we had a pretty simple game plan, our guys simply played fast and loose because they didn't have to worry about effective use of constraints. Our guys were simply allowed to be more confident in themselves because they hadn't been given reason to not be.

So If You're Such An Expert...
Not even close. I just know what I hate to defend. If I were an expert, I'd have written a book titled "Effective Use Of Constraint Plays and When To Not Use Them" or some jazz and I'd be hailed as an expert. Come to think of it, I don't know that I've ever seen such a book, so maybe I will some day, after all, I'm definitely in this biz for the fat checks...
But yeah, I've never called an offense, I've only been a DC. I realize that on the whiteboard, everything appears to work. But all things being equal, an OC who has a well-planned offense that compliments itself while constraining the defense's adjustments and the discipline to keep from panicking and try to solve things RIGHT NOW will be working with the upper hand.

June 22, 2010

Once Again Back, It's The Incredible...

So I'm trying to get back to writing on this dealie. The end of the school year was kind of brutal for me and spring practice was no gentle hug, either. But, it's summertime and, like the Sublime song says, the livin's easy, so I'll try to get back to a somewhat regular schedule of posting.

I wish I had more to write at the moment, but more content to come. I hate to leave you empty-handed, so here's a link to a weird, weird Tom Waits video.