In case you haven’t been a faithful reader here at this blog for very long, you should know that I love Smart Football. Chris Brown constantly posts thoughtful, detailed (okay, maybe occasionally wonkish) nuts and bolts stuff about the college game that’s rare to find anywhere else.
So if you’re like me in that one big reason you’re turned off by the NFL as opposed to college football is how boring pro offenses are, then this post will be right up your alley.
The best point he makes is that the problem is essentially institutionalized on the pro level, mainly because the playing field from a talent standpoint is so even.
… But what incentive does an NFL team have to just say “screw it, I’m going to do something weird.” Very little. Even the moribund Detroit Lions don’t really have this need; the Miami Dolphins went from worst-to-playoffs, though with a little help by being different. Different helps but we’re not talking about extremes.
In college or high school, however, you have teams that are completely downtrodden, as in winless in years downtrodden. There is no reason in these scenarios not to experiment. Of course, everyone knows that Rich Rodriguez’s “zone read” offense was born at Glenville State where he said his entire goal was “just to get a first down.” There are a lot of really bad Division I programs, but even more bad or obscure small colleges, and thousands more high schools. Indeed, for all the talk of the “Wildcat” as a “college thing,” it really was a high school thing. Gus Malzahn ran some similar stuff while a high school coach, and insofar as Houston Nutt and others had their input the shotgun jet-sweep offense which the Wildcat is but one strand of is something that has exploded at high school level but hasn’t really made its way to major college football. NFL coaches would do well to keep their eye on the lower levels to see what broad, new, general ideas spring forth. (A final X factor is the issue of practice time: Major D-1 colleges have just about the least practice time at any level, and high schools of course have to spend so much time teaching fundamentals that strategy is secondary. As a result there is what I call variation by hedgehog, meaning that you get variety by having a bunch of teams focus on one or two things they do really well, compared with the NFL where teams try to do a bit of everything.
Great, great stuff. Read it all.