The fault, dear Spurrier, lies not in your system, but in yourself.

Wow.  Chris Brown decides to get a little provocative with a post about the OBC’s failed stint with the Redskins.  While it may not do so on the order of, say, your “Erin Andrews gots a boo-boo, OMG” postSuckers! – it ought to generate its fair share of Internet traffic just for this parting shot:

So what’s the verdict? Spurrier failed, but it was not his “college offense” that let him down, it was the man, his overall lack of control of players, his roster management, and his own coaches, and in no small part the inadequate planning that went into his “pro-style attack.”

It ain’t pretty, that’s for sure.  But there’s a side issue he touches on there that I found interesting.  In discussing the evisceration Spurrier suffered in his second game at the hands of Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson, Chris notes that

… Spurrier ran a pro-style system, and if you’re going to do that in the pros you better be ready for the meat grinder that is their film study. Johnson, a wily guy who has been around the block a few times, devised one blitz after another that got to the core of Spurrier’s protections and never let him out. (Incidentally, this gets to one of the common criticisms of my NFL bit, which was that I couldn’t be serious saying that the NFL wasn’t complex. But I never said that; I said it was bland yet, within that blandness was incredible complexity on the micro scale. A lot of college guys have said if you introduced more macro variation you could reduce the micro complexity — i.e. a million blitzes you have to gameplan for — but that’s something for later.)

What I’m wondering is whether all that focus on what Chris refers to as the micro side gives an NFL defensive guy who switches to the college game an advantage.  When I write that, I’m thinking about coaches like Carroll, Saban and now Monte Kiffin.  Any ideas out there about whether there’s any validity to that?


Filed under Strategery And Mechanics, The Evil Genius

13 responses to “The fault, dear Spurrier, lies not in your system, but in yourself.

  1. Joe

    The micro side in the NFL is possible because you have 22 guys on defense who were the best player on their college team, are usually pretty smart and most importantly, have unlimited practice time to hone their skills.

    You can have a defensive end work for 3 hours on a subtle head bob to create the illusion that he is dropping into a zone blitz when he is actually stunting on the opposite side of the center. That sort of detail simply is not possible in the college game.

    One also has to have very smart players to get micro. That is a crapshoot in college and sometimes, there are going to be guys who just cannot understand what is going on.

    Pete Carrol runs a vanilla defense. He simply has much better players than every other team in his conference.

    I think the micro detail can give an NFL coach an advantage. He has been exposed to ideas that many college coaches have never thought of. But, the NFL experience can also be a hindrance, as the practice times and level of personnel are so drastically different, and many times, those grand ideas are impossible to actually put on the field.

    I will be interested to see how Monte (Real Coach)Kiffin uses Eric Berry. This kid was the best player in the SEC last year, and is one of the most talented players I have ever seen. The safety in Real Coach Kiffin’s scheme traditionally does not do much but play centerfield and light people up. Will Real Coach Kiffin adjust his scheme to feature one of the singular talents in SEC history, or will he stick by what has been successful for him for aeons and, perhaps minimize the role of Ufk’s best defender since Reggie White?


  2. Good post. The only thing I want to add is that I don’t dislike Spurrier; in fact, he’s still one of my favorite coaches ever. I learned as much from his stuff than I have from anyone, and I share some of his proclivities in the sense of just loving offense for the sake of offense at times. I have a film of that game where his Gators hung 62 on Fulmer’s Vols, and it truly is one of the most beautiful things you’ll ever see (I know this is a Georgia site!). Every time Tennessee tried to change its scheme, Spurrier would switch up himself and hang about three more TDs up until the next switch.

    But he’s an imperfect guy, and I don’t think he realized what he was getting himself into. I once sat in a room where he was diagramming plays, and he drew one up. Some guy asked “What do you do if they blitz that guy,” referring to some outside linebacker or safety type. “They won’t,” was his response. That was it, and that was how he thought at times. Well, in the NFL, they did, and he wasn’t ready.


    • Chris, do you think that what failed him in Washington is plaguing him now in Columbia?


      • Ed

        Hey there Senator, I’m not sure if you got it, but I sent an e-mail to your gmail address last week. Just let me know what you think – thanks


      • It’s hard to say but it’s definitely a factor. There’s a list of non-exclusive factors going on:

        (A) Lack of QB and/or his inability to develop one.

        (B) SEC defensive coordinators are more sophisticated than they were during his SEC heyday, including having studied what the NFL guys did to him.

        (C) Offenses change too, and what was once revolutionary has largely been co-opted (if you study Petrino’s offense for example, it’s a mix of one-back spread stuff (going back to his time with John L. Smith at Louisville), NFL stuff (his Jacksonville Jaguars/Tom Coughlin time), and, strangely enough, Spurrier’s stuff, almost verbatim. Same read concepts, etc. It’s not as unique as it all was back then, when with his adjusting on the fly his offense literally could not turn off, thus being one reason why his backup QBs would throw for two or three TDs.

        (D) Maybe week to week prep. Hard to say.

        And so on. I will say two more things. One, his running game has been entirely ineffective, save for the period when he used Syvelle Newton. And as my post indicated, a lot of his aggressive, down the field passing was really basic on play-action and the threat of that lead-draw. He has not really adapted his run game to the modern trends (read: the zone runs).

        The other thought — and I don’t know if this is scary or sobering or what — is that he’s actually done a very good job given the talent he has. Now, I don’t totally buy this having actually watched his teams, complete with Blake Mitchell/Chris Smelley/Tommy Beecher interception fests, but he has consistently put up a winning record, he even beat Florida, and during stretches he has pushed the Gamecocks into the top rankings (thinking specifically of early 2007, before they fell apart). Maybe, given the talent he has, he’s actually doing a good job? That’s a strange thought.


        • I thought Spurrier did one of the best coaching jobs of his career in 2005. His team was mediocre at best on both sides of the ball, he was stuck trying to fit the square peg of Holtz’ recruits into the round hole of his offense, for some reason he thought that making John Thompson his defensive coordinator was a good move… and yet he still managed South Carolina into a tie for second in the SEC East, beat Florida and Tennessee (something Georgia hasn’t done in a long time) and came within a whisker of pulling off the trifecta in Athens.

          Coaching with a significant talent deficit was something I hadn’t seen him do in a long time, if you count his stint at Duke, but he still showed he had the touch. That’s why the recent stagnation in Columbia is such a puzzler to me.


          • Anonymous

            2005 was Spurrier’s most talented team offensively. He has yet to recruit a QB as good as Blake Mitchell/Syvelle Newton, a WR as good as Sidney Rice, a RB as good as Cory Boyd.

            Spurrier had a larger than life persona at UF back in the day and opened up the SEC offensively. That said, he mostly ran up the score against teams with inferior talent. He had losing records against FSU and Miami, the only teams of that era with comparable talent.


  3. The micro-complexity of the NFL only helps if you’re prepared to use it wisely. What Joe said about a lack of practice time is spot on. You have to be able to analyze the offenses you’re going against and based on that pick out whatever percent of the NFL defensive playbook you think you can manage to cram into the limited practice time (and also base that package on the experience and football IQ of your players). Bill Callahan is prime example No. 1 of what happens on the offensive side when an NFL guy can’t scale back the complexity. The defensive guys appear to have done better generally, with Saban and Carroll being the stars but also with Al Groh and Dave Wannstedt putting together good defenses more often than not in recent years.

    For them, it’s almost like a collegiate engineering school challenge where the participants have plenty of know-how but have to be creative given constraints about what materials they can use to solve a problem and how long they have to make it. In the NFL, you’re building concrete skyscrapers; in college, you’re building concrete gliders. Both are a challenge, but they’re different kinds of challenge.


    • I agree totally, but with one caveat: one of the points of running a more “diverse” or varied set of concepts — and the wildcat is doing this in the NFL and the spread really did this when it first came into vogue — is it limits what the defense can do. You take them out of their base stuff, where they have countless variations, and you force them to play your game with broad macro issues. The argument by a lot of guys is that a bit more macro diversity would really hamstring the micro diversity that is possible, thus giving you a bit more of a strategic edge in predicting what you’d see. Again, when the spread teams first came out you really saw this, with, say, a team like Northwestern or Purdue forcing Ohio State and Michigan or Michigan State (with Saban) into a very vanilla set of defenses for an entire game and thus having outsized success. It’s not quite the same now with the spread so common, but that’s the argument at least.

      To take Georgia vs. Georgia Tech as an example, it’s really not debatable to say that Georgia would be better prepared and have a more diverse set of defenses and adjustments were they to play five or six flexbone teams in a year versus one, no? It’s just that principle expanded. It’s one of the same reasons that teams run trick plays: you make your opponent prepare for it.


  4. 69Dawg

    Two things, practice time and payroll. The NFL has a lot of both, college not much of one and none (supposedly) of the other. College age males have attention spans in direct inverse to their egos. I have always thought that it would be heck to depend on 18, 19 and 20 year olds for my livelihood, but if you look at the military we have a lot more riding on them than a football score.


  5. The NFL is a details league. To be detail oriented, you have to be willing to put in the time. Spurrier is and has always been lazy and worked banker’s hours. You cannot do that and win in the NFL.


  6. ceph

    The people who followed Spurrier to Washington have done too well either (ala Gibbs) I think it has more to do with Snyder than anything else!!!!!


  7. ceph

    Excuse me (have not done very well either)