Daily Archives: December 15, 2012

Familiarity breeds containment.

The Air Raid is now the hot chick in town, judging by the spate of recent coaching hires.  Chris Brown explains what’s going on:

The Air Raid, by contrast, was always designed to be picked up and installed elsewhere. Mumme and Leach brought it to several schools before they wound up at Kentucky; Leach was hired to install it verbatim at Oklahoma, and he left after one season to go to Texas Tech; and, of course, Tony Franklin has taken it the next step by systematizing “The System” into something that can be bought and then installed anywhere, for any high school or college that wants it. But this wasn’t entirely about moving from school to school. It also was an acknowledgment that in college football, every year brings a different team, so you might as well start over. One of the difficulties with prior passing systems — the west coast offense most prominently comes to mind — is that they took years to master, and for a team to have a great season they needed the right confluence of talented but also veteran players, primarily at quarterback. Now a redshirt freshman playing in the country’s toughest division for a team in its first year in the system can win the Heisman trophy and lead his team to ten wins. This is what athletic directors hope they are hiring, and what the Air Raid now promises.

But hot ain’t cool.  Maybe that means the Air Raid is over as soon as it’s started.

What gives me pause, however, is that the offense was also always designed to be different, and it’s difficult to be different when two-thirds of your conference, in the case of the Big 12, runs the same offense, or when prominent teams all over the country all use the same attack. Ask any high school coach and they will tell you that being “contrarian” is largely a function of what their district looks like: if everyone in the district is pro-style, then the wing-T is pretty different; but there are districts where teams are predominantly wing-T, or flexbone, or Air Raid, or Oregon spread, or whatever. The Air Raid as a system is well organized, well defined, and well practiced enough to succeed even if the other team knows all about it; but it can’t be doubted that something is lost when your opponent has faced a version of your offense on six of the prior seven Saturdays.

That doesn’t mean the scheme will suddenly fall on its face, just that as it becomes more a norm, its value in leveling the playing field will diminish as defenses become more familiar and comfortable facing it.  In other words, it’ll take more traditional means of utilizing it to succeed, i.e., having the better Jimmies and Joes to execute it.

Then somebody else will have success being the contrarian.  Like he needs the help.

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