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.


Filed under Strategery And Mechanics

23 responses to “Familiarity breeds containment.

  1. Somewhere, the old “BigTen 3 yards in a cloud of dust” smiles…

  2. SouthGaDawg

    The Bill Walsh west-coast offense was wordy and complicated. When some plays were called they had more than 10 syllables. The Air Raid is very simple in that respect. Anyone ever watch Leach or Kingsbury call plays? They don’t use a big full size play card, color coded, etc. They have a little card about the size of of a 3 x 5 index card. That is the “greatness” of this offense. Once it is practiced, it is simple. Very much like the old wishbone option. There are not a million plays, formations, or packages. You would just run option right or option left. Best reading ever is “Winning Football with the Forward Pass” by Norm Chow. This book is what Smart essentially explains in his article. The Air Raid is not a set of plays like the West Coast O, it is all just a concept. Once everyone gets the concept, it’s a beautiful thing.

  3. Dawg in Austin

    I’m not sure Brown is right about diminishing returns. The teams in the Big-12 have been defending this attack for over a decade and they still can’t stop each other. And before you bring up Jimmy and Joe, remember how many OU and UT players are in the NFL, and take a look at what A&M did in SEC play this year: scoring over 39 points per game. Year two and three for A&M should answer the question for us, but let’s not write the epitaph just yet.

    • Macallanlover

      I was thinking familiarity would bring about success in defending/stopping the uniqueness of the offenses within a league but your point about the wide-open shootouts in the Big 12 is valid. Which makes me wonder why they have been incapable since the OC can certainly advise the DC of weaknesses they seek to exploit, and the defense often sees some variation of that offense in practice every day. At UGA we don’t have scout team members to duplicate the TO we see from GT but seeing it every year gives us some edge, at least more than teams that haven’t seen it since HS.

      Makes me think the emphasis on athletes they recruit is so slanted to the offensive side of the ball they miss on the defensive side but the Big 12 teams recruit just as many DTs, LBs, DEs as we do. So where does it fall short? Patterson even recruits RBs and turns then into Ds and LBs from what I remember reading. Are the rule changes/enforcement responsible for the recent explosion in points, or do these schemes really succeed because the number of options available to the QB, and the amount of ground to be defended, just too much to be defended? Let’s face it, UGA isn’t a spread team by any definition but we have seen a big increase in high scoring games, and offensive output the past couple of years. Schlaback is predicting a 49-31 UGA win over Nebraska, that is 80 points total; I don’t see it that myself but our game with TN this year produced 95 points…..not exactly “old man” SEC football.

      • Georgia 35 Nebraska 32. SELAH. Hey, Mac, had some 21 year old Macallan the other night. That is some smooth good stuff. Doctor says, I may have two ounces a day with milk. The lighter colors not so smooth. Pure Scottish I am.

        • ScoutDawg

          Selah, really… I swear it is like you have dementia and don’t realize where you are at.

          • Rhymer Dawg

            What is wrong with Selah? It is just a Hebrew word that designates a pause in a song or poem.

            • ScoutDawg

              Furman Damn Bisher, that is what is wrong with Selah. Has nothing to do with the word itself.

              • What word are you referring to? I was speaking from the WORD OF GOD that is the Old Testament. Ever read it? Check it out, the Old Testament is two thirds of THE BIBLE and I know HEBREW. Put the bottle down and pick your BIBLE up, You might learn something.

          • By the way…Please do not end a sentence with a preposition. Better yet, go back to school and study grammar.

            • beege

              There is no reason not to; that was a rule in Latin. It was decided in the 18th century by fussypants grammarian Robert Lowth that English should be shoehorned into Latin rules because the Classical Age was a more perfect time or something. The actual rules of English allow more varied sentence structure and more beautiful prose, in my opinion. English is where it’s at!

  4. Always Someone Else's Fault

    This is what’s great about CFB. Different styles, people taking schematic risks, constant development. The game is always changing. Unlike the NFL, where a limited pool of teams and playoff primacy makes for an extremely conservative group of coaches and a mind-numbing similarity among games.

  5. W Cobb Dawg

    Have to admire the simplicity and focus of these ‘air raid’ offenses. Simplicity in the sense that it can be implemented quickly – even by a team with limited talent. Focus as it generates a hell-of-a-lot of points – and isn’t scoring the main objective of an offense? For most of cfb, the days where an offense can essentially bleed the clock (or waste time if you prefer) and let the defense do all the heavy lifting are over. That is, unless you have a vastly superior D and running attack like the state flagship school immediately west of GA.

  6. ScoutDawg

    East, “air raid”, meet West, “Smash Mouth”. We will see who wins that one. The statement that really pisses me off is when he speaks of the freshman playing in the, “toughest division”. When did the YEARS of East DOMINANCE in the SEC get forgotten?

  7. I love college football.

    But after reading that article, I get the distinct feeling someone wasted several hours of their precious life.

  8. Scott

    With three 50 yard plus FG’s today, Blair Walsh just tied an NFL record with eight 50 yard plus FG’s in a season. He is 8 for 8 from 50+ yards. Too bad UGA didn’t know how correct whatever flaw that the Vikings identified on film before drafting him.

  9. Cojones

    Senator, I’ve had a problem logging onto the pool. I had already picked a couple , came back a few days later and changed one plus picked games to 20 Dec. Went back yesterday to see results (think I picked correctly for the two games) and couldn’t log on. Same today. It says I have the wrong user name, so I reregistered and it told me it was taken. Sent a request to ident my logon name. Is anyone else having problems? Was on the pool site several times before Sat. What gives and have I been wiped off?