“There isn’t a defensive coach in America who can sleep at night without taking pills.”

Who said this?

“We are now getting plays off every 12 or 13 seconds,”… “We are moving so fast I frequently can’t get a play in from the sidelines. We’ll hit 100 plays a game soon.” This, coming from one of football’s bastions of the conservative, makes it plain that something big has happened.

That would be Woody Hayes.  In 1968.

And Alabama has always been at war with Eastasia.  Or something.

Quite naturally, all of this is driving the game’s coaching giants goofy. Bear Bryant is sitting down there in Tuscaloosa with one of the best defensive teams he has ever had, allowing opponents only 10 points a game, but the Tide has been beaten twice and scared witless almost every week because it just can’t score enough. And coaches with teams that can score try to score plenty, because they pace the sidelines knowing a two-touchdown lead is far from a safe one anymore. (Halftime last Saturday: Ohio State, 24; Illinois, 0. In the fourth quarter: Ohio State, 24; Illinois, 24.)

“What’s happened is obvious,” says Bryant, the master of defense. “First of all, due to the pro influence, there are more good pitchers and catchers coming out of high school. They all want one of those Joe Namath contracts. Then, of course, most colleges use their best athletes on offense, as backs and receivers. That’s not necessarily true in the pros. They’ve got some of their best athletes on defense, especially corner-back. When the defense is forced to spread out, it must go to man-to-man coverage. But if the offensive boy—the pass receiver—is a better athlete than the defensive boy, he’ll beat him. So you have to go to double coverage, and that weakens you against the run.”

It’s the offense’s job to make life semi-tough for the defense.  (Had to get that Dan Jenkins reference in here somewhere.)  Eventually defenses catch up and the cycle renews.  It’s as true now as it was fifty years ago.



Filed under Strategery And Mechanics

10 responses to ““There isn’t a defensive coach in America who can sleep at night without taking pills.”

  1. ASEF

    But, can the defense catch up when the rules keep getting changed to make playing defense harder? I can’t think of one rule change in the past 10 years that clearly works to the advantage of the defensive side of the ball. O-line holding interpretations? Benefit: Offense. Defensive holding and pass interference mods? Benefit: Offense. Intentional grounding “tackle box”? Benefit: offense. Targeting? Offense. Head contact? Offense. Spotting the ball? Offense. If that reality isn’t part of the conversation, then the conversation is missing a vital component.

    We’ve been running off a D-coordinator now on this board for years. Did we just mistake “the cycle of life” for coaching incompetence?


  2. Good read, and valid points as far as comparison to the current day discussion. I do think it will take a little longer for the pendulum to swing back to the defenses than previous cycles though, just due to the variety of offenses. I think you linked to it here a few days ago, there was an article talking about how the term “spread offense” really doesn’t mean anything, because there are so many versions of spread offenses. I don’t think there’s ever been a time in college football where you could potentially have to prepare for so many different types of offenses – shoot, our schedule alone is brutal in that regard……..quite a variety of offenses between Clemson, SC, AU, Tech, Mizzou, then have to prepare for power football from Arkansas, etc. There was a time when from probably 70% of your games, when you were preparing for one team, you were pretty much preparing for all of them, just needed a few tweaks from game to game based on personnel. Now you’re almost starting from scratch on a weekly basis, but the number of hours allowed for preparation has remained the same.

    The biggest adjustment I can see for defenses is loading up on guys who are big enough to hold up in tight quarters, but athletic enough to be able to tackle well in space. Essentially, body types like Floyd & JHC. It’s a shame JHC couldn’t get his head straight.


    • mdcgtp

      Both comments above are spot on, as is the Senator’s point. I am always of the belief that championships are won by “complete” teams. By that I mean that in general the team that wins either the Super Bowl OR the BCS title are capable at all phases of offensive and defensive football. Certainly, some have skews, but you get my point.

      My general belief is that “spread” or “pace” are not ends unto themselves, but that MOST of the practitioners have used them heavily as either shortcuts to effective offense or in recognition that their program needs to employ underdog tactics to try to overcome limitations. More broadly, I view them as tools that can be used to supplement a well rounded offense, which is how I think we use it.

      What would be interesting to me is to see how significantly the performance varies of spread/paced driven offenses by quality of defense faced. I think you need to look at a lot of data. I don’t think we can use selective memory or anecdotes like say Bama against A&M or Bama against Ole Miss or Auburn against Mizzou.

      Ultimately, I agree that this stuff runs in cycles. Eventually the defenses will learn to better prepare for pace and spread, and as a result, its effectiveness will diminish, but the first step is defensive coaches taking a fresh look at what they are doing that works and what does not. My guess is that the solution is through some combination of better tackling, punishing QBs who run the ball, more 8 man fronts, but also figuring out how to expose the spread QBs’ weaknesses.


  3. AusDawg85

    As a Georgia fan, I need no convincing WR’s are better out of HS than DB’s. Enforce O holding better and go to the 2 feet inbounds rule for receiving and that might help with the imbalance enough to make a difference.


  4. sUGArdaddy

    No one thought anyone would ever stop the OU and Nebraska option attacks either. Until they did. I remember seeing scores as a kid that Nebraska had beaten someone like Kansas 77-10 and thinking, “How do they do that?” Then people figured it out. Tech still runs it, but when they play against elite athletes on defense (VaTech, Clemson, Miami, UGA, FSU), they look very pedestrian.

    The same will be true of the spread and HUNH. It will especially be true of the attacks of the likes of Auburn and Oregon. If that was the best way to win, they’d do it on Sundays, where all they care about is winning. Peyton Manning and the most prolific offense in NFL history got man-handled by a defense of full grown men in the Super Bowl.

    It goes in cycles. This will, too. I think the HUNH will always have advantages, but defenses will also work on being in better shape and bullying people on the line of scrimmage. That’s the way to stop it. Looks like Stanford has figured out another way in their message to Oregon the last few years, “You recruit to a finesse offense, which means your defense never practices against physically tough players. We’re going to pound you into submission on offense and dominate the line of scrimmage on defense and beat you 17-10.” And that’s pretty much what they’ve done in recent years.


  5. Scared witless???