Saturday, February 15, 2014


The superior man blames himself. The inferior man blames others. ~ Don Shula

The NCAA Rules Committee, or as they are also known, the Spoil Sports, have proposed a rule to slow down no-huddle offenses, mostly because of a few coaches who apparently can't deal with it. What they are proposing is that, exclusive of the last two minutes of a half, the offense must wait at least 10 seconds after the start of the 40 second clock to run a play. Supposedly this is to allow the defense to make substitutions because they want to avoid injury to the fragile defensive players.

Or maybe it's because big-name coaches like Nick Saban and Brett Bielema don't like the no-huddle, which neither of them uses.

What this is really about is coaches keeping their control of every element of the game on the field. If the offense snaps the ball too quickly, then the coach of the team on defense can't get his signals in to tell his defensive players where to stand, whom to cover, when to breath, and so on.

The irony is that no-huddle offensives are generally slower than molasses in January. They give the defense forever to look at their formation while the entire offensive team looks at the bench to get the play call from the coaches. If the defense adjusts, the offensive team looks to the sidelines again for the check-off play. No-huddle teams use as much of the clock as a team that huddles, and they give the defense longer to study the formation.

How slow is a no-huddle offense? According to the article, Air Force, which hasn't used a huddle in seven years ranked 104th in the BCS division in number of plays run per game. That's out of 119, which means darn near last.

The thing is that a few teams will occasionally run a true no-huddle “hurry-up” offense, which means they come running up to the ball and snap it quickly. This sort of thing used to be done only in the last two minutes of a half (hence the rule still allowing it in this case) to conserve time. Somewhere along the line, teams realized if you mixed in this sort of offense at other times during the game, they could get an advantage over the overly-complex defensive schemes that take forever to get organized.

Unfortunately, that didn't last long. The hurry-up requires that the offense run with minimal input from the sidelines. Coaches don't like that. Modern coaches have come to think that they are what they game is about, not the players. A lot of this is the fault of Paul Brown and Vince Lombardi, who were the first I can recall to shuttle players in on every play with play calls from the bench. Since they were successful, everyone started copying this, as coaches are wont to do.

At any rate, coaches like Saban seem to be terrified of a no-huddle offense so slow that it occasionally gets called for delay of game because they can't substitute players for their “situational” defenses unless the offense substitutes first.

Of course, Saban moans about potential injury to his fragile players for having to be out on the field for play after play (apparently, this doesn't occur to the offensive players on the field for play after play). He also feels that the offense somehow debases the game. “Is this what we want football to be?” he wails.

Funny thing, though. Way back in 1992, in Super Bowl XXVI, the Washington Redskins played the Buffalo Bills. The Bills had a no-huddle offense, and people wondered how the Redskins would fare without being able to substitute players on defense. Washington coach Joe Gibbs decided that, since the offense still had to get to the line of scrimmage, he had time while the ball was being spotted to send in players. After each play, defensive players were ready to rush in and take their positions while Buffalo was forming up. This had the added advantage of forcing their quarterback Jim Kelly to actually look to see what sort of defense was set up.

The Redskins won 37-24.

So, maybe if Saban would quit moaning and groaning about how his snowflakes are going to be hurt running two plays in a row and found ways to run in subs while the offense was staring at the bench getting the next play, he might just find he can confuse the offense rather than the other way around.

Funny thing about all this concern about injuries. Time was players actually played an entire game without getting subbed. Even today, offensive linemen generally play every offensive play. Why are Saban's defensive players so much more delicate?

Saban has won multiple national championships. He is the epitome of the successful coach. It's a little hard to understand why he feels he's at such a disadvantage. Unless, of course, it has to do with why he didn't play in this year's championship game. Seems he got beat by Auburn, which was running Gus Malzahn's no-huddle offense.

Nah, couldn't be.

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