Monday, January 4, 2010

Altering the Scheme

The beginning of the Childress' Era held strong to one philosophy - run the ball, stop the run. In other words, do what the Jets and Bengals are doing this year. It's a very old school way of thinking, one TV analysts have been harping for as long as football has been on television. But here's the thing - it doesn't work. It doesn't win Super Bowls. Not anymore.

Last year the Vikings we're the #2 rushing offense and #1 against the run. What did this amount to? An unspectacular team that scared no one, and a first round exit. The Jets are the #1 rushing offense and are #4 against the run. The Bengals are the #4 rushing offense and the #6 rushing defense, their strengths. What will this amount to? They're both totally unspectactular, both from a scheme and personnel standpoint. Cincinnati is considered by many to be dead in the water while the Jets are a Curtis Painter appearance from being on the outside looking in.

I emphasize "unspectacular". You know what you're getting from a talent standpoint, it's all very straightforward. The onus is on the coaching and the scheme. So why doesn't it work? Because guys like Brett Favre, Percy Harvin, Sidney Rice and Adrian Peterson have shown that you can't prepare for guys that are capable of anything. The NFL is changing into more of a Madden video game league. You need at least a couple guys who are capable of scoring from anywhere on the field.

Everyone's heard the stories of guys like Jon Gruden who work 20 hour days, sleep in their office, using every available moment to somehow gain an edge on the other team. Everyone's heard about how Bill Belichick was the son of a scout, a football lifer that was raised on breaking down film. Coaches were becoming the show. They were becoming rock stars - even offensive coordinators were known just as well as head coaches.

Belichick's skills in particular were unique and a decided advantage. All "cheating" aside (I'm in the "name one coach who wasn't trying to get away with as much as he could" camp), the guy put together plans stopping the most high powered offenses and ripping the most fearsome defenses. He's got three rings, a fourth SB appearance and a fifth AFC title game appearance. The players on the field almost didn't matter - wideout Troy Brown was a defensive back for much of one season, for chrissakes. That kind of stuff was unheard of. He set a standard nobody else could follow.

The old saying is that the NFL is a copycat league. Everyone dutifully followed Belichick's lead and built empires centered around mind-squeezing control and week-to-week gameplans, as opposed to an overall philosophy. Long gone were the days of the playground style, call-it-as-I-see-it football. Guys like Peyton Manning and Brett Favre were considered throwbacks. Calling their own plays on the field? How absurd. You're messing up the coach's insanely intricate and detailed gameplan! That's what he spent 120 hours preparing for this week!

I've been over this before - this is why Childress was scared shitless of bringing in Jeff Garcia this past summer. So why bring in Favre? Well, obviously, with everyone harping on the "missing piece" your entire tenure, and having a HOF QB available, (and considering you get the credit for bringing him aboard), it's hard to turn that down. But I guarantee you, if Childress had his druthers, Tarvaris Jackson would still be back there, subserviently carrying out his orders.

This all leads to one major reason why Favre has been so successful this late in his career. How can you prepare for a guy who improvises so much? Even if you get him on film, he still has an unpredictable element that's difficult to prepare for. He's a coach's worst nightmare, both playing against and playing for.

My point is this - what's become the best way to attack against an over-prepared opponent? Once Belichick set the standard for coaching and how to prepare, what's the answer? Unpredictability. Explosiveness. Guys like Favre, DeSean Jackson, Chris Johnson, Deangelo Williams, Calvin Johnson (when healthy), Joshua Cribbs, on and on... more and more players of this nature are blowing up gameplans left and right. They're capable of anything on the field. There's just no preparing for that. Like Dan Patrick says, "You can only hope to contain them."

This past Sunday was again the Brett Favre Show Starring Brett Favre, and at the behest of Childress (not a stretch if I had to guess), his unpredictable style put up 61 points in a 60 minute stretch dating back to the Chicago game. There was a fantastic example of this when Favre changed the play at the line, pump faked twice on immediate routes, and went deep to Sidney Rice for 50 yards.

If Childress has a brain (a stretch if I had to guess), he's gotta stick with Favre calling it as he sees it on the field.

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