Friday, March 03, 2023

Changes Beyond Recognition or Remembrance

Time for a football post..... haven't done one in a while.

Every year about this time, I begin to do some deeper dives into trends and changes in football. As a person who played from 1972- 1985 and then coached from 1991 to the present, I often can't even believe what I am seeing.

Everything changes, and at some point the change is so great that all you have from the past is a reference. Even the super QB sneak used by the Philadelphia Eagles this season is similar but different to that ancient play from old. The short yardage OL technique used by them harkens back to the 'hunker down" days of 6-5 goal line defenses and games won in bloody 3 yard skirmishes in tight spaces. The rugby scrum still exists from the origins of 'foot'ball.

And yes, it all builds on itself and may come full circle... but likely never just the same.

The evolving nature of the sport can make it difficult to teach and reach the new players properly. And the lack of connection can actually hinder the education process going forward. That is why a lot of coaches have to go back each year and build it fresh. The battle of schemes causes action/ reaction cycles that spin into things that connect to the past but are also totally new.

And rules changes come into play as well. I think the NFL will change the short yardage rule this year to prevent the push from behind scrum and there aren't as many powerful QB's in the league like a Jalen Hurts, but I could see teams subbing their squat champions to push the pile of humanity 1 yard.

Change is inevitable.

And it can create issues, the older people who see the past connections may get isolated from the new generation and that gap can hinder important elements necessary to successful adaptation. If the old stay old... then they will disappear into history as the game moves by. If the new never knows the old, they may lose important lessons or fundamentals that actually lend itself to achievement.

Here is a somewhat silly or fun way to illustrate this.

I had the pleasure of getting a front row observation seat at the University of Tennessee from 1993 to 1998 because my old high school coach, David Cutcliffe was the OC there at the time. I was a young new Qb coach and OC at Briarwood and Coach Cut invited me to work camps and spend time up there each summer. It was a golden time.

It is a long story, but the genesis of it was that Coach Yancey used the quick passing game (the 3 wide receiver, under center, 3 step  90's game) that UT used at the time. He has been taught the system by WR coach Kippy Brown and then I called and re-connected with Coach Cut to learn more. 

Over the next 5 years, Coach Cutcliffe, Randy Sanders, Mark Bradley, and Coach Fulmer all helped generate ideas that we used to develop the original BCS 20 Personnel offense that had such a great run in that same era. That system evolved each year as well as we added the power gap scheme and early shotgun, sniffer back sets to better  utilize 7 man protections in the medium passing game.

I had the honor of sitting in meetings at Tennessee with Coach Cutcliffe, Peyton Manning, Randy Sanders, and Tee Martin as they watched film and discussed schemes, techniques, decisions, and issues. I found it ironic that both UT and Briarwood won championships in 1998 and I attribute a lot of that to our gleaning from the growth of the Vols at that time. There was a lot of UT orange in the coaches office those years: a lot of film, camp shirts, pictures, and hats. My Alabama friends were so confused in those days! But the John Chavis 4-3 defense and the David Cutcliffe quick passing, gap scheme, play action offense was right in line with how we were growing at Briarwood.

Back to the change and challenges....

UT had a play at the time called 'Meyer'- Coach Cut loved calling it. It had a glance at a post, and dig/curl conversion primary route, and a nice check down/ pressure answer. It was great any down vs any defense and they called it a lot.

In meetings and on the practice field, I heard a lot of 'Meyer' called.

My biggest problem was 'why do they call it Meyer?'.

I asked the GA, and he didn't know. "It's just Meyer"

I asked a few of the back-up QB's... "It's just Meyer"

Then I finally asked Randy Sanders who also played QB at UT years earlier.

He laughed... "Well, we used to have a play called "Oscar" and the companion play to that was "Meyer". Over the years, we stopped calling Oscar because Meyer was the better play."  The original term Oscar had a clear meaning, just like a lot of football language has.

As I am writing this, I actually just thought... do our kids even know "Oscar-Meyer"!? I can sing the jingle right now... My bologna has a 1st name, it's O-S-C-A-R-... My bologna has a 2nd name, it's M-E-Y-E-R.. oh i like to eat it everyday... you children of the 70's can finish with me.....

The point is this...

As we hand down concepts and 'systems' what connections need to be made so the next generation of learners can best use and help the assimilation?

Too much history can stall the process... not enough can stunt the process.

We need to see the world our kids live in and find connections to the present without losing the fundamentals or principles from the past that are essential.

I did not grow up with cell phones and Madden.... my lingo is not their lingo

No one calls "Meyer" anymore... it is lost in a sea of common concepts.... that play today in our world is called "Z Cleaner"... but others may call it Mavericks, or Dodgers, or 826 Frisco.

This is life as well... 

As I grow older, I have to stay in a growth mindset or I will get left behind. It isn't easy.

We can change too quickly or too slowly, I think collaboration and communication is very important in these processes.

Ask the whys- evaluate the results- and don't be afraid to try it a new way.

That offense we ran from 1996- 2003 was amazing. But to be honest, if we ran it exactly like the old way, it would not be successful today. The pass protections would not hold up and we could be defended in more multiple ways that create necessary changes.

But we also have some great fundamentals and principles from those days that are still applicable. I see teams doing many of the same things, but they are missing some fundamental principles in the application/ technique of those concepts.

The evolution never stops.... 

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