Thursday, June 26, 2008

What is Simple? Complicated!

After commenting on Drunken Radio Show Hosts (Sorry, still pissed at Huge for misrepresenting Cherilus’ situation.) I decided to dive back into some real football talk again for a change. It’s real easy to get sidetracked in the ifseason – especially in this lull before camp.

Before reading this post, be sure you have read (or re-read if necessary) this article on “What is Simple?” AND all the corresponding comments below the story on Schema and base memorization.

CanOpener had an interesting comment on there that segues perfectly into my next block on the Offense:

"Simple" is disguising plays by having a running back out there and not let the opposing team know exactly when you are going to run or throw the ball. Any team in the NFL could tell if we were going to run or pass. My biggest problem with Mike Martz was he should have had the running back out there more often to disguise plays.A running back that can block will help us.
June 23, 2008 2:10 PM

Lets go back to my sales techniques for a moment. We already established that I have basic schema that I use. However, the next step from using one, is stringing them together to lead a conversation to where you want it to go. I also have many phrases that can set me up to go in 5 or 6 different directions, depending on how the customer responds – or keep things progressing while I figure out what the heck to do next if I’ve screwed up, or things aren’t going well for any number of reasons. This is like a standard two back set. There are HUNDREDS of plays that can be run from a simple two back set. And, it your offense is balanced enough, the Defense really doesn’t know what’s coming. In trying to defend everything, they end up defending nothing. And there you have the New England Patriots offense in 2008. 85% of the snaps from a 2 back set. (statistic source questionable, but even if off, a look still shows that they ran a majority of plays from a simple two back set.)

What makes the Martz offense so fragile is that it is too simple and complex. It is simple in that it is made up of a number system, with easy to know routes. IF A, Then B. So Roy knows Kitna is going to throw him the ball. Where it gets hard is the "where"? There are often over a dozen variations of "if" Roy actually gets the ball, and "where" Roy runs, where the offensive line blocks, who everyone picks up, etc. for EACH POSITION that changes based on what the Defense does. The quarterback is not changing plays at the line of scrimmage because the play itself totally changes depending on what the defense is going to do.

So in my example above, all 11 men on the offense, without any communication, all have to predict what the customer is going to do -- and which phrase to use -- in unison. So they all have to make the same read. Now, in the simplest of cases, this can work quite well. Also, if the opposition doesn't know what you are doing, it can work. But it still always, every play, requires all 11 men to be thinking the exact same thing. If they are not -- the play falls apart.

If a defense knows this, which pretty much every defense in the league does now, then they can pretty easily throw the timing and "guesses" of the offense off pretty easily. Not adapting his system is part of why Martz got canned from St. Louis where they "simplified" it a couple of years ago to focus more on the run...and look what happened there. Disaster, right? Oh yeah...that's right, when they had a team (last they had WAY too many injuries to judge) Steven Jackson racked up yards while Bulger threw all over the place at will because teams were killed by the dual threat or them being able to -- offensively -- murder you on the ground or in the air. You had to pick your offensive death -- Air or Ground?

What Martz didn't do toward the end in St. Louis, and didn't do in Detroit, is keep the balance between ground and air -- which essentially eliminated half the defense's job. So they could focus on disrupting pass plays. Add in a QB who 8 of 10 plays was taking a 7 step drop -- and you have a lock on what the "offense" is doing -- but since the defense is changing up looks, the offense has a harder time working in unison. "Rhythm" is very important -- yet missing from the Lions offense were all of the quick, deadly passes that Warner picked apart defenses with to soften them up for the long bombs, or play-action runs -- Martz made like he was playing Madden on the PC and aired it up all the time.

So if it was so flawed, why did it look so good? The answer is this: Say the team thinks exactly the same, or similar enough about a third of the time -- since they are almost always going to for the high-risk big play, there is crap-crap-Dazzle-crap. But what happens when it's not clicking? Just replay the last 7 games last season -- especially Arizona -- and you will see.

The offense had no stock stories or phrases -- nothing they could do to progress, or at least tread water, while hitting the "reset" button and getting back into a groove. Word is the Lions would practice dozens of plays each week -- and then not use those combinations at all in games on Sunday. What is the point, then, of practice?

Quite often, that which is most complicated is easiest to stop, while that which is simplest is often unstoppable.

Martz’s offense was like a finely crafted gigantic Swiss clockwork traditional watch. Sure, the creator is a genius. It works in ways no other man can totally visualize. And all you have to do is screw up one tiny pin and the whole dang thing blows up on you. It was too complicated. Add in that he was using the same make, model, serial number watch on every play, and the offense got easier to predict as the season went on, despite its intricacy.

Rising floodwaters, on the other hand, are pretty simple. Lots of water. Coming your way. By the river. Sure, you know they’re coming - and from where. You think you know about how high they’ll get, and where they’ll go first and how quickly. But you can’t sandbag everything, and the flood can still break the Levies. While you can stop some of it some of the time, you can’t stop all of it all of the time.

The Lions are really going from the Swiss Watch offense to the Flood Offense. Run-Pass-Pretend to run then pass-Pass-Run-Run-pretend to pass then run-repeat. They don’t need to run around in circles on the offensive side of the ball before the snap to confuse the offense (that was not a typo – think a moment and it will come to you) – they just need to come out in the same formation and run 10 different plays to confuse the defense – which spot do you sandbag, and what do you leave open to the floodwaters? Or will their neck-breakin Oline just bust through the levee? (had to throw that one in there because it sounds awesome in a non-bar-brawl-setting)

The problem last year wasn’t that a back was not on the field to “disguise” the play – it’s that everyone knew the back was always a decoy, and thus ignored him.

I think of the fable of the boy who cried Wolf! Only, Martz had “The Back who showed Run!”. For the first 6 games or so, teams saw “The Back who cried Run!” And thought, gee – even though the QB is always taking 7-step drops and passing deep, we better keep guys in place to defend the run, just in case. No one is that stupid. Same as the villagers who came running when the boy cried wolf, time after time. Then, after too many times of “The back who cried Run!” standing around doing nothing (not even being held back to block – so sorry Can, a back who could block wouldn’t have helped last year – they were constantly pretending to run, or sent out on pass patterns, or standing around watching the QB get plastered as if that is the way the play was written) teams figured out the following truth: The Lions offense was that stupid. They figured out that if they just pulled a pin, or stuffed a gear, the Lions Swiss watch would grind to a halt. So screw the levies and turn off the water at the main. (hit the QB in the 15 seconds before the the play "develops" down field) And the offense got eaten alive, just like the boy in the fable when the Villagers figured out he was full of crap.

The Lions offense will have versatility – they can see how the D is reacting and hop out of a bad play, or take advantage of mistakes by the D. And they will run enough balanced plays from their base formations to be able to keep teams honest.

At least, this what think we will see IF things go as planned… IF not…

Just remember, keep in mind the Ifseason is about wondering IF… the season is about proving IF is true. Will the Lions be a flood, a puddle, or another broken watch? Only the season can answer that IF…


CHIEFGER139 said...

we wont do like the rams after martz left-i have high hopes for our offense with the additions of smith and felton and hope kitna is great at the audibles and lesser step drops-2 factors we dont even know how he will do at-another factor in your so-called ifseason

Anonymous said...

Great post DT, I agree 100%. For me, Martz wasn't wrong in his offensive scheme, he was only going off of what had worked before...he was only wrong in refusing to adapt it to his team. It boggles my mind how such an incredible mind can neglect such an obvious fact.

Martz's situation in Detroit really reminds me of some points I've learned from studying management (I'm a management minor BTW). One key point in management, especially in relation to teamwork is the relationship between task behavior and people or maintenance behavior.

One way to visualize task v. people behavior is to plot them on opposite sides of a line, like this:


Task behavior are the things you handle on an everyday basis. In Martz's case this would have been directly applicable to playbook design and the study of film.

People, or maintenance, behavior deal more with the relationship you have with your employees. In Martz's case, this would have been how he evaluated his personnel.

This is where Martz really ruined himself while with the Lions' organization. I don't think anyone has any doubts that Martz was dedicated to his job and wanted to succeed. But the problem wasn't about dedication, it was about his refusal to learn more about people centered skills...or at least to acknowledge the fact that it was not his strong point.

According to the visual above, Martz would have fit in something like this:


Most people lean one way or another on the task/people continuum, which is perfectly fine...but only if they admit where their faults are and are willing to dedicate themselves to either seek out the knowledge of others or find a way to develop or at least make up for those faults. Martz did neither of these things and it hurt him in the long run.

So what's the point of all this? Well, I think the one key thing is that being a schematic genius, in and of itself, is not enough to succeed in the NFL. The only way it works is if the personnel you have already perfectly fits your playbook--as it did for Martz early in his career at St. Louis.

We talk a lot on here about having a balanced offense, but we also must also have balance coordinators; coaches who can see not only the task at hand, but the team they are using to implement their scheme.


canopener said...

Let me ask you guys two questions.

#1 Do you guys think the Lions would have drafted the same players if they didn't have the salary cap issues? I think it would have went differently if it weren't for the cap space issues.

#2 What veteran has to play well this year in order for the Lions to have some success? I'll pick Dan Campbell, he is a serious weapon on offense when he is healthy.

I'll let one of you guys chose a defensive guy that needs to step it up.

Just trying to keep things interesting :)

CHIEFGER139 said...

nice graphs
i think the other serious problems with martz is he had his favorites too and wouldnt let other guys have a shot-he definately should of given oralsky some playing time at the end of the year-i forgive him of that somewhat because martz probably thought he was coming back next year and he definately believes in o-sullivan as he took him with him to sf. i do feel martz should of run more games-the washington game they were daring us too and he wouldnt even try-i like the passing game but like they say with a oass 4 things can happen and 3 of them are bad. and unfortunately even a incomplete pass is 0 yards gained. i dont think we had any screen game dump off passes either-why i dont know-maybe we did but i dont remember very many.i still hope were looking to pass everychance we got but yet if a team dares us to run were capable of doing that too-that alone i think will put us in the playoffs-to think were just going to go out and now be a run first running team would be a big mistake in my opinnion.

Isphet said...



Anonymous said...


Martz didn't use anything that had worked before. Jones was a viable option in Steve Mariucci's offense and rushed for over 1,000 yards. He gutted the system of taller wide receivers, and used the smaller, quicker guys. He deep sixed our FB's and went to H-backs and hybrid TE's.

The thing that Martz tried to do, and what the Lions have done for years is bring in a coach, then try building the team around what the coach wants in his system.

The Lions have never said, "This is our system. This is Lions Football, adapt and use what we have here." to a coach. Why? Lack of leadership in management. The Fords have been more hands-off, and Millen has been forced to take a coach that fit a system he thought he wanted; then took the coach that taught the first coach, and then picked his own coach for a system.

No where do you see consistency.

That's the issue.



I believe Tackle was the 1st round pick all along after Mayo and the DE's went off the board.

Dizon was picked because Mayo and Lofton were gone and no one else fit that spot.

3rd round had to be Smith.

CHIEFGER139 said...

they may of took stewert in the 1st but he was gone too dont think they liked mendenhal from the get go-i was shocked they took cherlious in the 1st-i seen him as a 2nd rd pick all along-took a few days to agree with that choice for me-dizon even more so-but they hit a home run on day two so i was happy with all there picks. i think we have to get use to picking in the later picks now-no way i see us picking in the top ten again for years to come-too bad millen blew those once in a lifetime picks but better to be a midlle of the pack team with playoff possibilities than drafting in the top 10 in my oppinion. become a playoff team and free agent vets will want to come here without breaking the bank-thats why making the playoffs is so important even if we get beat that 1st game.

JJLions20 said...

I hope it is as simple as a balanced offence means an unbalanced defense. Balanced time of possession means a defense hat is not run downed. Remember the cover-2 defense demands smaller quicker defenders. If they are on the field too long they get tired and they get pushed around.

Look at the Colts. They didn't change their offensive system, they changed the balance of run and passes. When Manning was throwing for 40+ TD's, a lot of the Colts Offensive series were 3 play series. The defense got absolutely beat up, and eventually depleted, worn down, and they eventually thy lost. The point is that even if Martz offense was successful at putting up points, his philosophy of score as fast as you can was going to destroy the defense. You can win games with an offense, but you win championships with a defense. Marenelli knew that sooner or later the philosophy had to be changed and now was the time to change.

I don't think the salary cap had more impact on the Lions draft then it did on any other teams draft. I think a lot of teams had the same philosophy about the cap and the draft. With the draft so deep on RB's, why spend the big money on a 1st round RB when you can get a RB a little later. So I'd say the salary cap had an influence, but I don't think the Lions particular situation had much to do with it.

The Lions needed an OT, MLB, & RB in the first 3 picks. I think the Lions wanted to go MLB (Mayo), OT, & RB before the start of the draft because they felt the RB could be found in the 3rd round. Mayo coming off the board so early did not change the their thinking that the RB could be obtained in the 3rd round. So they took O-Lineman in the 1st round.

As far as Martz goes. He was not brought in to have the same philosophy as Mareinelli. He was brought in to install an offense, and to push the players to be better. By riding the players the way he did, Rod was able to figure out who was mentally tough enough to keep and who had to be showed the door. Martz accomplished a lot of what he was brought in for. I don’t consider him a total failure. So, now Marenelli is changing the philosophy of the offense. No different than what Dungy did with the Colts. Don't think that Marenelli didn't see what Dungy did in Indianapolis, and it influenced his decision of what to do with the Lions. Remember they say, this is a copycat league.

CanOpener said...


I agree with you on most of what you say.


If one of the second day picks works out for the Lions, then the second day of the draft was a success. Lets keep our fingers crossed. Mendenhall would have been a home run threat but, if Smith can be a 1st down machine, he'll be alright. If Dizon can get after the offense like Sims, then that was another good pick.

Now as jjlions said, Mayo was our target and that would have been nice with our 1st pick. J Stewart would have been nice also but RT with the 1st pick?

Running back was my #1 concern going into this draft, was it my only concern, heavens no, but it was huge - I'll explain.

Martz all too often abandoned the run early in games last year leaving Kinta on his own without being able to audible. I'm not trying to tell you guys something you don't already know but, we needed a running back with more skill or "flash" as some call it.

I had this vision in my mind that I couldn't shake of Mendenhall being in the backfield, Kitna scrambling for his life, and then tossing the screen to Mendenhall. We would have baited them right in to our trap. Then our opponents would say holy crap, I'm not in any hurry to go after Kitna again with that speed burner in the backfield. Smith is not Mendenhall but as long as he can avoid running into the jaws of the defense, like Kevin Jones did, he'll be alright. Time will tell.

The problem I have with a blue collar draft like we just had is, by the time we find more talent we have lost another talented guy like Roy Williams for instance. There doesn't ever seem to be enough gain to get us over the hump, and the hump right now is 500 or better.

Just like the Pink Floyd song says, "all in all it's just another brick in the wall" sooner or later these bricks, or blue collar drafts have to add up.

Millen has had bad luck with his flash picks so I don't blame him for taking a more practical approach to the draft. If Millen would have drafted Rashard Mendenhall it would have meant one of two things for the Lions, Nitro or Mud. I think it would have been Nitro but I could have gotten Mud on my face.

We shall see, Can

CHIEFGER139 said...

BELIVE ME IT made me sick we bypassed mendenhal-and got cherlious-day one of the draft totally made me sick-i thought we wouldnt address the running back situation at all-in fact the only 2 quality running backs left at all period was smith and charles-so glad they traded up and got smith cause truthfully i was lookin for a big back like him or stewert or mendenhal or forte-a durable back who could get the job done- a speedster wasnt what i wanted and with ducket gone didnt think is what we needed-bell can be that guy-i like felton too-cause truthfully im lookin for a guy that can get it done in the red zone-hopefully we got those guys-again still so glad your on the blog-you probably know football a lot more than me but think all 0f us are light years ahead of the m-live crowd-
lions great in 2008-playoffs and beyond!!

Anonymous said...


I missed your second point, and you were dead-on. The TE position is going to be HUGE this year. I do't know if that is Campbell or Gaines in their scheme of things, But it is huge. We will probably be seeing 3WR, TE, 2RB sets this year.

They will be in the pass package and will be in the run block scheme. I can't see McDonald and Furrey being used as run blockers nearly as effective as Campbell or Gaines (sarcasm).

It sounds like that will be the focus (run game), and that will be where it starts.


I really don't know that back was going to be the first round pick, because the draft was so deep. I think all they did was switch the target position from round one to round two because of the Mayo issue.

If you look past the first round, the next offensive tackle that well all chatted about was Carl Nicks from Nebraska. Didn't that kid go in the 5th???

There was nothing after Gosder that the Lions were interested in.

After Dizon...maybe the next kid the Lions would've went for was Jonathan Goff...he went in the ????

That's why I believe the Lions targeted Cherilus and Dizon where they did; there was nothing left on the board if those players were picked that the Lions wanted.

When the Lions were ready to pick on day two, they saw the guy they had targeted at that spot still available. Day Two, I think the whole board fell exactly the way they wanted it to. And the key was, it fit their need.

The only surprise I thought on day two, was Moore. The CB from UCF was still available--and he had returned a lot more kicks than Moore had in college. Something about this Moore kid, though. He has velcro for hands. I've been able to see five of his games now (three purely by accident) and he doesn't miss a pass.

If the Lions miss the injury bug, and get off to another fast start, this could be the turning of the corner for the Lions.


JJLions20 said...

Lets also remember something about the Martz offense. Marshall Faulk, he was just hitting his prime. From 1998 - 2001 he was statistically better than Sanders, Smith, or Tomlinson when it came to both rushing or receiving yards. The numbers are Hall Of Fame type numbers. He may not have had the +1500 yard seasons of rushing but there were two 4 +1300 yard rushing seasons and the rushing+recieving yards were 2227, 2429, 2189, & 2147. Now you can't say it was because of Martz because the 1998 season was the Peyton Manning rookie season. My point is this. Martz system worked great because he had Bruce, Holt, and Faulk. Every team had to first game plan for the running back that was putting up +1300 yard seasons, and +80 catches seasons. I'm not sure any RB in the NFL has put up 4 consecutive seasons like this. Not Barry, Not Emmitt, and not LT. It was very "simple" (going to the point of this Blog) the Defense had to first account fro the RB, and that let the WR run wide open through the Defense.

I know all of us Detroit fans love Barry but check out the statistics, and look Check out the Stats if you don't believe. Barry was a great RB, maybe the greatest to ever play. But from 1998 - 2001, Marshall Faulk was the best the NFL had seen.

Anonymous said...


Task - balance - people chart is a good start.

Just to establish a point of reference from where I'm coming from, not to boast because its no big deal, now retired after 32 years the last 25 in management, again thats no big deal.


All too often schematics like the one you posted originate from a corporate headquarters and as such have only 1 goal in mind that being to achieve the task, and most important, corporate types look at the schematic only 1 way, from the top down. There's one way only, and its their way, and most of the time the non-corporate folks have to tweak corporate directives because corporate types, don't really know what its like in the field executing the directives.

Martz would be that corporate person issuing that company directive. He's going to accomplish his project (the greatest show on turf) if he has to bring in all his former players to do so. Never, ever, changing the method of changing the balance (the way) of achieving the task. Literally, too bull-headed to realize the task could be accomplished by tweaking the balance.

And with the scaled down new Colletto offense which has tweaked the greatest show to a more balanced attack, I think coach Marinelli realized what I tried to explain above.

Go Lions

Anonymous said...


When I said Martz only used what had worked before I meant he'd used what had worked with the Rams, not the Lions: Pass oriented, long bombs, a do-it-all RB, no TE's...I agree though, the Lions need to establish an identity and stick to it. Every coach that has come in has brought an entirely new system, they have 2-3 years to establish it and if Millen doesn't see results he fires them. Not exactly a recipe for success.

To the last poster:

I like your analogy to Martz being the "corporate executive" type. Most everyone saw a huge disconnect between the rest of the team and Martz. He didn't get along with most of the players (except maybe Kitna and the WR's) and he wasn't exactly doing great with the coaches either.

I think Martz thought that he was going to be the saving grace of the Lions organization. That he would make the Lions legitimate contenders and have us lowly Lions fans worshipping him by the time he left. Then, when it didn't happen and his offense was falling apart he was too egotistical to realize it was *HIS* mistake and blamed the players (lack of legitimate OT's).