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…