Friday, June 13, 2008

What is Simple?

With OTA's mostly closed to the Media Lions news has been on short supply. As Nubsnobber pointed out, the Lions players are also keeping it close to the vest (which I agree is a good sign) and finding out where they are at has been more than a trick and a half. I found out about Bell -- but didn't figure out where CJ was until the news about his father's heart surgery broke -- after the fact. As for Foster, who knows? Nada, info wise. From what I've been able to pick up, Sims and Redding were essentailly told to take it easy and save it for the season -- and allowed the coaching staff to get a better look at players who are competing for roster spots behind them. Now, with OTA's over, comes the dreaded dead-time before camp begins.

Fortunately, I have been stockpiling various ideas since before the draft -- so this is one Lions site you won't see posting Hockey or Baseball stories -- unless of course I can make them relevant to the Lions.

So I was reading this typical bit of June fluff from the freep, and another re-hash on the DetNews, when I got to thinking about something I've been mulling around since Martz got canned:

The "New" Detroit Lions Offense.

What I find interesting is that it's not really a "new" offense per se -- they are just running it a different way. What? That doesn't make sense you say? Different but not?

First of all, I think it should, from what we can tell right now, be referred to as a simplified version of Martz's offense. Actually, the offense he ran as OC when the Rams won the Superbowl would be a simplified offense compared to what he ran with the Lions the last couple of years. Anyone remember Marshal Faulk?

Now, before I hear screams of "but the Lions have no line, no RB last year he couldn't run it!" -- lets remember one simple fact: NO ONE knows how well the Lions could really run the ball consistently last season as part of a balanced offense because THEY NEVER DID. All we can do is look and make inferences and guesses -- but that is all they are -- guesses.

I think that this really comes down to one definition: Simple.

Is "simple" offense a concrete definition, or is it a comparison of one thing to another? For my 7 year old adding is simple in comparison to subtracting. Multiplication is really hard. By the end of the second grade, she will have basic multiplication down - which will be simple in comparison to division, which will then be simple in comparison to long division, fractions, algebra....

So what you know how to do, at what level, in comparison to what is being referred to, defines simple. (Does your head hurt as much reading that sentence as mine did writing it? Good. I'm a big fan of critical thinking.) Sometimes, simplicity can be more complex than complexity. Just easier to execute. After all, algebra merely utilizes adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing -- it just moves them around in different ways.

Take what I do, for example. I am an insurance agent. I sell insurance and work to retain customers for my employer. For me, explaining basic auto insurance coverage, complexities of estate planning, homeowners claims, billing issues, underwriting systems and nuances, life insurance concepts, investing basics and concepts, simplifying complex insurance ideas into understandable analogies and explanations for clients, training sales people, training service representatives, setting up office systems -- and much, much more all come easily to me in a split second when required. Why? I've been doing my job and working on my profession for over 10 years.

I am very good at knowing when to pitch a certain product, or how to tell a customer something so they will understand it. It isn't just natural skill -- much of it comes from repetition. I find something that works, and while I tweak it as time goes on to fit either certain circumstances, or changes in regulation, etc -- I've been using some of my stock phrases, stories, examples for over a decade. I've been saying them so long that they no longer sound like memorized platitudes, but spontaneous conversations. They work, and they work well. And they are very "simple" because I can use them without thinking about wording, but focusing on delivery and the impact they are having -- and where I need to go next.

My stock phrases are like the "bread and butter" plays that the Lions are installing and talking about. Take this line that says "the Lions had only 30 or 40 passing plays and maybe 10 running plays. They had more than 200 plays in their game plans last year."

What I feel most people are misinterpreting is meaning they only are going to use 40 or 50 plays total. What they are saying they are going to have about 50 plays that are their variations on my "stock" phrases, explanations, and stories -- what you start with, what you can fall back on when the situation dictates it and know what is going to happen, what you are so good at that it almost always works. This allows the offensive players to focus on how well they are doing a play instead of what the play is. It eliminates doubt and allows them to play at their strongest. While the defense is focusing on where they are supposed to be and what they are supposed to be doing to stop the play -- the Lions offense is focusing on executing it better than the opposition, at full speed and power.

Want to see how well that works? Check out New England's offense last season. Boring as heck (variety wise). Indianapolis' basic underpinnings follow the same principle as well. Sure, they'll switch up the TE, FB, RB, or Slot WR -- but it is still the same play --- just a different guy catching the ball. That leads to the second and third misconceptions about the "simplified" offense: That they will only have a few plays, and that they are predictable.

I will cover those, and more thoughts on this subject, tomorrow. In the meantime, comments? Your thoughts?


Anonymous said...

detfan 1979

1) The whole run the ball issue...couldn't agree more. For all the people who say the Lions couldn't run the ball and the OLINE sucks; name the back with the NFL's fourth-best yards per carry at 5.3 yds? ((HINT - He played for our Leo's)). That's VERY impressive behind a line that supposedly cannot block. Amazing, huh how stats can skew arguments.

I will wait to expound. This topic can become very complex.

This offense WILL NOT BE more simple, and it is NOT "dumbed down" for the Detroit Dummies.

This offense will be more user friendly and allow Kitna to alter on-the-fly and as-needed.

In certain ways, it will be more complex than Martz's offense. In Martz's offense, if the play call in the huddle was running a draw play up the middle, and the defense was blitzing up the middle, you still had to run the ball up the middle.

Most of us would become very frustrated with that type of offense (or dictator). Let athletes make plays or calls. Put them in position to do what they are trained, and then let them perform. QB's and that audible play-calling is part of that.


ClusterFox said...

Great Subject! I've coached high school football a bit, and have pretty strong feelings on this. Some coaches(ie Martz) like to have huge playbooks in an effort to have the players prepared for every possible scenario. What you end up with is 200+ plays and the players attempting to know all 200.

*Let me pause and define Play- The language needed to have everyone executing the proper allignment,movement, steps, reads, patterns, functions, tasks,in the attempt to score a touchdown. Long story short, what needs to be said to make sure everyone is on the same page when the ball is snapped.*

The way some prefer to set up a playbook for example is to have: 10-20 plays that guys can run in there sleep, 3-different formations,5-different motion packages or shifts. and what you end up with is 150-300 different play combinations.

If your thinking there is no difference you are basically right. The difference comes in the presentation. I believe its easier to remember. And the added benefit kicks in as the season progresses. Week 2 and on come along and were not dropping 40-60plays and adding 40-60 new ones, were droping 2-3 plays 1 formation and 2 motions, and adding 2-3 plays 2 formation and 2 motions. I didn't check to see if the numbers jive exactly but you get the idea.
Lastly,I'm sorry, because composeing thoughts into written word is not simple. My mind is full of many of the same things Detfan 1979 described as simple. Keep up all the good work all.

by the way Haikus are far from simple.

Isphet said...

There's a term called "schema" or "schemata" that I think you folks would be interested in. It's basically a term that defines what Detfan is implying in his post. In very basic terms, "schema" is the set of rules that helps us interpret the world. Here's a link to Wikipedia's site on it, which is kind of necessarily long explanation of the idea.

Under the heading "thought using schemas" is the following very-applicable statement.

"Schemata are an effective tool for understanding the world. Through the use of schemata, most everyday situations do not require effortful thought— automatic thought is all that is required. People can quickly organize new perceptions into schemata and act effectively without effort. For example, most people have a stairway schema and can apply it to climb staircases they've never seen before."

This clearly applies to sports in the exact way that you folks have described. Make the game simple. Build up the team's schema through simple, repetitive plays that the team can perform without thought, and even improvise upon at times of need.

In terms of previous Lions' offenses, It's impossible to build that kind of comfort level with a playbook that has 200 different plays, 150 of which you never bother to run anyways. The real philosophy SHOULD be to simplify and let the guys play instead of think. How well do you think the Red Wings have built up their schemata? Think they think about what they are doing when they do it?

If you're looking for hope for this year's offense, this would be a good thing to remember as we approach the season.

Anonymous said...


You are exactly right when dealing with other issues, also like muscle memory, and being able to react instead realize, then act.

You are also assuming that each stair has a standard 12 inch step, all fifteen steps in the staircase.

Martz's offense would be like a staircase that could have 15 to 19 steps, and each step may range in size from 8" to 16", with multiple variations but no pattern.


Martz's offense was very complex. In addition to approximately nine different personnel groups, you had about 15-20 sets and about 10 different pre-snap shifts.

Martz's shifting was done to see if a specific defender was matched man or zone, and he would shift different people in the same play, or use multiple shifts to make sure there weren't dummy shifts done by the defense.

The thought (Coryell, Tollner, et al) was that by shifting multiple people a defense couldn't possibly "dummy shift" a guy from each side AND a middle "slot" defender on the same pre-snap shift. Therefore, by shifting at least three people pre-snap, you would get the TRUE definition of the defense (being zone or man).

The newer offense doesn't care about THOSE reads. What Coletto is going back to is defining the defense's play tendancies, man or zone.

Coletto wants to define the defense as a drop or a blitz, and shift, or strong-side vs. weak side.

First, count. six on one side or five??? How many in the box? Seven or eight?

Now, pre-snap audibles. Does teh defense shift.

After an audible or dummy audible, the last control mechanism before snap is the cadence. If a blitz is on, usually a later snap count is in order (to draw).

I'm sure CLUSTER FOX and I could keep beating this thing; bottom line is, there is a ton of psychology used in the fifteen seconds after the huddle breaks, before the snap of the ball. They are learning it all now, and it is different from last year.

The BIG key for casual learners/fans, the Lions have already practiced all of these plays before, and they won't have to "think" before they act.


Todd said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Todd said...

Detfan, I can't express my gratitude to you about keeping your site up. Even in a busy time at work you still post meaningful articles with tons of analysis. Kowalski, in his defense really doesn't have much to harp on in this dead time of the ifseason and I'm at least grateful he doesn't press the Roy issue or something else redundant but his bland analysis of 1 player a day gets boring. nubsnobber, love reading your two cents on every article you always have great input (great analysis of the new offensive scheme reading the defense I enjoyed that). Also jjlions, who I have to take a little credit on getting him to post over here, hope you return as I haven't see you writing recently. Hope you guys keep up the good work and lions optimism.

I haven't posted in a while because I'm really busy with work and school but I read religously. Just in case you guys are missing out, Hondo's Blog (linked on left on 1st page of Detfans blog) is becoming way more fruitful then MLive. He is really getting the interviews and doing in my opinion a way better job of being an insider right now than Kowalski. Not that I'm knocking Tom I appreciate his job too. Also Birkett (linked also on Detfan's front page) is good when he updates it and even puts a video update on YouTube.

Anyways just wanted to post because I actually have time and think you guys would appreciate this link:

I'll check the link and make sure it works but its a link to the Lions site where Gerald Alexander's blog is. He wrote a few days ago and midway down he writes: “I am still working at nickel and it is (weird). I feel like a rookie all over again. At safety, I can tell (the difference) because I feel way more comfortable playing safety. I know what to look for, I know my reads, I know everything. When it comes to nickel, certain calls I’m still a little confused about. Obviously it’s going to be a thing that will get better with repetition in training camp but it’s just like being a rookie all over again learning another position. But I’m all for it. The more I can do, the better."

To me that is really exciting because besides some rookie pains I thing Alexander is a real playmaker and reading his blog the last two years seems like he is very intelligent, aside from definitley being very dedicated. With the free agent addition of Dwight Smith and Kalvin Pearson (not as much KP really plus his legal issues) along with Bullocks coming back from injury, I was hoping they would try and drop Alexander down. I would think he could play nickel since Fisher said that's what he struggles with as a corner playing Nickel (sorry tired long day in the sun and don't remember where the link is off the top of my head), the tackling part. Alexander can tackle and he definitley has at mimimum average cover skills for a safety.

Either way great depth at safety this year especially when the two spots are sort of interchangeable. I already love the comraderie too, if you look at Alexander's blog, his first line he is quoting "BK", as well as nicknaming new Lion Brian Kelly. It can only be a good think with these new Lions around who are experienced in this defense and can be role models for these younger players, along with improving depth.

Also another nice link not on the main sites about my favorite draftee Dizon this year:

Nothing special but I enjoy reading about him as I'm sure some of you do and it's a new article.

Last note, I watched the replay of the Cowboys/Lions game from last year and we really hung with them, and even more exciting we really ran well against them when we actually tried. Raiola looked really good pulling around the guards in that game, which I'm assuming they will use his speed and athleticism to do a lot this year with the zone scheme. We would have beat them if Hanson made that short field goal (it happens even to the best, and it's not like he shanked it so I've forgave and forgot). Only worry I saw was during it they had analysis and their coach Phillips was saying how in our Tampa 2 that tight end is going to be open and that's why they kept going at it, hence Witten's like 12 catches and basically driving them down to win the game. I'm going to hope this is for lack of someone's skills that we improved maybe the LB's (Lenon possibly) and Dizon improves this. Either way exciting season coming up boys, even more so for the 2009 season after 1 more year (yes I'm in the patient, optimistic, realistic boat who post here on this site).

-TK in PA

DetFan1979 said...

Great Comments all! You knew exactly where I was going with this article.

Hope everyone had a great Father's day!

Anonymous said...


I see it was Father's Day, and you removed a comment. Did someone call me a "Mother" on accident?


I'll stick my neck out on this one. Tom missed the boat in his review of the "Road Grader" that "manny" people call MAN-RAM.

Kicking out and trapping (or pulling) is ten feet. Instead of blocking the guy that you are "head on", you are pulling ten feet to a new whole, helmet on helmet, short, choppy feet, smack 'em in the kisser, blow them out of the hole.

It takes much less to go from a pull block scheme, to a drive block scheme or vice versa, than it does to go from learning a pass scheme to a run scheme.

There is nothing more rewarding for an offensive line than for a coach to say, "Boys, we're running it down their damn throats fifteen plays in a row. If you block it and we move the ball, you win the game for us!"

When is the last time we can honestly say the Lions have iced a game in this manner? Vintage 4th Quarter Redskins style.

We saw it a bit in a few wins last year, like the Denver game. But that game was OVER.

I'm talking about a tight game where you are up 3 at the start of the 4th Quarter, and you drive down the field 12 plays, 10 minutes and score 7 seven points.

Manny Ramirez is that type of guy. Edwin Mulitalo is that guy. Stephen Peterman is that guy. Gosder Cherilus is that guy. I don't know if Backus is. He's a thinker, a tactician, and I think he's better than most think. Raiola is the one that is too light. Therefore when you analyze the new Lion's line strength, I have to believe that Peterman (or Ramirez) and Mulitalo won't be pulling as much as Raiola. Raiola is the lighter, smaller, quicker guy. I like the big butts drive blocking anyway, not pulling. If Coletto uses these guy's strengths, this could be a very good run team next year.

The only problem is, if they are going to line up in practice and try running the ball on our defense, they may look TOO successful in practice. We don't have that 350 pound DT/NT.

Anyone seen Jerry Ball, lately? Practice squad.... Jerry?

Where'd that big Baby go anyway?


DetFan1979 said...

Deleted post was a duplicate. Haven't had to remove a single post for inappropriate comments yet!

Nubs - I'm with you on Manny and think they are grooming him to replace Mulitalo when his contract expires as he'll be 36 and hitting more of the downside of his career than the peak years that he is in right now. I think it depends on:

How much it'll take to resign Mulitalo -- we got a deal on him the first time because he missed most of a season with injury, but won't have that luxury. With the stupid money FA G are getting these days... I like that the Lions thought ahead. Manny is bascially a young Mulitalo and with 2-3 years to learn behind him, he should be able to step right in no problem.

Right now, next year's draft looks like LT depending on how Scott is developing behind Backus.

BTW - JJLions is on Vacation. He'll be back.

CanOpener said...

"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.