FanPost

Beg to Differ

So let's be honest with ourselves and not take ourselves too serious, and never condemn the other fellow for doing what we are doing every day, only in a different way." - Will Rogers

Advanced Notice:  This is meant to be a thought piece. Consider yourself forewarned.

Yesterday, I was reading Peter King's weekly Monday Morning Quarterback NFL column on cnnsi.com.  I'm not a huge fan of the column, but from time to time I will read it just to satisfy my general curiosity about the inner workings of the NFL. 

On this occasion, a number of things jumped out to me, particularly in light of the more recent conversations we've been having over here regarding coaching differences between Leach and Tuberville.

The gist of my discussion, as I elaborate after the jump, is that we may want reconsider the way we interpret news coming out of the Texas Tech camp, particularly when the news revolves around Leach's and Tuberville's different coaching styles.

The key question we should ask ourselves is "are different coaching methodologies actually better or are they just different?"

If your preference gravitates to the traditional way of managing a football team, maybe Tuberville's approach to the game better conforms to your belief about how a football team should be run.

If you tend to like the more unconventional approach, maybe Leach's tenure validates your belief that a football team can be successful even if it is managed in a less customary way.

We should stop and also ask ourselves: " if the coaching style does not conform to these pre-disposed beliefs, does that mean that the coaching style is necessarily bad or inferior?"

In the case of Leach and Tuberville, where the two coaches are so dramatically different in style and philosophy, drawing a distinction between 'different' and 'better' can be even more confusing. 

So Which is It?  Different or Better?

At certain high level (and certainly Leach's and Tuberville's past success qualifies as performing at a high level), it becomes hard to distinguish which style of coaching or preparation is actually better than the other.

Given that Leach and Tuberville have virtually identical records against virtually the same level of competition, the similar track records of the two coaches further affirms that regardless  of whatever means or philosophy either coach has chosen to employ in the past, the resulting performance has been virtually the same. 

By this measure, it is certainly hard to justify that either Leach's or Tuberville's approach is necessarily better or worse than the other.

Tuberville talks championships.  Leach prefers one game at a time. 

Does such a distinction really make a difference? 

In 2008, Tuberville's last year, was Auburn so preoccupied with winning championships that his team accidently went 5-7 in the process?  Did Auburn somehow forget that you have to beat the Vanderbilts of the world if you want to contend for a championship? 

In 2008, did Texas Tech write off Oklahoma as just another game on the schedule no different than a Baylor or Nevada, and forget that a potential  national championship shot was on the line? Is that why Tech laid an egg when it mattered the most? 

In both cases, probably not.

Now, let's  examine some of the conventional wisdom we've heard over the past few months.  This is where we bring in some of King's comments.

NASCAR versus the Air Raid

In a nut shell:

  • Leach's system: Relies on the decision making abilities of the QB. QB's read the defense, call the plays, work through multiple progressions, execute the plays
  • Brown's system: Reduces the QB's decision making options which enables the QB to play more instinctively

Assuming I have summarized these differences properly, here's what King had to say about St. Louis Ram's first pick, QB Sam Bradford:

What I'd thought about Bradford in draft prep was that he was highly accurate, but a robo-QB. Watching him at Oklahoma, you'd see Bradford and his receivers and backs stare at the sidelines for the formation and play-call. Once they got it, they'd all jump to the line and snap the ball. Bradford didn't have to read much, if anything. He'd have a prescribed 1-2 progression to read and usually go to his first option. How would that translate to the NFL?

How indeed? 

King's description of OU's offensive system sounds similar to our understanding of how Brown's offensive system is likely to operate. 

Does that mean the Tech's QB's are likely to be better prepared to play in the NFL utilizing an OU type system or a system similar to the one Brown is installing - assuming of course that any of Tech's quarterbacks are considered viable prospects? 

Texas Tech senior quarterback  Stephen Sheffield's comments equating Brown's attention to certain details like footwork to those required by the NFL may be true, but at the same time, Sheffield, unbeknownst to him, may also play in a new system which does not sufficiently develop his in-game decision making skills, which could hamper his chances at the next level.

Former Texas Tech quarterback, Graham Harrell, who is currently vying for the number two job for the Green Bay Packers, is probably not getting a chance to play in the NFL because of his JaMarcus Russell-type arm strength.  He's there because he is smart, understands the game, and developed those skills over numerous years in the Tech offense. 

It is fair to say that Leach probably favored the cerebral quarterback over those who were more physically talented. 

Maybe Brown's system may play more to Sheffield's more instinctive play making abilities. 

For Sheffield, Brown's system could be just the opportunity Sheffield needs to showcase his talents (although from what I recall he did not fare too badly in the Leach system either).  Whether Brown's system makes Sticks more NFL ready remains to be seen. 

Whatever the case may be, it is hard to conclude, particularly at this stage, that Brown's system and his coaching abilities are somehow better than Leach's approach. 

All that we are able to conclude at this stage is that Brown's system and his approach to the game are likely to be different from Leach's system.

Different and better, however, are not the same thing.

A Brief Aside

As an aside, we've heard a new criticism that because Leach never actually played football, he never understood how to coach the finer details of the games, particularly mechanics. 

If we accept this criticism at face value and apply this logic to our current coaching staff, why would Neal Brown, a former wide receiver, be teaching quarterbacks about footwork, and not a former quarterback like say, Sonnie Cumbie?  In the same fashion, how would inside receivers coach Sonnie Cumbie, as a former quarterback, understand first step mechanics required by a receiver?

This seems a pretty lame argument.

White Washing Leach's Accomplishments

The reality is that while the law suit carries on, no one at Texas Tech will be building a shrine in Leach's honor anytime soon.

That said, when a coach and a team part ways unceremoniously, it usually takes a little time for wounds to heal.

Here King talks about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' reaction when former head coach Tony Dungy left the Bucs in 2001 (2001!!) to coach at Indianapolis:

I always got the impression that the Jon Gruden Bucs were trying to scrub clean all Tony Dungy influences on the organization. Now (new head coach) Raheem Morris is trying to embrace what Dungy brought here."

Sound familiar?

Things take time, and it wouldn't surprise me that we come full circle on the Leach matter in a few years (give or take 9-10 years) time.

Hopefully, those discussions will be based on "Look how well we did under Tubs.   We never could have gotten here without Leach, and we're grateful for all that he did for our program;" rather than:  "Look what a mess we created when we fired Leach.  We lost the law suit.  We lost the fans. We lost everything. "

The PWussification of America (or the Craig and Nancy James Era) Has Not Necessarily Arrived

King also comments on San Francisco 49er's head coach Mike Singletary's treatment of former number one draft pick, tight end Vernon Davis.  This is the same kid who you might recall, Singletary banished to the sideline after Davis, then a rookie, committed a brain-dead foul against his opponent.  Video here:

 

"Always wanted to ask one of the best young tight ends in the game how he felt about being shown up/embarrassed/clapped in the face by his new coach, Mike Singletary, a couple of years ago. You remember Singletary banishing Vernon Davis from the sidelines during a game after a thoughtless Davis penalty, ordering him to the locker room and not to return.

"Best thing that ever happened to me in my life,'' Davis told me. "Woke me up. I was all about Vernon, not about the team.''

Davis also revealed Singletary told him if he wanted to fight, that was fine with him. They'd fight. "He pushed me to the edge,'' said Davis. "I needed that. When you're a first-round pick, and everyone's telling you how great you are, sometimes you need a guy to tell you that football's a team game. Here he is, one of the greatest players ever. So I had to change. Now, I'm all in.''

Davis caught 103 balls in his first three seasons, including that troubled third year, with nine touchdowns. Last year, he caught 78 passes with 13 touchdowns, most in the league for a tight end. When I asked Singletary about Davis, he smiled. "One of the most misconstrued guys in the league,'' Singletary said. "He raises the level in practice every day. He raises the work ethic. He's done everything I've asked.''

No further comment.

The Evolution of the Spread of Offense

King plugs a book which is written by fellow SI writer, Tim Layden.  The book,  "Blood, Sweat & Chalk, The Ultimate Football Playbook: How the Great Coaches Built Today's Game,"  is a history of how the NFL game has gotten as sophisticated as it has.

(Blatant Homerism interviews Layden on this podcast - where you'll also find one of Seth C's recent podcasts describing the Tech fans' reaction to Tuberville's arrival and Leach's dismissal).

On the Spread Offense:

(Layden) gives a timeline of the spread, starting with a frustrated coach in Middletown, Ohio, in the late fifties. This coach, Tiger Ellison, was a classic three-yards-and-cloud-of-dust traditionalist whose team had fallen on hard time. It was losing, and getting beaten up. So he figured he'd spread the field, add receivers, and make defenses designed to stop the run try to stop quicker guys throwing the ball instead. Over the next 45 games, Ellison's teams went 35-7, winning one game 98-34. They averaged a punt a game.

Mouse Davis, a young coach then, read a book by Ellison in 1965, loved the concepts Ellison espoused, and turned the spread scheme into the run-and-shoot, which he used to trample mid-level college football for years. The Houston Oilers later used it, and many colleges did as well. And it became the basic nut of an idea for the spread offenses in college and pro football today.

The great thing about this book, in my opinion, is it teaches us the geniuses of football didn't start with Bill Walsh. We do not respect history nearly as much as we should in covering and watching this game; too often, we all disregard football history and those who made it. We think of the the sixties Packers as prehistoric. But there were great thinkers, such as Tiger Ellison, with great ideas, before that. The stories Tim Layden tells in this book will peel back the layers of the game for you. If you love the game, or even like it, Blood, Sweat and Chalk is a must-read, and I don't say that because I work with the man."

Red Raider in the News

If you have made it this far through this rambling post, I'll reward you with one last observation from King's article, which actually can be found in the first part of his post where he describes Sam Bradford's talent.

What's uncanny,'' said GM Billy Devaney, "is how he doesn't just complete the pass. He completes the pass most often where his guy can get it and the defender can't. Drives the corners crazy.'' On cue, Bradford took one of his 34 snaps of the evening, dropped back, and threw a spiral high and outside to 6-foot-4 wideout Jordan Kent at the goal line. Kent and the covering corner both jumped for it, but Kent had half a foot on him and won the ball easily.

A few minutes later, pressured, Bradford let one fly 45 yards downfield on a corner route to wideout Danny Amendola, in tight coverage. The ball floated perfectly into his arms before he got pushed out. Gain of 50.

Bradford to Amendola has a nice ring to it. Hopefully, we'll get to hear more of that over the years.

Go Red Raiders.

Thanks for indulging me. 

Now back to work.  

<em>This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of Viva The Matadors' writers or editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of Viva The Matadors' writers or editors.</em>

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