The Royal Heffernans

Quite possibly the best family ever

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Let's Improvise

As the college football season kicks-off this weekend, the idolization of coaches intensifies. Everyone is a genius (offensive or defensive, never both) or a guru (positional only) or has some other exaggerated, ridiculous title. As I was reading through an interview with Notre Dame offensive coordinator Mike Haywood, I read this snippet...

But as gameday draws near the gameplan begins to take a more solid form. The staff has already started working on its opening script of plays, but it won’t be completely done until after the staff evaluates the Aztecs in their matchup against Cal Poly on Saturday.

This, scripting the first series or X number of plays, is typical of offenses at both the college and pro levels, and I'm not really sure why people think this is a good idea. Rather than have a fluid offensive scheme that adapts to what the defense presents, you're basically saying, "Here's what we're doing and we're sticking with it come hell or high water." In almost any other setting, saying something was "scripted" usually carries a negative connotation. Why is it different in football?

Take last year's Notre Dame season opener for example. We had X scripted plays to start, and then Georgia Tech proceeded to blitz the living daylights out of Demetrious Jones. The offensive line couldn't handle the assault, and common-sense would dictate you adapt by running the ball or throwing quick outs to keep the defense honest. Yet we continued to get drilled, fell behind early, and never recovered (for the entire season). Why not simply have a pass-first or run-first philosophy going into the game and adapt from there? It seems like we're lauding coaches for being obstinate in light of blatantly obvious information and results. If something isn't working why continue? Why finish out those final 7 scripted plays that were based on old game film when you could instead counter what you're actually seeing live?

Anyway, I don't see this trend going away quickly. The glorification of coaches and their "systems" will never cease, and pundits will continue to exaggerate the complexity of the game to the point that you would think it's quantum physics. I'm simply hoping that whatever script Haywood devises for the season opener and ensuing games proves wise.

1 comment:

Teddy said...

While I agree with your rip of the glorification (don't forget demonization) of college coaches, I do think scripted plays serve a great purpose.

First, they allow the offense to settle down and just perform. There are a lot of jitters to start a game, and a scripted set of plays helps calm them. The script is practiced the prior week, so it helps a bit.

Second, most scripts are designed to show a series of packages and see what defensive adjustments occur. It allows coaches to see what reaction the defense will make to certain lineups. Thus, the chess game begins. I'm not sure if defensive coaches show fake looks in the 1st quarter to throw off an offense, but I wouldn't be surprised.

Holtz was the master at scripting plays. I think we scored an opening drive TD about 80% of the time when he coached ND.