If you ever find catch me reading, I will probably be reading something on the Xs and Os of football. Via book, website, etc., I just love learning and devouring ways on moving and stopping the pigskin.
Even more so, I enjoy reading more of the philosophical side of football than the Xs and Os. To me, it helps to understand the “Why” of football before I can understand the “How” of football. I was therefore inspired to write this post after reading a statement that Washington State Head Coach Mike Leach made on his definition of balance.
When one thinks of balance, the thought of 50/50 run-pass ratio of plays will probably come to mind. Mike Leach had a different take on the term “balance”.
We want distribution. We expect a high completion percentage, and we want to be over 65 percent and we want good distribution,” Leach said. “In other words: contributing to the offensive effort, we’d like 1,400 yards-plus out of the running back position and then out of the other positions, we’d like 1,000 yards each. The inside receiver positions will probably get 1,000 yards on more touches than the outside guys. The outside guys, when they touch it, tend to go a little further.
There’s a whole myth about balance, and it’s really stupid. The notion that you hand it to one guy half the time, and then you throw it to two other guys the other half of the time, and maybe you connect, maybe you don’t. There’s nothing balanced about it. There’s two skill positions left out.
Balance, whether you run it or throw it, is getting contribution from all the skill positions. Ours is a balanced offense. The wishbone is a balanced offense. Some I-tailback offense, it may be a great offense, it may be great for the team that they play for, where you’re giving it to the back 40 times. There’s nothing balanced about it. It doesn’t even add up to balance. We try to be balanced based on contributions by all the skill positions.
Coach Leach believes in having his five skill players get equal touches of the ball over the course of the season. If you have read any of my posts on my passing system, you know that I follow this philosophy pretty closely. All of his Air Raid concepts has built-in answers to any coverage.
I like my passing plays to have at least one Man and one Zone beater so that I will have an answer for anything thrown at me. In some of my Air Raid dynasties, I will have multiple guys getting touches that magically seems to work out. It’s the system that does that more than anything else.
The only downside to my passing system is that I can not always give the ball to my best receivers whenever I want to. Sometimes you just want your main stud to convert that 3rd and long for you.
In the end, the ball will find the players.
So the first school of thought is “Equal ball distribution to all five players”. The Air Raid, Run & Shoot, West Coast, Flexbone, and other triple option offenses fall into this category.
Now the other school of thought is what Leach mentioned in the second paragraph of his statement which is for 2 or 3 guys get the ball most of the time.
I like to call these types of offenses, “Force Offenses”. These offenses are centered around 1-3 players at most get the majority of touches. Most of your pro style and power run offenses would fall in this category. These also force the defenses to act accordingly to what you are trying to do.
Here is another comment from a random poster of the article I linked in he believes in the Force Offense.
I would take it a step further. I would strive to create distortions. Balance be damned. I want to repeatedly attack that which is difficult to defend. If that’s Calvin Johnson in a crowd, then so be it. If they can’t stop it, then bludgeon them with it.
I think the ideal is to have 2+ guys that require double teams (or an extra defender). Adrian Peterson requires extra defenders in the box, and he creates distortions. Calvin Johnson requires extra defenders in coverage and creates distortions. If I have Peterson and Johnson on the same team, I could use one to create advantageous situations for the other. If Calvin is constantly left in single coverage, then I don’t want balance. I don’t want equality.
I want the guy(s) in the best position to inflict the most damages to get the largest share of touches.
This method makes as much sense as Leach’s method. Both methods can work well.
In NCAA 06, you can do the exact same thing. There are a handful of concepts and routes that beat any coverage. By doing this, you say to the defense, “My best player is WR X and/or RB Y and I don’t care what you do, we will get them the ball”.
Lane Kiffin is great at this method. If you watched Alabama last year, Kiffin was able to give WR Amari Cooper the ball in so many ways and nobody could do hardly anything about it.
I love the idea calling plays based on what I want to do and not what the defense gives me.
In a future post, I will go over these concepts on how to give the ball to your playmakers, regardless of coverage. This is easy to do with runningbacks since all you have to do is hand them the ball. But I will show you how to get the ball to your best receivers at will.
I want to know your thoughts on both methods.
What is your definition of balance?
Do you like to give the ball your 2-3 main studs or do you like to see an even distribution to all of your skill positions?
Please pose in the comments section so we can have a nice roundtable discussion on some philosophical football.