The Mind Of An Football Crazed Man

Thursday, May 27, 2010

I Have Moved To a New Blogging Website

As some of you guys know, I am now blogging for a sports website called the Colorado Sports desk. ( I will also be contributing blogs to another website coming soon. Due to the new business ventures that I have become involved in, I am now using a new blogging website for my personal blogs. The new personal blogsite is........ The reason for the change is because one of the websites I write for uses it and it is a much better blogging website than this one. Its cleaner, smoother and has lots of widgets to integrate things within my blogs.

Sorry for the inconvenience that this may cause but the new blog site actually makes it easier for you guys to follow my blogs. So hopefully you will like my new blog page and continue to follow.

David Johnson

Saturday, May 22, 2010

This Week In The NFL

Here I go again writing another NFL blog on my Blackberry. You probably wonder why I write blogs via my Blackberry. The reason for me doing so is that I am not forced or chained to a computer trying to input all of my thoughts into a blog at one time. With that being said, let's get to the NFL portion of this blog. Many NFL teams this week conducted OTA's and there was a lot of good news coming out of the OTA's about the top 1st round draft picks. Bradford, McCoy, Colt McCoy, Bryant, Tebow and Suh all looked great and impressed their new teammates and coaching staff. Amidst all of the encouraging news, there were lots of off the field issues that dominated the headlines.

Haynesworth continued to stay in the headlines by not attending camp which made Snyder publically express his disappointment on the situation. Later we learned that Haynesworth wasn't doing anything wrong, he has a clause in his contract stating that he does not have attend OTAs. Even though he is exercising his rights per his contract, Washington has a big issue on their hands. He isn't happy with the fact that Washington is going to a 3-4 defense and wants him to play the nose. One of the reasons besides the $100 million dollar contract that made him sign with Washington, was that they were a 4-3 team. I don't get his dislike of not wanting to play the nose in the 3-4. As I blogged on Wednesday, there are many versions of the 3-4 defense and Haynesworth would be an ideal fit in a zone blitz 3-4 or phillips 3-4. This Haynesworth drama in Washington won't be dissolved easily or soon. I expect for them to trade him for a combination of picks and/or a player before the season starts.

A player who isn't known for being in the headlines with off the field issues is Andre Johnson. To some it was a shock that he didn't show up to OTAs on Monday, but I wasn't. I tweeted something like this would happen the day that Brandon Marshall was traded to Miami, and received that large contract making him the highest paid wide out in the league. Anyone with half a brain knows that Brandon Marshall is good, but he isn't even on the same level as Andre or Fitzgerald. Yeah Marshall has put up nice numbers, but amongst the top five wide outs in the NFL, he is number five at best. Andre has put up numbers that only one other person has ever put up, Jerry Rice. With that being said, Andre felt that he needed to be paid accordingly to whom he is, the best wide out in the NFL. The problem is that he is going into the third year of a eight year deal that is a new contract he received three years into his rookie contract. Basically he had had two contracts and he has only been in the league for seven years and now he is asking for a third. His current contract is a front loaded contract. So far in the first two years of the current deal, he has collected over $25 million of a $60 million dollar contract. He has been paid like a top wide out so far. The fact that he won't be paid as a top wide out during the remaining years of his deal, is partly his fault and inflation. Him not having an agent until yesterday (Friday May 21st) led to this. An agent wouldn't have negotiated a contract that was so front loaded like his. Or if one did, he would have made sure that Andre wasn't slotted to be paid like the fourth best receiver in the league in the last five years of the current deal. Freaking Roy Williams is making more money than Andre; we all know that isn’t right. SMH. Andre did show up to camp later in the week, and all seems to be well. I doubt Houston will give him a new deal, that just would be a smart thing to do on so many levels. I do expect them to come to some sort of an agreement and things go back to normal in Houston.

Down in San Diego, as they were ooooing and awwwwing over Ryan Matthews, A.J. Smith and Shawne Merriman's new agent David Dunn sat down to discuss an new deal. Merriman has yet to sign his tender that would pay him 3.27 million, and according to the Chargers, he will be on the trade block until October. San Diego has a lot of players who need new contracts and considering that they are a very deep team, don't be surprised if Merriman is traded. He may just be a little too expensive for them to give a long term deal to with other good players on their who can fill his position. Another reason I see him being traded is that over the past two years, he hasn't been the "Lights Out" Shawne Merriman that he used to be known as. I see him going to Green Bay, Washington or Dallas with New England being a quiet dark horse.

One of the quietest news stories of the week is the possibility of Lambeau Field being expanded to an 85 to 90,000 seat stadium. I'm sure everyone who is on the waiting list for Packer tickets are praying this happens. For me it’s a mute point. I have access to 20 tickets to every home game that are four rows from the field in several areas of the stadium. For those of you who haven't been to Lambeau and have a trip to Lambeau Field on your bucket list, it’s an overwhelming experience that's almost indescribable. Anyway, for years now the Packers have been holding focus groups on this issue as well as the possibily of adding underground parking and a plaza around the Lambeau Field Atrium. The underground parking and Atrium was agreed upon and approved three years ago, but was put on hold in October of 2008. As far as the new seats go, we'll see what happens. It’s just chitter chatter for now and nothing definite has been approved. If you don't have connections like me to go to a Packer home game, you will have to continue to find a "hook up" or pray that they agree to the expansion sometime soon.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Not All 3-4 Defenses Are Created Equal

On Monday I talked about the three core offensive systems that have turned the NFL into a pass happy, high scoring league. Today as promised, I am going to talk about the defensive side of the ball. I won't be talking about the 4-3 defense today, just the 3-4 defense which has become very hip these days. Many people think there is only one version of this defense. When people think of the 3-4, they associate it with Pittsburgh's Zone Blitzing scheme. Pittsburgh's Zone Blitz 3-4 is just one of three versions of this defense. The other two versions of this defense that are used much more than the Zone Blitz are the Phillips 3-4 and the Fairbanks-Bullough 3-4. Not all 3-4 defenses are created equal, nor are the players that play in these systems.

Bud Wilkinson created the 3-4 defense while he was the head coach at the University of Oklahoma, but Chuck Fairbanks is credited with bringing it to the NFL. Actually, there is a little bit of controversy on who brought it to the NFL. Some say Chuck Fairbanks when he became an assistant at New England in 1974. Then some say Bud Phillips when he became head coach of the Oilers in the 70's. Being that the east coast loves to take credit for stuff when they shouldnt, Chuck gets credited for it. In the 3-4 you have three defensive linemen with four linebackers which all have names. The weak outside linebacker is "Will", middle weak side is "Jack", middle strong side is "Mike", and the strong outside is "Sam".

Chuck's version of the 3-4 is the Fairbanks-Bullough, which is commonly referred to as a 2-gap 3-4 system. Most coaches who are from the Parcells/Belichick coaching tree run this system. The Fairbanks-Bullough 3-4 gives teams the greatest amount of flexibility compared to other 3-4s. The linebackers in this system are extremely versatile and are capable of doing any and everything on the field. (I.e.; Mike Vrabel) When you mix the roles of the four linebackers from play to play, you can cause mass confusion for an offense. The reason this system is a 2-gap system, is because the defensive lineman are required to cover the gaps on both sides of an offensive lineman. The defensive linemen in this 3-4 are very stout so that they can occupy the offensive lineman, and allow the linebackers can make plays. It’s a more conservative version of the 3-4 compared to the other two versions. It’s typically known as a "bend but don't break" kind of defense.

The Phillips 3-4 is a more aggressive version of the Fairbanks-Bullough system. One major difference about this version is, unlike Chuck’s; it’s a one gap system. A one gap system is one in which the defensive lineman are responsible for just one gap in the offensive line. The lineman can be more aggressive, and take more risks shooting the gaps since the linebackers are asked to give them support also. The defensive linemen are more agile and slimmer than other 3-4 defensive linemen because in this scheme, there are lots of slants, and gap and loop changes. (I.e.; Jay Ratliff) The linebackers are not as versatile nor do they need to be as smart as the backers in the Fairbanks-Bullough system. They are all blitzing, gap filling linebackers who have sacrificed size for speed, and have the ability to cover but are typically not good in space. Zone coverage isn't something that is commonly done with linebackers in this scheme, except for the "Jack" and "Mike" linebackers who tend to do well playing in short to medium zone coverage.

A great example of how subtle but different the Fairbanks-Bullough 3-4 and Phillips 3-4 philosophies are, is in Dallas. When Parcells was the head coach in Dallas he ran Fairbanks system. Once Wade Phillips took over, the personnel changed and things got more aggressive in North Texas. Parcells wanted his players to read and react, not only during the play, but before the ball was snapped. Parcells rarely blitzed if at all during games because he didn't want to give up the big play. If a blitz was called, but a receiver lined up in the slot, the blitz was called off most of the time. Demarcus Ware only blitzed when Bill told him to. Other than that, Ware's job was to cover tight ends or a receiver in pass coverage. Once Wade took over, he wanted the offense to adjust to the defense. His idea is that by making Ware and the other linebackers blitz on almost every play, and have his lineman shoot the gaps and casue havoc in the backfield. Dallas would be able to dictate to an offense what it could and couldnt do. If a blitz is called, it’s hardly ever called off. In Wade's 3-4, Demarcus Ware is basically an extra defensive lineman because he is blitzing on 90% of the time. I am sure we all remember the playoff game last year against the Eagles when Dallas had McNabb running for his life, and embarrassed the Eagles. That was the Phillips 3-4 at its best.

The last 3-4 defensive scheme, and the sexiest to most fans, is the 3-4 Zone Blitz. Violent, aggressive, confusing and relentless are all adjectives that can be used to describe this 3-4 scheme. This version of the 3-4 was created by Dick LaBeau while he was the defensive coordinator in Cincinnati. For some odd reason, this version of the 3-4 has become the most famous and publicly approved standard for 3-4 defenses. LaBeau's scheme is based on confusing the offensive line by blitzing players that typically wouldn't, and dropping players into coverage that don't normally play coverage. Its not knowm as an one or two gap system, its known for being both. Teams who run this version of the 3-4 love to use various principles from a one and two gap system. The defensive linemen in this defense are very similar to the lineman in the Phillips 3-4, but can vary. One spot on the defensive line that is a must, is a DT/NT who is big, thick, and heavy and can play a one or two gap. Will, Jack, Mike and Sam are all big, fast and violent linebackers who were once defensive ends in college, but are undersized to play defensive end by NFL standards. Linebackers in this scheme are asked to give run support, blitz, and zone up and man up when needed, and have to be able to disguise what the coverage is and what their true intentions are on every play.

The Zone Blitz normally is run out of two basic zone coverages with one man coverage. The two zone coverages are the "Cover Two" and "Cover Three". These two zone coverages are pretty standard throughout the NFL, minus the blitzing. Now most people don't know this, but the "Cover Two" defense that Pittsburgh uses has been a staple of theirs since the 70's. Tony Dungy, the inventor of the "Tampa Two" defense was a defensive back for the Steelers in the 70's. He created the "Tampa Two" from the same "Cover Two" defense that the Steelers have ran since the 70's, which they ran it out of a 4-3 just like Tampa. The only man coverage that this defense runs is a "Cover One". In this formation, which is also known as "Cover Zero", there is no man covering deep at all leaving a team vunerable for the big play. The free safety has no man to man responsibilities, and can either play an underneath to middle zone, or roam the field and cause havoc. The first player that comes to mind that has perfected this role in the Zone Blitz system is Troy Palamalu.

LaBeau's Zone Blitz scheme is by far the most aggressive of the 3-4 defenses. They can attack you in any formation with either a zone, man or fire zone blitz while making you guess on every snap where the blitz is coming from. In a good Zone Blitz scheme, you will never see the same blitz twice. Is it the best of the 3-4 schemes? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. One major issue with this version of the 3-4 is, if you don't have the right personnel and you can't get to the quarterback, this defense isn't very effective. For proof of that, look no further than the 2002-2006 Houston Texans when Dom Capers was the head coach. He learned the system in Pittsburgh and had been successful with it there and in Carolina, but not in Houston.

Many fans and media in Denver and across the country, didn't understand why Josh McDaniels fired Mike Nolan after one year. Two weeks later, Josh hired the former New England Patriots defensive coordinator that Belichick had just fired two weeks after New England was eliminated from the playoffs. We all know that Nolan had made Denver a good defensive team while running a 3-4 defense with 4-3 players, but he didn't use a 3-4 scheme that Josh was comfortable with. Josh is a Fairbanks-Bullough coach, not a Phillips 3-4/Hybrid 3-4 guy which Nolan is. There was a logical reasoning to Josh's firing and hiring of coaches who were both 3-4 defense coaches. As mentioned earlier, not all 3-4 defenses are created equal, nor are the players that play in these systems. You also say that the coaches arent either.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Offensive Side of The NFL Today

People love to say that the NFL is a "copy cat" league, "copy cat" doesn't accurately describe it at all. Incestuous is a more appropriate word to describe the NFL when you really start to dig and learn about the game inside and out. Whether it’s on offense or defense, all teams use a variation of offensive and defensive sets & philosophies which have been learned from generation to generation. The two dominant coaching trees in the NFL are from the three "Bill's", Bill Walsh and Bill Parcells/Bill Belichick trees. The result of this is NFL inbreeding and familiararity with each other amongst all of the teams. Many coaches from these coaching trees are employed on various NFL teams have implemented what they have learned from these three men to their respective teams. When you have so many coaches who have been taught the same offensive and defensive philosophies, you create this incestuous league that we have today. An early example of what was to come in the future happened in the 1998 NFC Wild Card game between the Green Bay Packers and the San Francisco Forty-Niners. Its known as one of the most memorable games of all time that was capped by a Steve Young 25 yard TD pass to Terrell Owens with time expiring. This game has been very well documented as to how familiar that both teams were with each other due to both having coaching staffs who came from the Walsh coaching tree and all use to coach together. Steve Young once commented on the fact that he and Brett Favre could have switched uniforms and called each others plays for the other team. Situations like this happen more and more than what some people realize. Instead of dissecting offense and defense today, I'm just going to talk about offense. We will get to the defensive side of the ball of Wednesday.

There are basically five to six major offensive philosophies in the NFL today, but really only three are being used routinely. The three main offensive philosophies used in the NFL today are the West Coast, Erhardt-Perkins, and Air Coryell. The West Coast offense is the most complicated of the three. Ironically, 60% of the NFL is running the West Coast or some variation of it despite the complexity of it. They say that it takes a quarterback and the rest of the team four to five years to fully grasp the system. When you think about every quarterback that has run the West Coast offense, it’s usually in year four that he and the team become explosive offensively. Walsh created the West Coast offense while he was an assistant in Cincy under Paul Brown. Brown wasn't a fan of neither Walsh nor the offense, but used it because the Bengals were lacking talent on offense and couldn't move the ball. Cincy went on to become one of the best if not the best team in the league with the offense. Once Brown stepped down, he didn't hire Walsh as the head coach, so Walsh went to San Francisco and created a dynasty.

The offense utilizes short, horizontal passing plays to stretch the defense, which then enables them to have bigger run plays and longer passes. Typical plays happen within ten to fifteen yards of the line of scrimmage. By the quarterback taking short drops, it makes the defense focus on the intermediate short routes & not on the running backs coming out of the backfield. The term "West Coast" is a term that Bill Parcells gave the offense back in 1985 after the Giants beat the 49ers in the playoffs. As people know, Parcells believes in hard nose football and tough defense over finesse football which everyone said the 49ers played finesse football back then. Parcells exact comment after the win to a reporter was "What do you think of that West Coast offense now ?” The offense today isnt considered to be a "finesse" offense, but it does have its short comings which seem to be universal no matter what team runs it. Usually the inability to run up the middle is something that plauges the offense except for when Gruden ran his version in Oakland and Tampa.

The Air Coryell offense is one that is being used by a handful of teams in the league today. Oakland and San Diego use it, New Orleans runs a variation of it along with some Erhardt-Perkins, and Chicago will be using it this year now that Mike Martz is the offensive coordinator in Chicago. It’s an offense that was created by Sid Gillman back in the 60's while with the Chargers. Later Don Coryell perfected it or made it what it eventually became remembered for while with the Chargers in the 70's and 80's. Another notable name to be associated with this offense is none other than Al Davis who was an assistant under Sid Gillman and took the offense to Oakland. The offense is based on timing and precession with the emphasis being on deep passes to stretch the field, and make the defense over commit to certain aspects of the passing attack. This offense isn't as complicated as the West Coast offense as noted by the nomenclature that it uses. An Nomenclature is the terminology in which a offense calls its plays. Air Coryell uses a naming system with routes for wide receivers and tight ends having three digit numbers, and the running backs have a different system. So a pass play in the offense would be "Slant Left 787 check swing, check right". It’s an efficient way to call many different plays with minimal if hardly any memorization. The West Coast uses a much complicated system which requires a lot of memorization, but gives a lot of freedom to the players on offense to add lib. Their formations are typically named after colors (ie,"Blue Left").

The last of the three core NFL offenses is the Erhardt-Perkins offense. This offense was created by Ron Erhardt and Ray Perkins back in the 70's while with the New England Patriots. The teams who have made this offense famous are New England, Pittsburgh, Arizona, Carolina, Kansas City, and recently Denver. New Orleans runs a variation of this offense also along with a variation of the Air Coryell. The system is known for its multiple formations and personnel packages that vary on a core number of foundation plays. Each formation and play is separately numbered, words can modify the plays. A typical play you would see in this offense is the first play Weis called in Super Bowl XXXVI as noted on the NFL films New England Patriot Super Bowl video. (Zero Flood Slot Hat, 78 Shout Tosser) In the beginning it was known as a run oriented, smash mouth type of offense when the Patriots of the 70's, and the Giants of the 80's under Parcells. The offense started to evolve in the early to mid 90's into what we see today with the Patriots, Broncos and to displeasure of Steeler fans, the Steelers. It’s become a spread type of offense at times with the ability to run the ball. Out of all of the offenses, this is the one offense that when ran well, it can dictate to the defense better than any offense out there. The evolution of this offense happened when Ron Erhardt was the offensive coordinator with the Giants and Steelers in his last few years in the league. After that, every diciple that had learned or played under him went on to other teams and implimented this new evoluted offense.

Charlie Weis can be credited for installing the heavily modified version of this offense that we see in New England and Denver. His version of the offense became the complicated, very intricate and versatile passing attack that we have witnessed over the past ten years. He even went as far as to run five wide out sets a lot during the course of a game which was unheard of back in the day when Erhardt and Perkins created this offense. Weis left for Notre Dame which open the door for the young protege Josh McDaniels to run what he had learned under Weis as the QB coach in New England. Josh took it to another level back in 2007 with Randy Moss, Wes Welker and Donte Stallworth. He made the offense almost exclusively a spread offense that teams weren't ready for nor knew how to stop with Moss & Welker needing to be double teamed. In leau of the expanded wide open passing attack, he was able to keep the running game portion of this offense a key component in the Patriots record breaking season. Josh has since then moved on to Denver and has implemented the same offesive philosophy there. Last year the Broncos got off to a 6-2 start with this offense, and Kyle Orton put up career numbers that no one expected from him.

So as you can see, the offenses that are being run in the NFL today are offenses that have been passed down through generations. As mentioned earlier, it’s not a "copy cat" league; it’s incestuous when you think about it.

Friday, May 14, 2010

We Are All Witnesses Now

Man oh man oh man! What did we just "WITNESS" from supposedly the best player in the NBA? I need all of the Lebron fans and supporters to take your Lebron rose colored glasses off before you read the rest of this and be honest with yourself. Lebron is a great player who is highly skilled and physically gifted, but that's where it stops. He lacks the drive and mental toughness that all true NBA superstars have had and displayed in their career during the regular season, playoffs and especially in close out games. Despite what Magic Johnson, ESPN and NBA fans love to say loud and proud, Lebron is NOT the best player in the NBA. In order to be called the best player in the NBA, you must be the complete package which Lebron isn't. Scoring a triple double at will, having a shoe deal, endorsements, a movie and wearing number 23, doesn't make you the best player in the NBA. Kobe Bryant is still the best player in the NBA and will be until Lebron proves that he is a true superstar and not just look like one. He is what he is folks.............a great player.

Two years straight Lebron has led the Cavaliers to the best record in the NBA, won the MVP award, and has come up short of the NBA Finals and a NBA championship. Last years lost was more excusable and understandable than this years. The Orlando Magic were a better all around team than the Cavaliers and due to the fact that Mike Brown isn't a very good coach, they were able to close out the Cavs. This years playoff series/team is a different story.......They had a really good team, one that many said was the best team in the NBA, and a team that people were instantly putting in the NBA Finals after the Jamieson trade. I never considered the Cavs a championship team because despite the trades and additions, they were offensively, defensively and mentally the same team. Even though they may have had talent, they still had short comings that typically get exposed in the playoffs during a seven game series. In the first round of the playoffs things looked fine, but once the real playoffs began, the real Cavs were shown to the world. Mike Brown got out coached, Lebron didn't show up and do what superstars do, and the team as a whole gave up which is a reflection of what their leader (Lebron) did.

I can understand getting beat, that happens in sports, but mentally checking out as many people have reported is inexcusable. After game five there were many reports by many media outlets that during timeouts he wasn't listening and he was starring off into the crowd and Shaq was the one encouraging the team to man up and play. Not only did he not pay attention and seem disinterested during timeouts, but it showed on the court. You would have never seen nor heard of this happening with Stockton, Malone, Ewing or Barkley who are former NBA superstars that never won a ring, but gave it their all to try and win anywhere, anytime.............. especially in the playoffs.

As a Cavs fan and as a Lebron fan, you have to really be upset and disappointed of what you just witnessed over the past five days. Now Cavs/Lebron fans have three months of wondering where and when will Lebron sign a new contract, and if it will be with Cleveland or another team. Personally I really don't care because in my book, once a quitter always a quitter and no matter where he goes he will do this again. Maybe quit is a harsh word, but I cant put faith in someone or call them "the best player in the NBA" who I know wont fight tooth and nail to the end. His legacy hasn't been written in stone yet, but he is seven years in of his NBA career and year seven has ended in a very foul way that leaves us with a lot of questions. Enjoy your summer Cleveland and enjoy the NBA Finals and make sure to "Witness" what the true #1 player in the NBA does. I am sure Lebron will.