Tuesday, August 14, 2012

I Miss Crazy Coaches: Six Random NFL Strategies I Wish Someone Would Try

Here's an honest question: who is the NFL's wackiest head coach? I'm not talking stubborn, or meat headed, or tone-deaf or cliche-spewing or any of the other things that people tend to bring up when you ask anything but who is the best. Rather, I want the guy who tries off the wall stuff, throws in trick plays you haven't seen before, always has a fake punt up his sleeve, dresses weird, speaks with some kind of thick country accent, etc., etc.

You know, like Sam Wyche. Or Jerry Glanville. Or Buddy Ryan, Mike Ditka, Mike Martz, Wayne Fontes. Guys you'll remember for a long, long time.

Well, there's Rex Ryan. And I guess maybe you could throw Andy Reid in there, or Pete Carroll, and Tom Coughlin and Bill Belichick have had their moments. Jim Schwartz and the Harbaugh Brothers certainly seem to be on the verge of something. But you've got to admit, the bar for wacky has gone done a lot in our lifetime. Wacky now pretty much consists of quotable, or just a little bit off the mean.

What's happened? Well, the money and attention have become crazy, and the Internet means that meathead moments (like Mike Smith's overtime go for it from his own 29 last year) are worldwide in minutes. That tends to throw cold water on true maverick nuttiness. There's also this dirty little secret: as much as teams like to sneer at number runners, they do pay attention to every little grind moment. So freaky fourth down calls or direct snaps tend to get acclimated and duplicated with speed now, rather than living in their own Jim Zorn-ish (as a QB, not a coach) Petri dish of isolation.

So, having said that, here are five things I'd like to see an NFL team do. Just for the hell of it.

1) Eliminate kickoff specialists. The NFL is doing everything they can to stop kickoffs in our lifetime for concussion purposes, so I'd like to speed the plow. Instead of having a roster space devoted to an actual specialist, I'd just train some moose to squib it routinely, preferably with enough velocity to give me the minor benefit of increasing the odds for a live ball or fresh injury. When some 300 pound backup offensive lineman is able to swing a hoof in front of the ball, smashing it off the grill of some luckless wedge blocker, I think we all win. (And if you are protecting a big lead, just point your mastiff at a 90-degree angle and take the 40-yard start flag. Simple, and you get the added benefit of resting your special teamers for real plays, and you also get an extra roster spot for fresh linemen rotations, or one of the following ideas...)

2) Block the QB whenever possible -- maybe with a designated thug CB. Is your opponent's QB going out wide for a direct snap? Double and blast him on the line like the live blocker he is. Does he like to throw one of those gamer knee dives on sweeps that get him fellated by the broadcast team? Again, it's a 2-man effort, first to keep him upright, the second to clean his clock, and your defense can sub in a hired goon to walk the line of ejectable. It's a free shot and much more valuable than five extra yards of field position; TAKE IT. And teach your own QB to not do such things, so the opponent takes revenge in the form of easy to call 15-yard misconducts.

3) Moose sneaks. Remember Jared Lorenzon, the Hefty Lefty that the Giants used as Eli Manning's back up? He was 260+ pounds of terrible QB, but oh man, could that lardball move the line on QB sneaks. So why not train a nose tackle to take the direct snap and pave the earth? Because the defense will key on him and turnovers are likely to happen... but not with a modicum of training, and when your direct snap goes to the RB instead, you could be looking at a big gain. Besides, wearing down small / speed defenders has benefits later.

4) Coordinate the crowd noise.
The opposing team is on offense -- make noise, people! Or, better yet, remain absolutely quiet when they are in the huddle (so your defense can hear signs), then whistle like it's a dead ball in the pre-snap. Perhaps an echo effect move where half of the crowd is chanting hut-one hut-two while the others are chanting random numbers. I also want to see reflective surfaces in the end zone to try to take the opposing WRs out of the play, clock countdowns that are advance of the real clock, and so on, and so on. Home field advantage doesn't come easy, you know.

5) Chemical warfare. The lovely thing about the human nose is that after trying to tell the host about a bad olfactory situation, it eventually gives up. But not so much for those in casual and intermittent contact -- which is to say, your opponents. So why not serve up the pre-game meal of onion rings, sardines and dairy, and enjoy the extra space you'll get in the trenches? Don't tell me it won't work...

6) Flanker Screen of Pain. Every NFL team has a clear top cover CB, and every NFL team is in severe trouble if they lose this guy early in the game. So here's what we do. Train one of our big uglies to catch the ball, in the same way that teams already do for goal-line work. Then, throw it to him on a short screen in the flat. The goal isn't to gain yards or reward big guys with the ball. Rather, the goal is for extra 150-pound road grading collisions to happen to the spry elf DB who is now really not liking his chances of being at full speed for the deep cross. If this was only standard operating procedure, we could have avoided that whole Deion Sanders problem.

Feel free to add your own in the comments. And try to avoid obvious Fumblerooski moves...

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