Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Hope For the Game

After a weekend of binging on football--both college and professional--I'm seeing a bit of hope for what has become a dying game.  The biggest positive was the firing of San Francisco 49ers Head Coach Chip Kelly.  It is the second year in a row that a team has dismissed Kelly--as the Philadelphia Eagles showed him the door after the 2015 season.  You may recall that when Kelly came to the NFL from the University of Oregon, he was going to "revolutionize the game" with his hurry-up, run-as-many-plays-as-you-can-in-as-little-time-as-possible, spread/read option offense.  And while he enjoyed moderate success his first couple of seasons in Philly (in a very weak division), the style of play never caught on with any other teams--in a league full of copy-cats.

What we learned is that Kelly's style of play only served to wear down your players on the smaller rosters of the NFL, put way too much pressure on your defense--which spends most of the game on the field--and doesn't work nearly as well when everyone on the field is a fast, great athlete--and not some former walk-ons trying to guard your five, super-quick wide receivers.

It's no coincidence that as more coaches at all levels of the sport copied Kelly's style of play we have seen an increase in the number of concussions and other traumatic injuries.  Football is a violent game, and to intentionally increase the number of plays per game intentionally increases the amount of contact players absorb and intentionally increases their exposure to debilitating injury.  Multiply that over the course of 13-games in a college season and 20 pre- and regular season games in the pros and you can see why it is becoming more difficult to keep players healthy in football.

Compare that to what you saw in yesterday's Cotton Bowl between Wisconsin and Western Michigan.  The two teams ran a total of 111 plays--just 14 of which were passes by the Badgers (an amazing 13 of which were completed).  There were a combined 69 running plays.  The game took three hours to play (with an extended halftime) and nobody suffered a catastrophic injury or had to go into the concussion protocol.  All those running plays resulted in lower-speed collisions and more form tackling--as opposed to defensive backs trying to separate receivers from the ball via big hits with a long running start.  Most importantly, the clock ran after most plays and players got a chance to catch their breaths and recover before the next play.

Of course, that game was followed by a Rose Bowl that featured 101 points and that took FOUR AND A HALF HOURS to complete.  Both USC and Penn State should have been relieved the Trojans last second field goal was good, to spare them the stupid and endless college football overtime--which could have gone on for another hour.

Hopefully more coaches at all levels of the game liked what they saw in Dallas yesterday than they did in Pasedena--and bring football back to what it is meant to be.

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