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Posted: Friday August 15, 2008 2:13PM; Updated: Friday August 15, 2008 3:06PM
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NFL MAILBAG

Mail call: Olympics, memorable innovations, Seahawks RBs, more

Story Highlights
  • Dr. Z tells some tales of odd innovations
  • Seahawks have quantitiy, not quality at running back
  • Zach Thomas is a Hall of Famer
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Even though this is a football column, someone in the media needs to praise U.S. swimmer Jason Lezak.
Even though this is a football column, someone in the media needs to praise U.S. swimmer Jason Lezak.
Francois-Xavier Marit.
Dr. Z's Mailbag
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OK, let's get into what's important right away. Tony, of San Antonio, opens up all sorts of possibilities when he writes, "You're an old Olympic reporter. What's your impression of the Games so far?"

1) When I die and go to hell, hell will be beach volleyball -- for all eternity.

2) Jason Lezak swam the greatest race I've ever seen, anchoring the 4x100 freestyle. Sometimes you see a kick like that in track, but in swimming, never. To me it was the high moment of the Olympics, but in a lot of the papers it was merely a footnote to Michael Phelps' parade of medals. OK, I'm not totally stupid. Phelps is carving out a piece of history, but jeez, give his buddy a little credit.

3) Once again, the Olympics is a political story, with one of the world's more repressive governments cracking down on the slightest expression of dissent, and America's Olympic Committee Chairman, Peter Ueberroth, turning a blind eye to China's many human rights violations. How well I remember this same mentality, going back to the Smith-Carlos black gloves incident in Mexico City.

OK, enough. I'm getting all worked up again, and I haven't covered a Summer Olympics since Moscow in 1980. You ever been followed by the KGB?

On to serious matters, namely the ball that's struck by the foot:

Here's one from Chris, of Seattle, that he calls a "mind-bender."

"Offensive tackles are the offensive linemen furthest away from the ball, but defensive tackles are the ones closest to the ball on their line. Why is this?"

A long time ago the standard defense was the 7-diamond, seven players lined up opposite their seven offensive counterparts. In the 1930s and '40s, this gave way to the 6-2-2-1, six linemen, in other words. Tackles still played the offensive tackle head up, or maybe to the outside shoulder. There were two defensive guards inside. They were eliminated when the 4-3 came in, and the tackles now had to move inside or there would be a huge hole over the middle. So they became the guards of yesteryear, while the defensive ends became the tackles.

A slightly screwy question, I admit, but it was nothing compared to what's coming now. It's from Dan, from Takoma Park, Md., and I will summarize it for you. ("How about winterizing it?" says the Flaming Redhead, whom I must occasionally remind that one person tells the jokes around here. Got that? One. Uno. Ein. Adin.) What was the question again? Oh yeah, here it is.

"I read about something called the A11 offense in today's Washington Post. It's some crazy system that some California high schools are using, with three down linemen, two QBs and six receivers." OK, let's cut it off right here. Our man, Dan, was not in favor of this alignment, but he does favor innovation, and he wants me to tell some innovation stories, the weirder the better.

Well, there was this one game I saw in Kezar Stadium, when six Hell's Angels came roaring in with this wideout tied to the handlebars of the bike, then they shot him across the... "OH FOR GOD'S SAKE!" hollers F------Red----, still annoyed that I soured her act, 'ANSWER THE GUY'S QUESTION!" OK, Dan. Call off your dog. Everyone had a Muddle Huddle play, quarterback over the center, rest of the offense shifts wide to one side, ball is snapped and all hell breaks loose. Personally, I liked that gimmick the Steelers used to do when Mike Mularkey ran their offense and Kordell Stewart pretended he was getting mad at a wideout and turned toward him, and the the ball was snapped to a back, and everyone yells, "Surprise!" I loved those last drives in my favorite college football game, Boise State vs. Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl, when Boise coach Chris Petersen called all that stuff when the stakes were highest...hook and ladder, statue of liberty, etc.

Doug Flutie once told me that he was going to write an article called, "Ways To Win That Coaches Never Think Of," and one of his last minute drive ideas was to throw a pass to the kicker, cutting across the field, and then have him stop and dropkick one through. The idea died a couple of years later when the league outlawed kicks while the game was in progress, but Flutie got a chance to dropkick an extra point later on in his career. Once, I was awarded the honor of being allowed to call one play for the Newport Beach High School alumni against the Newport varsity, and I called a long pass off a quarterback kneel at the end of the half. The play was dead when the safetyman began screaming, "Trick! Trick!," but damned if Bill Walsh didn't do the same thing to the Cards, when Jim Hanifan coached them. What made his idea loony was that it was at then end of the game and served no purpose whatsoever, and Hanifan was so mad he chased him off the field, all the way to the locker room.

I remember calling Walsh a couple of days later and asking him what he was thinking of. The time to have done it was at the end of the HALF, not the game itself.

"A poor decision," Walsh said in that scholarly way of his. "Very ill advised."

You know something. I enjoyed this so much, going back through my rapidly fading memory, that I am anointing you, Dan Rothberg, my E-mailer of the Week.

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