- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
"Intramural rivalries. They've been known to separate entire coaching staffs, wives included. Offensive coaches griping about the lunkheads running the defense. Behind their backs, of course. Defensive players complaining about the inability of the offense to get out of its own shadow. Why? Because neither group has to answer for its mistakes. A guy fumbles on his five-yard line, he doesn't dig in to protect the goal, he trots off the field and says, 'You take it.' In real football, camaraderie is built in. Unity is a must. In real football, every position is a 'skilled position.' "
"I see what you mean," I said.
"No you don't. You've been brainwashed like everybody else. But here's the clincher, the argument that would fly in any budget meeting I've ever attended if they could keep coaches off the runway. I've been saving it for you."
He held a match to the cigar until the glow covered the end, and let the smoke from his first puff mingle with his words.
"Two-platoon football kills competitive balance. It is strictly a rich-get-richer proposition, and always has been. Unlimited substitution began as a spot on the X ray, three little words that appeared in the 1941 rules, to compensate for World War II manpower shortages. A player leaving the game did not have to wait till the next period but could return 'at any time.' Nobody did much about it for a couple of years, then Mr. Crisler platooned his Michigan team against Army and almost pulled a big upset. Pretty soon everybody was doing it, and it got worse and worse until, in 1953, Fritz and a posse of traditionalists voted those three words out again.
"And a funny thing happened. In the next 10 years, teams like Oregon State, Duke, Rice, Miami, TCU and even Utah State made the Top Ten. Auburn won a national championship, and so did LSU and Syracuse. Consecutively. Even the service academies were ranked.
"Well, you have to be dumb as a slug not to realize what had happened. With two-platoon you need 20 or 25 top players to turn a program around. In real football, with the accent on athletes, you can do it with half that. But second-echelon schools are not going to get 20 or 25. They're lucky to get sweepings after the big-budget guys breeze through, because the more you specialize, the more thoroughly you have to recruit.
"And, of course, the more you specialize the less likely you will be willing to try things, to be inventive. Coaches were so wrapped up in their Byzantine recruiting practices, and watching movies all night, and wiping the noses of 100 players, that they didn't have time to think up sleeper plays and hurry-up huddles and all the things that make football exciting, even at practice."
"Yes, I get it," I said, and waggled my finger over the glasses for the waitress, although the Coach's was only half empty. "One small point. What about protecting the more vulnerable athletes? You can't do that in one-platoon."
"You mean quarterbacks."