The Evolution of Football
Football, a sport so rooted in tradition, run by coaches from a by-gone era, characterized in cinemas by ego and arrogance, is perhaps the fastest evolving medium in sports. Each and every year, new and innovative ways pop up across the country. You only need to look as far as last night's National Championship Game between Oregon and Ohio State to see how quickly the game changes. Adapt, or die.
Oregon has been known to be on the forefront of offensive innovation for the past decade or so. Many onlookers and pundits believe the Oregon "system" is truly unique, holding secrets unknown to the rest of the coaching world. The truth is, their system is really a living, breathing, adapting organism. In watching last night, I was amazed at how different the offense was from the one Chip Kelly left two years ago. Yes, the components of speed and tempo remain. So does the read option, screen and bubble actions, playaction, and so much more. However, the intricacies of each play have adapted to stay one step ahead of the curve. They don't run the read option the way they did two years ago; they don't read the same defender they did last year; they don't set up the playactions from the same formations. Mark Helfrich has continued to grow the offense to make sure success doesn't lead to complacency.
Ohio State and Urban Meyer are good example of the same. When Urban Meyer last won the National Championship with Florida and Tim Tebow, he ran many pinch and pull concepts, using Tim Tebow as a multi-faceted weapon. His offense since then has changed immensely. Yes, they still use the wide receiver sweeps and screens the way they did with Percy Harvin, yes they pinch and pull, but they have adapted those schemes to isolate different players, create better angles, and utilize different personnel to their strengths. While the tenants and beliefs remain the same, it is clear to those breaking down the film that how Urban Meyer imposed those beliefs on opponents has changed.
The point here is that in order to stay relevant in football, we must be willing to study and change. This goes for both players and coaches. A player watching Oregon today, thinking he understands their offense, will face them three years from now and end up three years out of date if he hasn't been studying film. A coach who thinks all the same schemes from years ago will serve the same purpose today and in the future might be rudely awakened when defenses know how to stop them now. Even the best, at the highest level, know that their knowledge today isn't better than their opponents tomorrow. Adapt and progress, or fall behind.
This is true in most fields - the medical field, the sport performance field, the nutrition field, and yes, the football field. To be the best, you must enjoy the process of studying, thinking objectively, and changing with the times.
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SPU's Alex Drayson writes the SPU Football Performance Blog.