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Old 02-01-2010, 05:15 AM   #18
Brad O.
Join Date: Jun 2002
Posts: 792
Brad O. will become famous soon enough

bachslunch, let me begin by saying that I'm glad we're having this conversation. Getting the right people into the Hall of Fame is important to me, and it's obvious that it is to you, too. Furthermore, it's apparent you put some thought into your positions. Forcing me to re-examine my ideas is a good thing.

You're right that we should be wary of "argument by authority" candidacies. I don't want to start accepting things just because someone loud says I should. At the same time, skepticism has to be balanced with a level of respect for things that don't show up on paper.

Everyone who saw Gale Sayers play, everyone who has ever ranked the greatest running backs of all time, puts him in or very near the top 10. I've never found a reality-based statistical system that puts Sayers anywhere near the top 10 (though I think I'm getting close to one). At a certain point you have to throw your hands up and say, you know what, this guy was a legend in his own time, and everyone who saw him play agreed that he was special. The problem is on my end: the stats, as I've organized them, just don't tell the whole story.

re: LeBeau, it sounds like you're asking me to prove something that can't be proven. How do you quantify the zone blitz? I would never deny that LeBeau was building on the work of coaches who came before him. I just fall solidly into Sean's camp regarding innovation. The reason I'm surprised at your skepticism on LeBeau and the zone blitz is that no one disputes it. I'm not aware of anyone who claims someone other than LeBeau invented the system, nor of anyone else who claims credit for designing it. It simply isn't a matter of dispute. Arguing otherwise seems more contrarian than skeptical.

Originally Posted by bachslunch View Post
Brad, the million dollar question here is, what's original, what's derivative, what's significant, what's not, and how much of a combination matters here?
Are today's coaches building on what came before them? Naturally. Something utterly original would probably be a disaster. I understand and appreciate this. By far the most popular thing I've ever written for Sports Central was The NFL Coaching Tree. It's basically a study of who influenced who, and it consumed a substantial part of my life in early 2008. I would never try to understate the influence of guys like Arnsparger, or those who came before him. But contemporary coaches are constantly building on what's already out there.

It seems obvious to me that the sport is constantly evolving. Today's game is noticeably different than we saw 15 years ago. It's much different than we saw 35 years ago, and it's light years from what we had 80 years ago. I can't imagine you disagree with that, but please say so if I'm wrong.

The biggest difference is the ever-growing importance of the passing game. This is something I can prove, easily. With the growing importance of the air attack, defenses need better ways to cover receivers and new strategies to pressure and confuse quarterbacks. Still with me? I don't think I've stated anything radical so far.

The most important strategic developments of the last 30 years, IMO, are the West Coast Offense, the zone blitz, and the Tampa-2. Almost every team in the league uses some variation on them once in a while. I would never deny Buddy Ryan's influence on the sport, but the 46 didn't really have staying power.

I think I can show pretty conclusively that the game has changed significantly since 1978. Since the game has changed, there must be a person or persons driving that change. I think even a cursory examination would reveal that Bill Walsh, Don Coryell, Joe Gibbs, Tony Dungy, Dick LeBeau, and Bill Belichick were foremost among those driving the change. What they've done is both original and significant, and I think anyone who disagrees holds them to an unreasonable standard, something unattainable and that denies real trends in the game.

Put another way: take the 1972 Dolphins and drop them in a modern weight room with a bunch of PEDs until they're in physical shape comparable to today's athletes. Now send them out to play the 1994 Niners, the 1996 Packers, the 2001 Rams, the 2004 Patriots, the 2008 Steelers, or any Colts team from the last five years -- under today's rules. Who do you think would win?

I think the No-Name Defense would be in enormous trouble against a modern offense, and when Griese or Morrall started trying to pass against a present-day defense, it would turn ugly fast. The Dolphins might stay in the game on pure talent, particularly if they got the run going early, but I suspect they would lose by double-digits.

The old Dolphins would be lost against a top-notch West Coast Offense, massacred against a multi-receiver Coryell offense like the Rams'. In particular, I don't think they would know how to cover the underneath timing patterns that Young, Favre, Warner, Brady, and Manning executed to perfection.

Offensively, Miami would still be able to run, but the first time they got in 3rd-and-long, they'd be in for a nasty surprise. Those quarterbacks simply never saw today's defensive zones, and they certainly wouldn't be ready for the pressure packages Belichick and LeBeau have designed. Most passes then were long passes, and I suspect sacks would be the biggest problem.

Do you see it otherwise? I realize this '72 Dolphins bit totally subjective. What's not is that today's teams throw more than ever before. They throw more short passes than ever before, and they make more adjustments at the line. Today's defenses bring pass rush pressure from more places than at any time in history. In particular, disguised coverages -- LeBeau's forte -- are more prevalent. If these changes aren't significant, why doesn't anyone do things the old way? If these were small differences, teams could still be successful doing what they did in the past. That doesn't seem to be the case.

Apologies for a lengthy, pedantic post. I hope you feel I've addressed your questions.
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