Forced Options

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 11.30.2018


Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson retired this week after more than a decade at the helm of the Yellow Jackets. Johnson was successful at every stop of his head coaching career and never wavered from the triple-option offense. He showed that the offense can succeed at the highest levels of college football but now it leaves the Georgia Tech athletic director in a tough spot when it comes to finding a new head coach. Do you find a coach to continue the tradition or go in another direction?

The triple-option offense is tough to defend. Always has and probably always will be. It works for a lot of reason, one of which is the fact that it’s tough to prepare for because so few teams run it. Remember, college football teams only have a certain amount of time to practice during the week and to properly defend the triple-option offense, you need repetition in requires reading your keys on defense and staying disciplined on your assignment.

Georgia Tech athletic director Todd Stansbury has a very tough decision to make, does he find a coach that continues to run the offense or does he scrap it and go a whole new direction?

This decision effects a lot of things. What players to recruit? Do you throw away next season just to shift the offense into something else?

Moving out of a triple-option offense to say a spread attack requires a lot. From moving around of players, an entire new block philosophy for the offensive line and a new conditioning program for the defense as they will in all likelihood be on the field more often due to more three-and-outs by the offense.

Now there are successful triple-option coaches out there that would probably love and opportunity to coach at Georgia Tech. Those include Johnson disciples Jeff Monken at Army and Ken Niumatalolo at Navy.

Yes this one is a little different then say Colorado or Texas Tech hiring a new coach. There are a lot more things to consider and one of the questions during the interview process for Stansbury should be ‘coach, what is your transition play to move away from the triple-option?’ If he stays with it, he may be limiting his options but at the same time, saving his job by continuing the success that Johnson had.

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Beware Of Change

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 11.19.2018

Full disclosure; I am a Tennessee alum and live in Denver and this is strictly my opinion.

Colorado Athletic Director (AD) Rick George better have thought through the firing of football coach Mike MacIntyre. What I mean by that is if George doesn’t have a short list of candidates ready to interview or go after, then the Colorado football family may get a front row seat to what it was like to be a Tennessee football fan last season when they went looking for a head coach.

We’re comparing apples and oranges here a little bit but in this day and age the wrong hire (or just an unpopular one) can trigger all kinds of issues. You saw this at Tennessee a year ago when word got out that then AD John Currie was on the verge of hiring Greg Schiano to replace Butch Jones. Within a few hours the digital mob came out with pitchforks and people were actually protesting the hire on campus. The offer was rescinded and Currie went wandering into the college football wilderness like Frodo walking to Mordor from which he never returned. Well he did return to Knoxville but that was only to fire him.

Now Colorado is not Tennessee. The amount of money, passion and expectations are not the same. So firing a coach who literally brought CU back from the bottom of college football to a PAC-12 South title in 2016 and on the precipice of another bowl game strikes a non-CU fan like myself as a bit odd.

Granted MacIntyre didn’t help himself lately. It started when defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt left for Oregon. Then it was the Joe Tumpkin domestic abuse incident. Then there were his comments over the last few weeks about his job status.

With a hefty buyout, it seems pretty clear that the powerful boosters where the ones pushing for a change at the top of the Buffaloes football program.

Now On To The Silly Season

The immediate candidates that are being thrown around are interesting but not very likely. Apparently people expect a fairly big name to roll into Boulder. I don’t think that will be the case. CU doesn’t have the same backing or facilities that an SEC school or even what other PAC-12 schools may have. That being said, there is a history here at Colorado, Boulder is a beautiful place and there is plenty of talent on the roster.

Names being bandied about, well I don’t put a lot of stock in them. For example, I don’t think Dana Holgorsen leaves West Virginia for CU but hey, stranger things have happened.

Not sure Matt Wells at Utah State or Bryan Harsin at Boise State leave for this job either. Their case is pretty simple, they are both alumni at their schools.

Some guys I think George should look at are below:

USC Offensive Coordinator Tee Martin. Why? He’s considered by many to be one of the best recruiters in the country and you need to bring kids from California and Texas in order to win in Boulder. He also might be available sooner rather than later the way USC is going.

Oregon Defensive Coordinator Jim Leavitt. Why? Remember when Colorado won the PAC-12 South, well Leavitt was the defensive coordinator. He built South Florida and he can keep on the offensive staff and get just focus on the defense.

North Dakota State Head Coach Chris Klieman. Why? Three national titles in four years and the odds on favorite to do it again. Defensive minded coach who kept the ball rolling after Craig Bohl left for Wyoming.

Wyoming Head Coach Craig Bohl. Why? Well he’s a sleeper candidate but he turned around Wyoming into a tough team that one one wants to play, develops NFL caliber talent and could be on his way to a third bowl game in a row which a saying something in Larime.

California Offensive Coordinator Beau Baldwin. Why? Won a national title at the FCS level with Eastern Washington and pretty much made them into a powerhouse. Struggling in first season as OC at Cal but he knows the West Coast recruiting circuit.

Ohio State Co-Defensive Coordinator Alex Grinch. Why? Amazing coaching tree (Urban Meyer, Mike Leach and Gary Pinkel), turned Washington State into a force to be reckoned with defensively and  went to Mt Union which is a place where all they do is win. Combine his defensive prowess with the existing offensive staff and you could have a lot of energy rolling up and down the Buffaloes sideline.

Others to consider:

Ohio State Offensive Coordinator Ryan Day, Michigan Offensive Coordinator Pep Hamilton, and Memphis Head Coach Mike Norvell.

We’ll see how this plays out but in the second year of the early signing period, AD George needs someone in to Boulder sooner rather than later. There is also precedent that if the hire isn’t ‘popular’, the digital mob could come out of the wood work. Just some advice for AD George.

Welcome To Canada Mr Manziel

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 5.22.2018

Johnny Football is back. This time Manziel will be donning a Hamilton Tiger-Cats jersey and doing his magic in the CFL. It’s a smart move and one that could potentially make Manziel the most exciting, undersized quarterback in the CFL since Doug Flutie.

First, let’s be real about the expectations here. The Canadian game is significantly different than the US game. While it’s a style that fits Manziel’s skill set, it is also one he’ll have to adjust to. From the motion rules to the routes the receivers run to the way the coverage develops. It’s going to be a whole new thing for the boy from Texas to take into account. With a limited amount of preseason games and his late signing, it’s going to take probably half a season before Manziel starts ‘getting it’ but he could also pick it up a lot quicker.

The excitement that fans should feel is two fold. First Manziel has a coach who has won at every level of football and is a direct disciple of Mouse Davis who is the Godfather of the Run ‘N’ Shoot offense. June Jones offense employs concepts that every team in football now uses and it’s the foundation for the offense Manziel ran at Texas A&M.

Second, look at the comparisons between Manziel and Doug Flutie. Flutie is in the CFL Hall of Fame, won the Most Outstanding Player 6 times in 8 years while up north and also won the Grey Cup 3 times. Flutie’s arm, scrambling, and ability to extend the play proved to be a lethal combination in the wide open CFL. Manziel has a lot of the same characteristics as you can see from the two quarterbacks highlights.

Some will just say that the CFL is Manziel’s chance to get back to the NFL. Maybe but if Manziel zeros in on being a CFL quarterback, he has the potential to be one of the all time greats. This can go a lot of ways for Manziel but the bottom line is that he is in a great spot in Hamilton with a coach with a proven track record. Things could get very interesting in the CFL come August and September.

‘All of Nothing’ Drives Home Ruthlessness of NFL

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 7.8.2017

The second season of Amazon’s ‘All of Nothing’ series starts off with Los Angeles Rams head coach Jeff Fisher informing the team that he was fired.  From here the show takes you through the ins and outs of the Rams 2016 season and finishing off with the hiring of a new coach and the 2017 NFL Draft. It’s a long journey and one that NFL Films tells very well.

The Rams 2016 season was teed up pretty well for the producers of ‘All or Nothing’. You had the move from St. Louis, the trade to get quarterback Jared Goff with the #1 overall pick in the 2016 draft, young stars like running back Todd Gurley and defensive tackle Aaron Donald and a schedule that saw them log more miles than anyone during the 2016 season. Add in the unexpected firing of the head coach and you have enough material to fully flesh out 8 hour long episodes.

This series is not HBO’s ‘Hard Knocks’. In fact ‘All or Nothing’ doesn’t even touch on training camp. It dives right into the season and does a pretty good job of avoiding the typical NFL game camera angles while it’s at it. There are solid shots from the sidelines and great sound from the coaches throughout the season. From their homes, to the meeting rooms to the sidelines.

One aspect of this show that was very interesting goes back to something that former Notre Dame head coach and ESPN analyst Lou Holtz once pointed out and that is when a coach is fired it’s not just him who is effected. It’s the assistants and their families too. ‘All or Nothing’ does a great job of driving that home. How the families deal with the never ending moves from city to city. For example, offensive coordinator Rob Boras ended up as the tight ends coach for the Buffalo Bills shortly after being let go by the Rams following the season. So in under a year he had moved from St. Louis to Los Angeles to Buffalo while his family was still in St. Louis. It gives you a great look at how much of grind an NFL season can be not just for the players but on the coaches.

This season of ‘All or Nothing’ is compelling and could be compelling for someone who isn’t the biggest football fan. It shows how difficult and ruthless this game can be on the players, the coaches and the families and how everything can change in an instant. It’s story telling at high level and worth checking out.

22 It

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 6.25.2017


The Canadian Football League (CFL) kicked off its 2017 season with a game between the Saskatchewan Roughriders and the Montreal Alouettes this past Thursday. Unless you are a football fanatic like myself or a Canadian with a vested interest in the two teams on the field, you probably didn’t ever know the game was going on. My hope is that someone at the NFL office or at one of the NFL TV partners was watching so that they could be reminded about an angle that they are missing during their broadcasts. The wide angle or as they call it in America, the ’22’ angle.

Roughriders at Al’s CFL 2017 Opener.

For the uninitiated, the CFL has 3 downs, 12 men aside and unlimited motion. Which means that at least three of the receivers get a head start on their routes before the ball is ever snapped. This requires the TV cameramen to get a wider shot of the field because you don’t know where these guys are going. It’s not a genuine ’22’ angle but you have a better view of what the receivers are doing and how the defense is lined up to defend them.

Why would the NFL or college football widen out the camera shot and show more of the field? Well it could be a source of revenue. Most of us, believe it or not, don’t care about the close up of Tom Brady or the coach on the sideline. We care about how the formation and who is on the field.

The down side is that you may reveal a bunch of empty seats at the stadium caused in no small part by a teams performance and high ticket prices. The upside is that nerdy football fans like myself would pay a fee to get just this angle.

ESPN Megacast during the 2014 National Championship game

The reason why a portion of us would pay for this is that we want to see for ourselves how the defense is lining up, who is coming in and out of the game and have a visual representation of where our team is on the field which let’s guess what our team should or should not do. We don’t want an analyst telling us after the fact or being burden by replays when a team goes without a huddle and we miss the beginning of the next play.

Eventually, having graphics overlay that one could turn on and off would be nice as well. I don’t mean your stats of total yards, etc but a marker on a player so that while viewing the ’22’ angle, a mark or flag can pop up over a player as they come on and off the field which is turned on and off automatically by when they cross the sidelines into the field of play.

While there is a lot of talk about how to improve the in-game experience for fans (none of this talk includes lowering ticket prices or beer mind you), very little is talked about improving the home viewing experience. These are two things could improve the viewing experience immediately. While the graphics overlay may take some doing, it’s hard to believe that having a camera zoom out would be much of a technological feat. Extra costs, I think I pointed out earlier that there are plenty of us who would give you money for this.

Chip’s Revenge

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 2.9.2017

Arguably the best coach in NFL history, Bill Belichick, may have inadvertently pulled a page out of his friend Chip Kelly’s book to win Super Bowl 51. Belichick’s team didn’t run a no-huddle, up tempo style however the amount of plays they ran and dominate time of possession had to of put a smile on Kelly’s face as the New England Patriots went on to win their fifth NFL title.

 

KELLYKelly may have been fired from two NFL head coaching jobs in under a year but some of his philosophies are grounded in truth. If your team has the ball then the other teams offensive isn’t on the field. If you run more plays than your opponent then odds are that in the 4th quarter that defense will be tired. Both proved true during the Patriots win over the Atlanta Falcons.

The Patriots ran 93 offensive plays to the high powered Falcons 42 and dominated the time of possession. They had the football for over 40 minutes while the Falcons had it for just a little over 23. While Kelly’s teams would normally reflect the the Falcons time of possession, the Patriots were able to adapt Kelly’s philosophy on their way to victory.

Super Bowl 51 TOPAt one point Fox play-by-play announcer Joe Buck pointed out that the Falcons offense had not been on the field in over an hour (that included the extended halftime). You add that up and it’s no wonder the Falcons defense seemed powerless to stop the Patriots offense in the last quarter plus of the game.

While you can point to several factors as to why the Patriots defeated the Falcons for their fifth title, you cannot deny that time of possession and the amount of offensive plays that the Patriots ran was a major factor in the outcome. It’s one that Kelly would be right to be proud of.

More Mouse Davis Than Bill Walsh

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 1.10.2017

Over the years we’ve written quite a bit about Chip Kelly. We’ve written how he wasn’t right for the NFL and we’ve written that he could be the next Bill Walsh. With many things, the truth falls somewhere in between.

Chip Kelly 49ersChip Kelly was fired from two NFL jobs in little over a year. The second wasn’t his fault as he was dealt an absolute oil spill but the first was his fault. More importantly there has been some talk out there that Kelly wasn’t able to adjust to the NFL. He didn’t disguise his looks and become, in a word, predictable.

NFL defenses may have figured out a way to stop Kelly’s ‘blur’ offense but the NFL also adopted some of his ideas and methods.

While at Oregon, Kelly made trips to New England to talk about the hurry-up offense with Bill Belichick and his staff. Belichick and Kelly have become good friends and there is a possibility, however remote, that Kelly could slide into the OC spot if current Patriots OC Josh McDaniels gets another head coaching gig with, ironically enough, the San Francisco 49ers.

The fact is that a lot of teams, college and pro, use some of Kelly’s principals in their offenses. It’s a lot like how every one criticized Mouse Davis’s Run’N’Shoot offense when it debuted in the NFL way back in 1989.

Many criticized the offense and in it’s purest form wasn’t very successful at the NFL level. However aspects of the offense have made it into just about every current NFL offense. Using the pass to set up the run, single back sets and having wide receivers read the coverage along with the quarterback.

Kelly’s offense and training methods are seeing a similar bubbling up across the league. Kelly embraced sports science and employed a ‘sport science coordinator’ while with the Eagles. Other NFL teams have begun to embrace the idea of maximizing athletes performance after Kelly blazed the way.

Teams have also incorporated some zone read plays, allowed their quarterback to run more often, and of course using the hurry-up or no huddle offense throughout the game instead of just at end of a half.

While Kelly may not have revolutionized the game like the late Bill Walsh did so many years ago, he did influence it significantly like Mouse Davis did back in the late 80’s/early 90’s. Kelly’s NFL career will be judged by wins and losses but he has contributed much more than that.

 

SF 49ers: Digging To The Bottom of the NFL

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 1.3.2016

The San Francisco 49ers will be on their fourth head coach in as many years and the first team in almost 40 years to fire coaches in back-to-back years after just one season. The Cleveland Browns haven’t even done that. Add to it that the owner, Jed York, said in his press conference on Monday, ‘I own this football team. You don’t dismiss owners.‘ The 49ers were once the envy of every North American sports organization. Now, they are a laughing stock and paying millions of dollars to their former coaches with little hope for a winning team anytime soon.

Jed YorkIt’s almost scary what’s happening to the 49ers. They seemed to be on the right track when Jed York and then GM Trent Baalke convinced Jim Harbaugh to take over as head coach. He had immediate success and was within an inch of winning a Super Bowl. But Harbaugh and Baalke clashed and York, essentially, sided with Baalke which led to the dismissal of Harbaugh after an 8-8 season.

The 49ers have yet to win 8 games total since letting Harbaugh go.

To add insult to injury, the organization is going to have to pay between $30 million to $70 million to former coaches to not coach. This includes having to pay the next three years of former head coach Chip Kelly’s deal. Kelly never had a chance with the hand he was dealt but no matter, he’ll get paid handsomely for his one year with the team.

The fact is that Jed York should be fired. Can you imagine running a company where you have fired the leadership over the last years and will lose at least $30 million to pay former employees to not do their job?

It would be nice to say that there is some hope for the 49er faithful. The fact is that there isn’t. They have had multiple terrible drafts, lost potential hall of fame players to retirement or injury and have arguably the worse roster in the league. It will take several solid drafts, free agent signings and a lot of luck for the 49ers to make the playoffs again. So strap in 49er faithful, this is a long term plan.

3 Star = Pro Bowl

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 12.22.2016

The 2017 Pro Bowl roster was announced this week and while the game is becoming increasingly meaningless, a few outlets point out how there are more former 3-Star college recruits and lower than anyone else on the roster. Proving again that the recruiting star system is also increasingly irrelevant.

Recruiting stars are no guarantee of NFL success or collegiate success for that matter. There are many more three, two, one and no star recruits than there ever are five and four star recruits but most people presume that five or four star players are significantly better than three and below.

While the star rankings do not give the best indicator to future success, it does show that three and lower are just as good if not better than the four and five players if put in the right situation and coached up.

If you look at the no star recruits coming out of high school and now in the 2017 Pro Bowl, two of those players, Antonio Brown and Tom Brady, are arguably the best at their position. Brady is a lock for the Hall of Fame and Brown is probably the most feared receiver in the NFL over the last two seasons. Brown was a sixth round pick out of Central Michigan. He didn’t ‘fit’ the ‘typical’ NFL wide receiver. All he does now is make plays and score touchdowns and has become an indispensable part of the Pittsburgh Steelers offense.

As college football teams go into the final recruiting push early next year, it’s important for those three star and lower kids to recognize that the coaches and so-called ‘experts’ may not know talent when they see it. Proving them wrong is better than any star from.

 

 

Bowl Mania Guide

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 12.16.2016

With the Holiday’s comes college football bowl season. Yes, there are too many bowl games (42 in all) and too many undeserving teams (19 teams are .500 or worse ). Yet we will still watch a vast majority of them if no other reason than to escape arguments about this year’s Presidential election. So here are the best bets when it comes to which games to watch.

*All times are Pacific

December 17th

Donnel PumphreyLas Vegas Bowl | Houston vs San Diego State | 12:30pM ABC: Yes Houston lost their head coach to Texas but the OC and DC are still there and the OC, Major Applewhite, is the new head coach and they still have Greg Ward at QB. The Aztecs count with senior running back Donnel Pumphrey who with a solid rushing game could become the nation’s #2 all-time leading rusher.

Camellia Bowl | Appalachian State vs Toledo | 2:30pm ESPN:  Seriously, this is a good game. App State is better than their 9-3 record would indicate and so is Toledo. App State won their first ever bowl game a year ago on a last second field goal after being down 24-7 at halftime.

December 20th

Boca Raton Bowl | Memphis vs Western Kentucky | 4pm ESPN:  Offense, offense and more offense. Western Kentucky averages 517 yards per game while Memphis averages 461. Did we mention offense?

December 21st

San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl | BYU vs Wyoming | 6pm ESPN: This is a rivalry game renewed. These two haven’t played each other since 2010 when BYU left the Mountain West Conference and BYU leads the all-time series 44-30-3. Be ready for old school football here.

December 27th

National Funding Holiday Bowl | Minnesota vs Washington State | 4pm ESPN:  Two teams that kind of tripped up towards the end of the season but two solid teams none the less. Wazzu’s Luke Falk is something to see. He was 4th in the country with 4204 passing yards this season. Of course this is only a game if  Minnesota players actually play. 

December 28th

Russell Athletic Bowl | West Virginia vs Miami | 2:30pm ESPN: These two can light up the scoreboard if things go right. West Virginia probably deserves a better bowl game and Miami has junior QB Brad Kaaya and is playing closer to home than the Mountaineers are.

December 29th

Valero Alamo Bowl | Oklahoma State vs Colorado | 6pm ESPN: This might be the best game of bowl season not to mention the fact that this bowl game always seems to be high scoring shootout every year.

 

December 30th

dobbsFranklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl | Nebraska vs Tennessee | 12:30pm ESPN: These two couldn’t stop a nose bleed in their last game of the season. They do have multifaceted QB’s who can hurt you with their arm or their legs. Josh Dobbs for Tennessee and Tommy Armstrong JR for Nebraska. One player to watch is Tennessee’s Derek Barnett. He’ll be a top 5 NFL draft pick if he decides to forgo his senior season.

Capital One Orange Bowl | Michigan vs Florida State | 5pm ESPN: Two teams with loads of talent on both sides of the football. This game will be all about the offensive and defensive lines.

December 31st

College Football Playoff Semifinal | Washington vs Alabama | Noon ESPN:  Look, this playoff is Alabama’s to lose but UW head coach Chris Pederson is known for having a trick or two up his sleeve.

College Football Playoff Semifinal | Ohio State vs Clemson | 4pm ESPN:  All about the QB’s in this one. Ohio State has been here before and it’s hard to bet against Urban Meyer. Then again Clemson was here a year ago and dominated.

January 2nd

Rose Bowl | USC vs Penn State | 2pm ESPN: Two head coaches who were on the hot seat over the last 12 months have their teams in one of the biggest bowl games of all. Not bad. Let’s just hope it’s better than last years blowout of Iowa delivered at the hands of Christian McCaffery and Stanford.