American football: ask a coach!

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  • DAL9000 31 Jul 2008 23:37:36 72 posts
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    Howdy, folks.

    First things first: the title of this thread is a tiny bit misleading, because this will be my first year of coaching -- it's not like I'm an expert. But I /did/ figure that, since the Madden '09 demo is out and the game will follow shortly, some people on this board were bound to have questions about American football -- and sure enough, a quick check of the board's history revealed that there was roughly one thread a year about this, coinciding with Madden's release.

    So I thought I might just put this thread out there, and let you folks ask any questions you might have about the sport. They can be as simple or as complicated as you want -- if I know the answer, I'll give it, hopefully in clear and simple language.

    So, if you have questions, ask away! I'll answer to the best of my ability... even if the question is "So, wait, what's up with all the fat guys?"
  • Deleted user 31 July 2008 23:38:07
    Yeah, I have a question.

    Why's it so shit?
  • thefilthandthefury 31 Jul 2008 23:41:37 24,901 posts
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    What's with all the ass-slapping?

    I haven't got a serious question this close to midnight but, when I do, I'll know where to post!
  • BartonFink 31 Jul 2008 23:46:56 34,777 posts
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    err what deathgibbon said.

    Why wasn't it just called catch?
  • BartonFink 1 Aug 2008 00:00:14 34,777 posts
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    Nope just plain stupid. Nearly as stupid as rugby league.
  • thefilthandthefury 1 Aug 2008 00:01:11 24,901 posts
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    rugbyunionlol
  • BartonFink 1 Aug 2008 00:02:58 34,777 posts
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    C'mon rugby league is rugby union American styleeeee
  • thefilthandthefury 1 Aug 2008 00:03:34 24,901 posts
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    Makes it more interesting though. My uncle played it mind, so I'm biased.
  • FWB 1 Aug 2008 00:04:11 41,916 posts
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    +1 on the arse slapping.

    And why do girly men wear padding? I'm damn skinny and didn't need that rubbish while playing rugby.
  • DAL9000 1 Aug 2008 00:15:31 72 posts
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    Before I answer the questions in /this/ Madden thread, I should probably address the basic question that seemed to be asked the most in previous years' Madden threads: "WHAT THE HOLY HELL IS GOING ON?" -- which is indeed a good question to ask.

    I'm not going to answer by explaining the rules of the game; that can come later. But I don't get the sense that people were asking, "Gosh, what are the basic rules?"; I get the sense that they were saying, "Why are these people running off in random directions? Where are they going, and what am I supposed to do about it?"

    So I'm going to answer by explaining /what is in fact going on/ during a typical play in American football.

    What's going on iiiiiiis... game theory, and lots of it, at work. See, the defense has a problem: the field is very, very large, and there are only 11 defenders to cover all of it. Moreover, the offense -- unlike the defense -- knows what's going to happen on the next play: they know whether it will be a running play, a passing play, and where the ball is going. The defense really doesn't know that -- though they can usually make an educated guess.

    The problem is that this educated guess might not be worth a bucket of warm spit. See, the defense might know that the offense is most likely to run or pass the ball into a certain area, but if you try to flood those target areas with defenders, you're leaving ANOTHER part of the field vacant -- and the offense will exploit that.

    What ends up happening, then, is that the defense -- on the vast majority of plays -- is simply trying to cover as much of the field as it can, in order to deny space to the offense.* But because there's no way for 11 players to actually defend the entire field, any defensive tactic will leave /some/ sort of weak spot.

    The offense is trying to find and exploit that weak spot. The defense is trying to conceal and minimize the weakness. The basic question that's being asked and answered in a single play is: can the offense get the ball to a place on the field where there IS no defender? If the answer is yes, the play will be a success -- whether you're running for three yards or passing for 30, in both cases you've done what you set out to do, and you deserve a pat on the back.

    Once more for emphasis: all the offense wants to do is get the ball to a place on the field where there IS no defender. All the defense wants to do is stop that from happening. The rest is detail -- I'll explain what I can about the ways and means of doing this if anybody asks, but I hope that was a reasonably clear explanation of what the devil is going on out there.

    Uh... was it?

    * Sometimes the defense tries to cover individual offensive players instead of spaces on the field. The problem with this is that, if it's a pass play, the receiver knows where he's about to go, and the man who's covering him doesn't. Because of this in-built advantage for the receiver, most teams prefer to have each defender covering a set area of the field.
  • DAL9000 1 Aug 2008 00:21:30 72 posts
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    HybridR wrote:
    Nobody asked that. We just want to know about the ass-slapping.

    It's true. You do. The ass-slapping has a simple explanation: there's a unique pleasure in feeling your hand smack up against the firm yet somehow supple ass of another ma-- WAIT SHIT! I MEAN, THERE'S NOTHING HOMOEROTIC ABOUT FOOTBALL. /NOTHING AT ALL/.

    Now, gentlemen: to the showers!
  • thefilthandthefury 1 Aug 2008 00:21:35 24,901 posts
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    grayson wrote:
    FWB wrote:
    And why do girly men wear padding? I'm damn skinny and didn't need that rubbish while playing rugby.

    A rugby tackle is like a really long hug from an over affectionate auntie compared to a football sack!

    This is true.
  • DAL9000 1 Aug 2008 00:28:54 72 posts
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    Re. why it's called football: American football has its origins in rugby, which APPARENTLY was known /formally/ as Rugby football when the American sport was invented. Basically, the sport evolved from early rugby variations that were played here in the mid-19th-century, but it didn't really catch on /as football/ until Princeton, Yale, and... eh, some other Ivy League school, maybe Brown?... came up with their own formalized rules in the 1880s. (Possibly the 1870s, but I think the first collegiate games were in the 1880s, so.)

    Now, being a bunch of top-hat-wearing, monocled Ivy League gentlemen, none of the game's inventors would have /dreamed/ of calling rugby football by so vulgar a name as "rugby." No, it was rugby football through and through. Except their variation on the sport wasn't quite rugby, since it differed. And nobody was letting those bastards from the OTHER Ivy name it after their school. So it wound up just being football.

    Early football was, in fact, very much like rugby, and kicking did play a hugely significant part in it, so the name was actually pretty fitting. /history lesson which may not actually be accurate, but probably is. Broadly speaking. Mostly. Sorta.
  • DAL9000 1 Aug 2008 00:31:30 72 posts
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    BartonFink wrote:
    err what deathgibbon said.

    Why wasn't it just called catch?

    Because in early football, there was almost no catching involved. There was no forward pass; it was basically rugby with an even more unwieldy ball. The most you could do was sort of toss the thing sidelong to a teammate, but even that was somewhat risky (it was a REALLY unwieldy ball, did I mention that?) so mostly you just sort of held the ball and ran forward while the other players beat the ever-living crap out of each other in wince-inducing ways.
  • caligari 1 Aug 2008 00:37:35 16,832 posts
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    Okay - my questions are:

    How do I make an American Football 'spiral' through the air?

    What is the nastiest injury you've ever seen in a game? Youtube links must be supplied.

    Why does Hank Hill support the Dallas Cowboys, even though he was born in New York?

    edit: oh - and which Sega Mega Drive (Genesis to you guys over the water) Madden game was your favourite?
  • DAL9000 1 Aug 2008 00:48:46 72 posts
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    FWB wrote:

    And why do girly men wear padding? I'm damn skinny and didn't need that rubbish while playing rugby.

    Well, these clips might answer that.

    That last one's from the UK, by the way.
  • JYM60 1 Aug 2008 01:07:02 16,755 posts
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    I love US football, played it a little when I was in america. By played I mean throw the ball wity yanks. Not strap up and spank one another.

    [8/10] http://www.youtube.com/lllBetterThanHalolll

  • JayeM 1 Aug 2008 01:15:41 3,386 posts
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    I've learnt everything I know about football from Friday Night Lights.

    It made me want to play Madden hence my pre-ordering of said game. I think if I stick at it it will become easier to understand.
  • DAL9000 1 Aug 2008 01:46:59 72 posts
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    caligari wrote:
    Okay - my questions are:

    How do I make an American Football 'spiral' through the air?

    What is the nastiest injury you've ever seen in a game? Youtube links must be supplied.

    Why does Hank Hill support the Dallas Cowboys, even though he was born in New York?

    edit: oh - and which Sega Mega Drive (Genesis to you guys over the water) Madden game was your favourite?

    Video games first: my favorite football game for the Genesis was actually "Joe Montana Football." TO THIS DAY I sometimes catch myself humming the little snatch of music that played when you or the opponent scored a safety. Doo de de doo, doo de de doo, DE DOO DEE DOO DUH DOO.

    Good times, good times.

    Now, for the spiral question, there are three things you need to do to throw a spiral: have a proper grip, step into the throw, and get the release right.

    If you're more of a visual learner than a verbal learner, this is actually a pretty good clip on YouTube featuring a former professional quarterback giving a Wall Street Journal reporter some tips on throwing a spiral. It doesn't teach you systematically what to do, but shows you a few common pitfalls. You should pay particular attention to what the pro says about orienting your shoulders before and during the throw, and using the core of your body -- shifting weight through your hips -- to put force behind the throw.

    Now, if you're more of a verbal learner, here's the short checklist of what to do:

    1) Grip. It's natural and tempting to grip the football by the fattest part, i.e. around the middle. Now, if you have enormous hands, you can get away with that-- but you probably don't, so here's what to do instead.

    You want to grip the ball with your index finger near the tip of the football, probably around the stripe, and your pinkie near the middle of the ball. All your fingers should be on the side of the ball that has the laces on it. Only your thumb should be underneath the ball.

    This is your throwing grip. Use your throwing hand to hold the ball in that fashion; keep the other hand settled lightly on top of the ball until it's actually time to throw. This keeps it from treacherously squirming out from between your fingers. So, there's your grip: throwing hand around the ball, off-hand on top to provide light protection.

    2) Step into the throw. What does this mean? Well, assuming you're right-handed, you want to be lined up like this:

    TARGET


    ....L------- your left shoulder
    ....H ------- your head, turned to look over the left shoulder
    ....R ------ your right shoulder.

    That is, your body is arranged perpendicular to where you want to throw the ball.

    When you begin the throwing motion, you should have most of your weight on your back foot -- i.e., the foot that corresponds to your throwing hand. The motion begins with a slight (emphasis on slight!) turn of the hips, in the direction of that same back foot. This winds your body up and alters your alignment:

    TARGET

    ......L
    .....H
    ....R

    Note that the head is still pointed directly at the target; your shoulders, however, have turned along with your torso, because of the way you just coiled up your hips.

    This is where you step into it (at last!), and uncoil: you take a short step forward with your left foot, directly towards the target; start turning your hips back to the position they were in when you squared up on the target.

    Now, when you rotate your hips back into their previous alignment, you want to drop your right hand (the throwing hand) down a little bit and back, so that you cock the ball behind your head. AS YOU DO THIS, YOUR NON-THROWING HAND COMES OFF THE FOOTBALL. (Why is that in caps? Because otherwise, depending on how clumsy you are, you might ram your left shoulder into your neck and have to sputter for air. It's most embarrassing.)

    Now that you've stepped forward with your lead foot and snapped your hips back towards the target, it's time for...

    Part 3) The release. WHEN should you release the ball? When your right arm is roughly even with your ear. HOW should you release the ball? By letting go with all of your fingers at the same time -- easy-peasy.

    Was that reasonably clear? If not, I'll try again -- but videos are also handy, so feel free to search YouTube for quarterback mechanics or perfect spiral. I promise not to take it personally.

    ... oh, and Hank Hill supports the Cowboys because he lives in Texas, which is insane about football in general (see below re: TX high school football) and about the Cowboys in particular. There IS another pro football team in Texas, but I don't think anybody actually cares about 'em. All Cowboys, all the time down there.
  • terminalterror 1 Aug 2008 01:59:15 18,937 posts
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    Wow, I thought I didn't care about this at all, but the level of (good) detail you are giving is actually making this stuff vaguely interesting.

    /impressed
  • DAL9000 1 Aug 2008 02:04:51 72 posts
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    CrispyXUK wrote:
    Whats all this school bollocks about then? Do you serously watch a bunch of school kids at the major games?
    \

    The answer is "yes," although actually it's several /shades/ of "yes." And one shade of "no." Let's get the "no" out of the way first, shall we?

    Professional football in America is played by grown men, usually in their early-to-mid-20s; only the most outstanding players stick around into their 30s, as a rule. Professional football is, of course, the highest level of competition -- so if by "major games" you mean "the best players, on the best teams," then no. Not school kids.

    However, college football-- that would be "university" to you, although note that kids typically attend from 18-22ish, not 16-20 -- has a major, major following. There are 119 schools that play at the highest level of collegiate football, although a lot of them are frankly small and crappy programs.

    Nonetheless, the largest college programs routinely draw crowds of 50,000+ for games-- two schools, Michigan and Tennessee, have seating capacity of over 100,000+ and sell out all their games -- and college rivalries are very, VERY passionate, far more so than rivalries in professional football.

    But if you REALLY want to see Americans flock to watch the athletic exploits of school boys -- as opposed to young men who are past the age of majority -- high school football is the spectacle for you, good sir.

    To be honest, most parts of the country don't really give a crap about high school football (high school here would be for ages 14-18), but: 1) a lot of small towns, particularly small towns in the middle of largely rural areas, REALLY love their high-school football, to the point that it's not at all unusual for the local school's games to be attended by 40 or 50% of the town's entire population; and 2) high school football in Texas is flippin' insane. Some of the more storied high school football rivalries in Texas are played in college stadiums with 10,000 or more people in attendance.

    But Texas is f'ing weird anyway. There are a few other states that pay a notable amount of attention to their HS football aside from Texas -- Louisiana, Kentucky, Alabama, and Florida -- but outside the deep South, high school football is MOSTLY not that big a deal.
  • DAL9000 1 Aug 2008 02:22:59 72 posts
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    terminalterror wrote:
    Wow, I thought I didn't care about this at all, but the level of (good) detail you are giving is actually making this stuff vaguely interesting.

    /impressed

    Thanks! I try. From time to time, I succeed.
  • ilmaestro 1 Aug 2008 03:29:37 32,297 posts
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    DAL, some nice posts indeed. There are actually a few of us on here who follow football anyway, so hopefully you'll be about during the season for some discussion. :)

    4235

  • armyourfists 1 Aug 2008 03:38:03 917 posts
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    American Football are a awesome, awesome band.

    Just sayin'.
  • JYM60 1 Aug 2008 03:56:01 16,755 posts
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    Rookie QBs, yay or nay?

    [8/10] http://www.youtube.com/lllBetterThanHalolll

  • Deleted user 1 August 2008 03:59:31
    I loved the Megadrive/Madden games.
    I lliked the "Haaaugh" noises they made when they got hit.
  • sam_spade 1 Aug 2008 06:14:56 15,745 posts
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    Tell us about the adjustments during a line of scrimmage, particular defence - what are they reacting to?
  • DAL9000 1 Aug 2008 07:41:48 72 posts
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    JYM60 wrote:
    Rookie QBs, yay or nay?

    Eh. I don't believe there's any mystical barrier that will prevent a rookie quarterback from being successful, provided that he has the tools. I really think the distinction between "OMG veteran QB!" and "OMG rookie QB!" is overblown and misses the point -- the question isn't, "Gosh, can X's veteran smarts give him the edge over Y's rocket arm?"

    The question is much simpler. It's: which one is a better freakin' football player at this exact moment, X or Y? The coaches should be making that assessment during practices, and then the team should start the best player on Sunday.

    I don't know if I've actually been very clear; what I'm trying to say, though, is that for me the question "Can a rookie play effectively?" is a non-starter. Whether a player is a rookie or a 10-year veteran is immaterial to the essential question: based on pure football skills, which one is the better option right now?
  • Clive_Dunn 1 Aug 2008 07:49:40 4,762 posts
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    Can you explain the difference between a one gap and two gap defensive scheme on the DL ?
  • DAL9000 1 Aug 2008 08:49:33 72 posts
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    sam_spade wrote:
    Tell us about the adjustments during a line of scrimmage, particular defence - what are they reacting to?

    I'm not entirely certain what you're asking about -- there are a bunch of different possibilities, based on the way you've phrased this.

    I THINK you were asking me about adjustments the offense makes when it walks up to the line of scrimmage... but I might be wrong -- you might be asking what the defense is doing when defensive players move around before the play starts. So, were you asking about offensive adjustments, defensive adjustments, or both?


    Incidentally, I regret to inform you that "line of scrimmage" does not mean what you think it does. Today is a fine day I think for a vocabulary lesson!*

    The line of scrimmage is -- all right, let's say you're playing a game of Madden. Your opponent kicks off, and you return the kickoff to the 25-yard-line.

    The referee will place the ball somewhere on the 25-yard-line. When play resumes, the 25-yard-line is the line of scrimmage: both teams' big, fat, strong SOBs -- the linemen will line up within inches of the 25-yard-line, and within a few feet of the ball. Then they push and shove each other in various complicated ways that bear no resemblance at all to a scrum in rugby.

    Basically, the LoS is just fancy talk for "where the ball is when you start the play." In practical terms, it's where the big uglies will be hitting each other once the play starts. My next post will explain exactly HOW a play starts -- or, rather, it will explain what's going on during the "stop" part of the stop-and-start process of American football.



    * The tone I was aiming for here was lighthearted and cheerful, not pompous and patronizing. Hopefully that got across. If not... hey, that's what footnote time is for!
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