American football: ask a coach! Page 3

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  • Psychotext 1 Aug 2008 21:51:02 53,855 posts
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    On a related note to the Madden games... I'm a fan of the sport, I understand most of the rules, and I have an idea of how a few of the plays work. I even played it for a while (the real game) but I used to just know what I was supposed to be doing rather than paying attention to everyone else!

    Can I play the game without totally sucking? The last one I played was probably about 10 years ago and I'm quite interested in trying another.
  • DAL9000 1 Aug 2008 22:52:29 72 posts
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    By the way, re. David Carr: there's a school of thought that holds that most sacks are the quarterback's damn fault for holding on to the ball for too long. So... so...

    GOD DAMN YOU, EUROGAMER. EG ate my lengthy post (... heh heh. I said "ate my lengthy post!") about what the two-gap system is and why it isn't used more widely.

    So lemme construct a shorter version of that on the fly, because I'm WAY too lazy to rewrite the whole darned thing. I should point out here, by the way, that typically, only defensive tackles are used as two-gap linemen.

    What's a defensive tackle? One of the interior linemen. This is how a four-man defensive front would line up, for example:

    End Tackle Tackle End.

    In general teams only use one tackle as a two-gap lineman; the idea of a two-gap lineman is that he's big enough, he's strong enough, and he's skilled enough that it's going to be very difficult for a single offensive lineman to make him move if he doesn't want to. He's also quick enough and smart enough that when he DOES decide to move, he goes in the right direction and gets to his destination in time to do what he's supposed to.

    Needless to say, this kind of player doesn't grow on trees. So you'll find a lot of coaches who've never really considered having a two-gap defender because they've never had a player who could BE one. And you'll find others who reject the two-gap idea anyway.

    The most telling argument that one-gap advocates can bring against the two-gap is that it asks your two-gap lineman to do /entirely/ too much, which results in him being uncertain and, accordingly, ineffective.

    Another strong argument in favor of the one-gap system, by the way, is that a one-gap defensive lineman has only and exactly one job, ever, no matter what the play is. Not only does this allow him to spend almost ALL of his practice time refining his skill at /performing/ that one job, but it also renders him more or less immune to any offensive attempts at misdirection. After all, the one-gapper's job is the same no matter WHAT the offense is doing: penetrate into that gap and disrupt the play. Period, end of story.

    Two-gappers, by contrast, are very vulnerable to misdirection, deception, and just flat-out mistakes. This is because, as mentioned earlier, they have a lot to do on every play:
    - Engage an opposing lineman. Sometimes two.
    - Diagnose the play: run or pass?
    - If run, figure out WHERE the run is going (easier than it sounds, since the other team's linemen will be trying to push him away from the play -- usually the coaching point is "see where the pressure is coming from, and fight against it." You're trying to stand your ground here, but there are two very strong people pushing you back -- it's not easily done.)

    That is indeed a lot for a player to do, and it hints at why a lot of defensive coaches feel that two-gap linemen tend to be indecisive. See, here's the deal on that: if a two-gap lineman commits to one of his two gaps before he's /absolutely sure/ it's the right one, he's running a serious risk of going to the wrong gap and leaving an enormous, gaping hole for the ball carrier to cut through and dart away. So the two-gap system rewards linemen who wait patiently for the play to develop... which leaves /one/-gap coaches tearing out their hair and howling their impatience to the skies, because of course they teach /their/ guys to GATA ("Get After Them Aggressively" or, more earthily, "Get After Their Asses") from the moment the ball is snapped. It just plain looks wrong.

    Having said that, the great advantage of the two-gap system is that, when it's working, the gap the ball carrier is heading for is pretty likely to be plugged up by a linebacker. See, because a two-gap lineman is so strong, he's likely to command the attention of two offensive linemen, not just one. And because his goal is just to stand his ground until he knows where the ball is going, he's probably going to KEEP their attention until the play is at least somewhat developed. That means that neither one of those opposing linemen will be able to break away from our two-gapper and move into space to try to block or disrupt a linebacker -- which in TURN means our linebackers are free to simply read where the play is going, then run towards it and try to blow it right the hell up.

    Most defensive coaches would agree that that's a danged nice luxury to have. But, again, a two-gap lineman is a special kind of player. Not many teams will even have one, and he'd still be a disruptive force in a conventional one-gap scheme -- so some coaches say, why should I tell my best lineman to let the opposition take the fight to him? I WANT this guy to GATA.

    So, yeah. That's what a two-gap defensive lineman is: huge, quick, and strong Also a rare, rare breed.
  • Tabasco 1 Aug 2008 23:02:27 5,780 posts
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    Heh! Quality thread this :o)

    I *heart* American footie but cannot stand the amount of adverts so have drifted away the last couple of years.
  • _Price_ 1 Aug 2008 23:04:57 3,072 posts
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    JYM60 wrote:
    I'd like a bit of an explanation on laterals. You can, like in rugby throw behind at an time. Right? Assuming this is the correct, why isn't it used more? I've only seen it used on 4th quarter kick returns really. Surely it could be useful to use it more often.

    Also. Can you fake fumble, and does this happen often? I mean dropping the ball on purpose so a teammate can pick it up and continue the play. I think I maybe seen this before, any rule on it?

    Isn't a 'lateral' the same as the shotgun passing set-up? It's been used for decades to qive the QB more time to pass. As has been pointed out it's relitively difficult to achieve effectively compared to being handed the ball and taking a few swift steps backwards.

    Similarly a 'faked fumble' would be immensely risky for very little gain compared to a hand-off/pass. I'm not even sure what the rules are governing what a player can do after recovering a fumble from their own team since it's essentially an incomplete pass.
  • DAL9000 2 Aug 2008 00:29:59 72 posts
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    Tabasco wrote:

    I *heart* American footie but cannot stand the amount of adverts so have drifted away the last couple of years.

    TiVO, dude. TiVO! You need never watch another ad again.

    And, re. my promised post on laterals: that'll be delayed. Rewriting the two-gap stuff ate up all my time, and I have to wander off and do some real-life crap now.

    Before I go, though: Psychotext, you'll be fine -- Madden is DEFINITELY designed to be casual-gamer-friendly. The lower difficulty settings will be a breeze for you, and if you're enjoying the action but you want a bit more of a challenge, you can eeeeeeeease yourself into the medium and high difficulties. Or just use the sliders to create hand-crafted difficulties! That's always a good approach.

    And, Price, I like the way you think -- seriously, risk vs. reward is the right way to assess /any/ offensive play, not just off-the-wall ideas. By the way, re. the rules, a player can recover a fumble from his own team and carry it forward normally, so far as I'm aware.

    But actually, the "fake fumble" idea has already been tried... and outlawed. It was called the Fumblerooski, although coaches occasionally come up with new twists on it right up to the present day.
  • The-Bodybuilder 2 Aug 2008 00:51:47 14,082 posts
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    DAL9000 wrote:
    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.

    That's not the London Blitz, is it?
  • Clive_Dunn 2 Aug 2008 07:51:17 4,775 posts
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    DAL9000 wrote:

    But actually, the "fake fumble" idea has already been tried... and outlawed. It was called the Fumblerooski, although coaches occasionally come up with new twists on it right up to the present day.

    Actually the whole "fake fumble" thing stemmed from the Holy Roller play back in the 1970's.

    http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=kNMy6FV10VM

    Not a great vid I'm afraid but you can get the jist. Cheating Raiders as usual.
  • DaM 2 Aug 2008 09:06:23 12,906 posts
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    Wait.....I think this must be a Turing Test! Well done DAL9000, you have passed with flying colours!

    A mate used to play this, for Glasgow Tigers AFC ("Are Fucking Crap" we used to say before he chased and hit us). To demonstrate the effectiveness of the padding, he would make you wear the shoulder pads, then smash you over the shouders with a dumbell - you didn't feel a thing!
  • The-Bodybuilder 2 Aug 2008 10:57:44 14,082 posts
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    I think you may need to explain the positions for some people here, who may not get it.
  • THFourteen 2 Aug 2008 11:08:09 32,905 posts
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    Are the dillon panthers a real team?

    if not, why not!
  • DAL9000 3 Aug 2008 10:35:31 72 posts
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    The Bodybuilder wrote:
    I think you may need to explain the positions for some people here, who may not get it.

    Right you are. That's actually a pretty important thing to do, so my post on laterals will be delayed AGAIN -- it's a-comin', though, I promise.

    So, without further ado, the positions.

    OFFENSIVE POSITIONS

    A typical offensive formation might look like this:

    WR..................T...G...C...G...T..TE..........WR
    .............................QB
    .....................................FB
    ................................RB (also called HB)

    What do all of these fancy-pants letters actually /mean/? I'm glad you asked!

    WR means wide receiver: guys whose basic job is to run fast and catch the ball. The details of exactly where they run and why they run there are extremely complicated, but really it all boils down to "run fast; catch ball." I'll be coaching this position this year, because it's the least complicated for a newbie coach to learn and teach.

    T, G, C, G, T

    These are, as mentioned in an earlier post, the offensive linemen. From left to right, they're the: tackle, guard, and center. (And then the guard and tackle again, but on the other side of the center.)

    The offensive tackles (so called to differentiate themselves from defensive tackles) anchor both ends of the line. On a passing play, the tackles are probably the most important members of the line, because they're typically facing off against the defensive linemen who are /most/ adept at getting to the quarterback. Accordingly, you want your tackles to have size, strength, and a LOT of technical ability -- and you don't really want to compromise on any of those fronts.

    The guards, on the other hand, probably need the least technical skill of any of the linemen. Accordingly, at the NFL level anyway, guards tend to be big, strong sumbitches whose main job is to block the equally big, equally strong guys across from them. They also have to have a fair amount of short-distance speed, because they'll sometimes be asked to move off of the line of scrimmage and block smaller, more agile defenders.

    The center is typically the lightest and often the most agile member of the offensive line. As mentioned earlier, he's the one who snaps the ball to the quarterback at the beginning of each play. He's also usually responsible for analyzing the opponent's defense before the play, and figuring out what (if any) changes to the offense's protection scheme need to be made. So, if you see the center calling out signals and pointing to defenders before the snap -- that's what he's doing. It's very much like a quarterback calling an audible, except it only applies to the offensive line. The rest of the play is unaffected.

    TE This is the tight end -- so called because he's at the end of the offensive line, but, unlike the wide receiver, is pulled in tight to the offensive tackle. A tight end is basically meant to be a hybrid between a wide receiver and a lineman. Since the ideal wide receiver is about 6'3", 230 pounds, and runs the 40 yard dash in about 4.4 seconds, whereas the ideal lineman is about 6'6", 320 pounds, and is, uh, a LITTLE slower... well, the plan of mixing 'em works just about as well as you'd expect.

    That's actually a little bit unfair to tight ends -- they can certainly be very valuable members of an offense -- but the plain fact is that most of the time, a team's #1 tight end will have FAR fewer receptions and yards than a team's #2 wide receiver, and sometimes fewer than the #3 or 4 wideout. At the same time, they also almost universally lack the run-blocking (and pass-blocking) skills of offensive linemen -- and they also lack the size and strength of a lineman.

    You should, however, bear in mind that a LOT of coaches who are a LOT smarter than me are firm believers in the value of a good TE.

    QB This is the quarterback -- the glamor position. His job is to pass the ball to his receivers, hand off the ball to his running back, and (as mentioned earlier) figure out what the defense is doing and change the call to a different play if necessary.

    FB This is the fullback -- which is confusing, because he's actually lined up /closer/ to the line of scrimmage than the halfback. Fullbacks are mainly used as run blockers; their job is to go through the same hole that the running back's about to use, find a defender who's trying to /fill/ that hole, and hit the sumbitch. Hard.

    Coaches who love physical, hard-nosed football tend to make heavy use of fullbacks, but the truth is that you can run the ball successfully without having a fullback. Accordingly, over the last decade or so, many NFL teams have moved away from using the fullback, preferring to put an extra wide receiver on the field -- many college teams have followed suit.

    RB This is the running back, also called the halfback. As the name implies, he's your team's running specialist -- running backs account for the VAST majority of most teams' rushing attempts and rushing yardage. As such, you want a guy who's fast, strong, and very, very quick -- good running backs are made in the weight room, not on the practice field. (The premise there is that doing hard work in the weight room will make you more athletic -- stronger, faster, more flexible -- and practice, y'know... won't.)

    So that concludes the offensive positions. What's next? The defense!

    A typical defense might look like this:


    ......FS............................SS....
    .............LB.....LB....LB............
    CB.....DE...DT...DT....DE.....CB

    FS, SS These are the free safety and strong safety, respectively. The strong safety is so called because he lines up over the "strong side" of the offensive formation -- the side with the tight end. If there's no TE, he... uh... I actually don't know what the rule is for which side the SS lines up on in the absence of a tight end. I've never asked. Huh. I'll put that on my to-do list.

    Anyway, the safeties' primary job is to defend against deep passes, which is why they start off so deep. Typically, the free safety is the better pure pass defender, while the strong safety is better against the run; this is because teams who /are/ using a tight end run the ball to the tight end's side (i.e., the strong side) more often than they do to the weak side, so the SS will frequently be your last line of defense against the run.

    LBs These are the linebackers. They have responsibilities against both the pass AND the run, and in fact they're expected to read a play within the first half-second to full second after the snap as either a pass or a run, and then react accordingly. They typically do this by watching what certain members of the offensive line are doing.

    Sometimes linebackers will be assigned to rush the passer. Sometimes they'll be assigned to PRETEND, before the ball is snapped, that he's going to rush the passer, but then fall back into coverage. When a linebacker (or anyone except for a defensive lineman) rushes the passer, it's called a blitz; when a linebacker /pretends/ he's going to blitz (typically by walking up to the line of scrimmage), it's called "showing blitz." Of course, you can never know in advance whether a 'backer who's showing blitz is faking or actually WILL blitz -- there's a certain amount of cat-and-mouse at play there.

    CBs are cornerbacks. Their job is to cover the wide receivers (or a certain space on the field), and accordingly they need to be fast and fluid athletes. The cornerbacks and safeties are collectively referred to as "the secondary" or "defensive backs."

    DEs are defensive ends. They're the smaller, slimmer, quicker cousins of defensive tackles; they're primarily used to try to rush the passer (i.e., generate pressure on or tackle the quarterback while he still has the ball), and aren't usually expected to be quite as good in run defense.

    These are the guys who are supposed to get by the offensive tackles -- and, just as the tackles tend to be the most athletic members of the offensive line, DEs are the most athletically gifted members of the D-line. Certainly you'll almost never see a defensive end who's sloppy-fat, and the days of DEs who are even a /little/ fat are coming to a close; what you want in a DE is a combination of size, speed, and strength -- and, while fat does add to size, it subtracts from speed and strength.

    DEs also need to have a lot of technical skill -- or at least enough that they have three or four different techniques that they can try to use against the offensive tackle over the course of the game.

    DTs are the shakes, the trembles -- the pink eleph... oh. Right. Ahem. I MEANT TO SAY that DTs are defensive tackles. This is the only position on defense at which you'll find a player who's sloppy-fat; DTs, unlike DEs, DTs don't really have to be fast, just big and strong.

    I've already talked a fair amount about what defensive tackles are expected to do, so I'll spare you that.

    That concludes the "let's go over the positions" talk. Joy!
  • Salaman 11 Aug 2008 11:26:30 18,890 posts
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    Ah ... saw a madden trhead yestreday but I couldn't find this one anymore.
    Good stuff since I last checked in.

    One practical Madden related question.
    I have madden'08 on the Wii. It's good fun but as a game, I enjoy the offense a lot more than the defense.
    Pick random play that looks good, try it, pick next play. Etc.

    When it comes to denfese though, it's useless. You can choose to control one of te defenders yourself but if you pick one of the DTs you just end up in the scrum after the snap. Maching buttons doesn't make a lot of difference.
    If you pick a DE you can try to make him run in from the side to get behind the line and either go for a sack if they pass or interrupt a run if they are running.
    This usually fails as the Tackle or TE starts grappling with you.

    So overall, the defensive side of the game feels very uninvolved. You best pick a team with good defensive stats and hope that the AI will do a good job at it. Your influence seems minimal.

    I've also not really figured out the plays on defense.
    On Offense, I'll try to vary the formation a bit and choose a run or pass and try to complete as planned in the play.

    On defense, the formations don't sem to make much sense really and I usually take Madden's suggested formation (cue fat, drunk voice going "THis one will stop them for Shuuure!" followed by a 60 yards touch down run as it uttely fails to stop them at all) sinc I really aren't sure what I'm looking at or looking for.

    Any info on defensive plays, formation variation and how to play them in the Madden games?


    Oh an unrelated issue I always have.
    When on defense, I always make the mistake of trying to take over from the AI.
    I'll mash the button to give me control to the player who's closest to the ball. The AI will usually have him well on his way towards the ball carrier and in position to make a swift stop to the play, then I press the button, take control of the player and inadvertedly send him runnin in the opposite direction, away from the carrier who then runs of for x more yards.

    /facepalm

    And I do it every fucking time!

    Just me?
  • StarchildHypocrethes 11 Aug 2008 11:34:47 25,431 posts
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    Shamelessly yanked from a post I made last year in the Madden 08 thread, but seems to cover what you were asking about Sal :)

    Corners are the defensive players that cover the offensive wide receivers (the guys who play on the wing effectively).

    Offensively the squad is made up of the Offensive Live (the huge guys stood in a line, a mix of guards and tackles). Then you have the Quarterback (the guy who chucks it), the Fullback (in some formations, he pretty much there purely to block for either the QB or the Running Back), the Running Back (he...well.....runs with the ball), the Tight End (sit's on the end of the offensive line and will either block or can peel of and catch passes) and the Wide Receivers (on the wing, are the primary targets for the QB to chuck the ball to).

    Defensively the squad is made up of the Defensive Line (the other huge guys stood in a line, a mix of tackles and defensive ends). You then have the Line Backers (stand behind the defensive line and are there to either stop the guys running with the ball or can drop back to aid pass defense), the Corner Backs (as described earlier, man mark the wide receivers) and finally the Safeties (last line of defense, will either move up to aid in stopping a runner or will hang back to defend the pass).

    Play wise, offensively there are various formations, but they all break down into either run plays or pass plays. A mix of both is pretty much required to be succesful as it keeps the defense guessing.

    Defensively, there are again numerous formations, each mainly having different numbers of line backers and corner backs. Ideally you want to have the same number of corner backs as the offense has receivers. There are then either 'man' formations or 'zone' formations. Man formations literally man mark player for player, whereas in a zone formation each player defends a particular area of the field (highlighted by coloured blobs in Madden). If you want to try and murder the QB too, go for a blitz package as it will send players charging at him screaming.

    There. Longest post ever :) Should cover the basics anyway. I haven't read through it mind you and it may make no sense whatsoever.

    When playing defense I usually select a safety, as this gives me control of a player who is involved in both run and pass plays.
  • Latin 11 Aug 2008 12:09:06 3,604 posts
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    Great thread by DAL9000, I love American Football and think this provides the basics to understanding it. Of course there is so much more to learn about this game, I could write a massive post for each of the individual positions but I can't be arsed. Don't get me started on all the different formations!

    You should get into American Football if you're interested in team sports, brutal hits, great skill, inhuman athleticism, tactics, strategy, intelligence etc etc Basically you have no excuse not to watch this!

    PS They wear pads because the hits are just so fucking hard. The "spear" tackle is outlawed in rugby, while it is standard procedure in American Football... you do the math.

  • Salaman 11 Aug 2008 12:37:34 18,890 posts
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    StarchildHypocrethes wrote:
    When playing defense I usually select a safety, as this gives me control of a player who is involved in both run and pass plays.

    Cool. I'll give that a go.
    Might take a while as I haven't touched madden in probably a year. :-)
  • Latin 11 Aug 2008 12:41:10 3,604 posts
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    Salaman wrote:

    I've also not really figured out the plays on defense.
    On Offense, I'll try to vary the formation a bit and choose a run or pass and try to complete as planned in the play.

    On defense, the formations don't sem to make much sense really and I usually take Madden's suggested formation (cue fat, drunk voice going "THis one will stop them for Shuuure!" followed by a 60 yards touch down run as it uttely fails to stop them at all) sinc I really aren't sure what I'm looking at or looking for.

    Any info on defensive plays, formation variation and how to play them in the Madden games?

    Defence is all about anticipating what the opposing offence's next play will be. To choose your defence you have to consider many things (in no particular order);

    Opposing offence's fromation: Put very very simply, if the opposition has 5 wide receivers in a shotgun it is more likely to pass the ball, however if it has the I-form with 2 tight ends on the strong side it is more likely to run to the strong side. Of course this is all part of the tactics and strategy, a massive part of the game is misdirection.

    Number of downs left: On first down, the opposition is more likely to run, beyond this it really depends on the next factor...

    Distance left to achieve 1st down: In general, the shorter the distance left the more likely that it will be a running play and vice versa. E.g. 3rd and inches: expect run, 3rd and 12: expect pass.

    Time (and situation) of game: If the opposition is leading by a great amount of points, expect run as this will run down the clock. If the opposition is well behind expect a lot of passing plays. However the time of game is also important in terms of the two minute warning and also how many time outs the opposition have remaining.

    Opposition's strengths and weaknesses: Before every game I look at the opposition's line up and look at each individual player. E.g. Is this offensive lineman a runblocker or a pass blocker? How strong is the QB's arm? What kind of receivers, quick or possesion? etc etc All of these things will not only give you an indication of the opposing team's likely strategy but will allow you to plan to exploit their weaknesses.

    Your own strengths and weaknesses: Very similar to above. For example if your defensive backs are all really good, you can afford to play more man to man coverage and send more linebackers to blitz more often. Or if your defensive line is full of monsters you can afford to have more players in coverage to defend the pass.

    Know your roster: Some teams are built around a 4-3 defense while others built around a 3-4 defence, stick to these formations as much as possible as the roster will be designed to excel when in these formations.In the same vein some teams are built around zone-coverage or man to man coverage, try to understand what the unit's identity is and put it practice.

    These are just a few things to consider. Also never listen to Madden!
  • DAL9000 11 Aug 2008 17:28:42 72 posts
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    Latin is right! (About all of the above.)

    But if you MUST listen to Madden, select the second-, third-. or fourth-choice plays, never the first. The first-choice play tends to be a high-risk, high-reward kind of play... which would be fine except that the game is deliberately tilted in favor of the offense (because scoring touchdowns is awesome and fun), so Madden's #1 suggestion is more of a high-risk, LOW-reward play.

    You're right, though, Salaman, that defense is kinda boring. That's really the main problem I have with Madden -- but if you're like me (horribly impatient), you can just sim past the defensive plays from the pause menu. Yay for Super Sim!

    Anyway, I came back to /finally/ post what I, y'know, said I'd post about nine days ago: the reason why laterals (i.e., rugby-style pitchbacks) aren't used more often. I was pleasantly surprised to see the thread still active. So if you do still have questions, feel free to sling 'em at me -- I'll answer as best I can.
  • JYM60 11 Aug 2008 17:49:32 16,783 posts
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    Random silly question.

    What are the chances of the any European team beating an NFL team?

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

  • DAL9000 11 Aug 2008 18:33:35 72 posts
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    JYM60 wrote:
    Random silly question.

    What are the chances of the any European team beating an NFL team?

    Way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, WAY under one percent. Maaaaaybe... one in several hundred thousand?

    I know that sounds dismissive but I'm being completely serious here. From my conversations with coaches who've been overseas, the highest level of competition in Europe is basically equivalent to very good high school football or possibly a lower division of college football, though there a few standout players who could play at a substantially higher level. There's a Swedish guy playing for Stanford in I-A football right now, for instance -- the highest level of college football and, thus, the highest level of competition below the NFL.

    There are three basic problems that European teams have: 1) lack of weight-room facilities and/or lack of time to use them; 2) lack of practice time; 3) lack of a large coaching staff that can provide big chunks of specialized instruction during practices.

    By contrast, most high-school programs in America have: 1) a conditioning schedule that goes something like: "lift weights and run 3 days a week; just lift 2 days a week; lift and play a game one day; rest one day.", at least during the season; 2) five or six practices a week in-season, usually each about 2 hours long; and 3) at least four or five assistant coaches to help run things during practices.

    Still, the most dedicated players in Europe -- youth and adult -- find ways around those obstacles, which is why I think a team of European all-stars could compete at the collegiate Division II level, and do very well. (Basically, college football goes, from best to worst: Division I-A, Division I-AA, Division II, Division III, NAIA, although the latter two are basically interchangeable.)

    But the thing is, the NFL gets its players from the very /best/ athletes at /all/ of the collegiate levels (mostly I-A because that's where the best athletes /go/), and makes football their full-time job. They're already bigger, faster, stronger, and more technically proficient than any team you'll ever find at the collegiate level. When you get them in an NFL weight room and give them the best coaching money can buy... yeah, they'll steamroll any opposition outside of other NFL teams.
  • DAL9000 11 Aug 2008 18:57:54 72 posts
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    Anyway! JYM writes: "I'd like a bit of an explanation on laterals. You can, like in rugby throw behind at any time. Right? Assuming this is the correct, why isn't it used more? I've only seen it used on 4th quarter kick returns really. Surely it could be useful to use it more often."

    Yep! It is indeed legal to throw the ball behind you at any time, and in fact there are two specific kinds of plays (outside of, as you mention, kick returns at the very tail end of the game) that hinge on doing exactly that. However, you'll almost never see either kind of play in the NFL.

    The first of these is called the hook-and-ladder, or the hook and lateral depending on who you talk to. It's a trick play, and it demands great precision and a lot of luck in the execution, so it's certainly not a staple of anyone's offensive arsenal. The basic idea is that you throw a deep pass to one receiver, and /he/ then tosses the ball back to ANOTHER receiver who's running a route that takes him RIGHT behind receiver #1 after the reception. This was most famously used in Boise State's 2006 Fiesta Bowl win over Oklahoma -- that's probably what you'll find if you do a YouTube search for "hook and ladder play," and it will show you what I'm talking about MUCH better than a big ol' collection of words can do.

    The other kind of play involving laterals is a LOT more common: it's called the "option," and is a running play instead of a passing play. Again, you almost never see it in the NFL, but it's incredibly common at every other level of football, from the highest to the lowest. I'll explain it more fully in a post of its own, because: 1) it /deserves/ a post of its own; aaaand 2) we're getting close to a new page in any case, so my hope is I can throw the option up in a block of text that's /separate/ from my /other/ blocks of text, and thus causes people's eyes to glaze over a teeny bit less.
  • JYM60 11 Aug 2008 19:03:06 16,783 posts
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    :)

    Nice responses.

    When I was in america last month I seen on ESPN's top ten plays there was a play (from a college game I think) with loads of laterals. Was pretty awesome. Tried finding a youtube vid of it but couldn't find it.

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

  • DAL9000 11 Aug 2008 19:30:49 72 posts
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    OK, so. Continuing our previous discussion -- and by "our discussion" I pretty much mean "my lecture," because that's just the kind of super-awesome teacher that I /am/ -- the question that was posed was: why aren't laterals (i.e. rugby-style pitchbacks) used more often?

    The answer, which didn't actually answer the question itself (this, again, is how you know I am a super-awesome teacher) is that there actually IS a kind of play involving laterals that's widely used. It's just not used at the NFL level.

    This play is called the "option," and, although there are about a bajillion variations on it, the key feature is this: the quarterback keeps the ball and runs towards the end man on the line of scrimmage, and the running back runs to his side and a couple yards back. The aim is to attack ONE defender, while blocking everyone else, and make that defender choose: will he try to tackle the quarterback, or will he try to contain the running back?

    If he goes for the quarterback, the QB laterals the ball to the RB. If he plays the RB, the QB keeps the ball and plows ahead himself. In diagram form (assuming the play is being run to the left):

    .............................QB
    .................RB

    is how they'll look as they run. Again, the goal is to isolate the defender and make him choose. The beauty is that whatever choice the defender MAKES is going to be wrong no matter what: if he goes for the ball-carrier, the QB pitches it out to the RB, and suddenly, hey presto! The lateral RIDES AGAIN.

    Now, why would you run the option at all when you can just hand the ball off to the RB? It all goes back to what i mentioned waaaaaaaaay back on my first post: game theory. Specifically, /in theory/ the offense has a serious problem on any given play: at most, there are only 10 offensive players available to block 11 defenders-- because one of them has to carry the ball.

    In practice, it's even worse: on a typical, non-option running play, there are only NINE offensive players available to block 11 defenders. The quarterback hands the ball to the RB and then he's done. The RB is still carrying the ball.

    Except... if you just hand the ball off and then pat the QB on the head and say "Good boy, now take a break.", you're /wasting a player/. Everybody else is either carrying the ball or neutralizing a defender via blocking; the QB is just standing around wondering which cheerleader to bang that night. Not cool.

    So the option gets around that problem: it lets the quarterback neutralize a defender, in effect making him a blocker -- because whatever the option defender does, the quarterback will render that decision useless. And suddenly it's 10 on 11 again instead of 9 on 11, and the play has a better chance at succeeding.

    You may also wonder why the option isn't used MORE, if it's so wonderful. There are two reasons: one is that the quarterback is, after all, your passing specialist. You don't /really/ want him to get beaten up running the ball; he's usually more valuable as a passer than a runner. (The one case where this doesn't apply is if your offensive system is built entirely around the option and you only ask the QB to throw it maybe 5 or 10 times a game; in that case, your QB is basically another running back who just happens to throw the ball from time to time.)

    The other reason is that, on a purely practical level, there are a TON of other ways to have a successful running game. The option is NOT the only way to skin that particular cat, and in fact it may not be the way that's best suited to a given team's personnel. If you have an offensive line that's five 300-pound maulers, you're going to do MUCH better with a straightforward power running game (conventional handoffs, RB attacks holes at the line of scrimmage) than with the option. After all, the option runs the ball outside the line of scrimmage, but if you have an advantage /at/ the LoS, you want to get the ball in there.

    This is why the option is widely regarded as a very good weapon for teams that are small or weak along the offensive line, by the way -- it lets you bypass the interior of the line, where your linemen are most likely to be getting their asses handed to them.
  • DAL9000 11 Aug 2008 19:36:20 72 posts
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    JYM60 wrote:
    :)

    Nice responses.

    When I was in america last month I seen on ESPN's top ten plays there was a play (from a college game I think) with loads of laterals. Was pretty awesome. Tried finding a youtube vid of it but couldn't find it.

    Here y'go! The Miracle in Mississippi. My college actually played the losing team in this game the next week, and got thrashed pretty soundly. Taking out their frustrations, they were.
  • JYM60 11 Aug 2008 19:40:24 16,783 posts
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    DAL9000 wrote:
    JYM60 wrote:
    :)

    Nice responses.

    When I was in america last month I seen on ESPN's top ten plays there was a play (from a college game I think) with loads of laterals. Was pretty awesome. Tried finding a youtube vid of it but couldn't find it.

    Here y'go! The Miracle in Mississippi. My college actually played the losing team in this game the next week, and got thrashed pretty soundly. Taking out their frustrations, they were.

    That is fucking brilliant! Looked like the QB was even getting involved.

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

  • alexc7496 11 Aug 2008 19:51:05 1,777 posts
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    DAL9000 wrote:
    JYM60 wrote:
    :)

    Nice responses.

    When I was in america last month I seen on ESPN's top ten plays there was a play (from a college game I think) with loads of laterals. Was pretty awesome. Tried finding a youtube vid of it but couldn't find it.

    Here y'go! The Miracle in Mississippi. My college actually played the losing team in this game the next week, and got thrashed pretty soundly. Taking out their frustrations, they were.

    Wow! Is that legal then? You never see the ball move between players in the NFL. DOn't think I have ever seen it.
  • DAL9000 11 Aug 2008 20:04:25 72 posts
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    It's legal, yes. Another famous example along those lines, and it pains me SO VERY MUCH to send you this, is: The Play, also known as The Band Is On The Field. Or, to Stanford fans like me, it's called: OH COME ON THERE WAS A FORWARD PASS IN THERE.

    Which brings me to the point of /how/ it's legal: you may, at any time, pass the ball backwards or horizontally. But, on a play that starts from scrimmage (i.e., NOT a kickoff), there are two restrictions on forward passing: 1) you may only make one forward pass per play, and 2) you may NOT make a forward pass once the ball has advanced past the line of scrimmage.

    On a kickoff, you may not make a forward pass, period.

    So, in both cases, the only reason it was legal is that the ball was being passed backwards and/or sideways on each lateral. And, yes, you're right that you'll almost never see it in the NFL-- the only time it happens is, as JYM said, during kickoff returns in the waning seconds of play when the receiving team is down by a touchdown or less.
  • agentk1986 11 Aug 2008 23:08:45 56 posts
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    If you are ever in America try to make a trip to Buffalo, NY and wave a banner around town that reads "what does it feel like to win a Super Bowl?" Then videotape it and see if you make it out of their alive.
  • Salaman 12 Aug 2008 17:19:22 18,890 posts
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    hehe :-)
    I was an exchange student in BFLO and for fundraising, our local group of the exchange organisation had a concession stand at Rich Stadium in Orchard Park. We'd go each week, set up, do the pre-game and half time rush of customers and then me and my friend would sneak off to go watch the second half from some vacant seats we found.

    It was in 94, the 4th consecutive superbowl loss for the Bills I think.

    GO BRUCIE!!

    Aaaah good times.
  • THFourteen 2 Sep 2008 16:58:27 32,905 posts
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    \o/

    i am going to see Miami Dolphins @ NY Jets at Giants on 28th December!

  • StarchildHypocrethes 2 Sep 2008 17:40:19 25,431 posts
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    Excellent! I am very jealous indeed.

    Got to see my Dolphins last year at Wembley. Unfortunately they were shit! Good news for you though is that the Jets vs Dolphins always tend to be cracking games.
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