Copyright 2011 by John T. Reed

I will make this brief because that is all that is needed.

Army football has been an embarrassment for so long I have trouble remembering. We just lost our tenth straight Army-Navy Game so it apparently at least ten years.

1. We lost 4 fumbles in the 2011 A-N game. Fumbles cannot be totally eliminated. But fumbles above the major college average (I could not find the stat but I expect is is about one per game) are preventable and the preventive measure is hiring a competent coaching staff. We had trouble with this last year, too. Enough!

2. For the second year in a row, West Point used its one-minute promo opportunity to show a series of cadets in civilian clothes talking about what sounded like civilian college summer activities. And I keep reading in letters to us alums that West Point is now into “branding.” Branding is MBA jargon. I am a Harvard MBA. I will not go into all the things that branding includes, but denying your essential identity and trying to prove you are something you are not is the opposite of branding. Navy’s promo was video of uniforms, parades, summer military training and all that. Army, get a clue from Navy on how to brand yourself.

3. Our last chance to win the 2011 A-N game was blown by an Army defender jumping offside in a 4th-and-1 obvious hard-count situation. Everyone in the stadium knew Navy was going to try to draw us offside, yet one Army guy still fell for it. And the TV announcers constantly commend the cadets and midshipmen as our future saviors in war. Jesus Christ! If we cannot even avoid jumping offside in these situations—which also happened with the 2010 Army team—we are likely to lose World War III for some reason like a West Point grad football player forgot to bring the ammo to the front. How about we discharge the Army football players at graduation and give the commissions instead to the Oregon football players? They are more disciplined and smarter. Don’t anyone give me shit for that statement. Instead, send me the evidence that Oregon football players are more likely to fumble or jump offside in a 4th-and-1 hard-count situation. And if you cannot find that evidence, give the people running West Point and the Army football team shit, not me.

Football is not a serious matter. National defense is. Football is a warlike game. Douglas MacArthur, West Point class of 1903, said,

On the fields of friendly strife are sown the seeds that on other fields on other days will bear the fruits of victory.

The corollary to that is that

On the fields of friendly strife are sometimes revealed the fact that the people playing for and running the U.S. Military Academy are not up to the standard required for victory in real wars.

I do not think the fact that we have not won a war since 1945 is unconnected with the fact that our Military Academy is incapable of avoiding being embarrassed on the football field by opponents whose education costs a fraction of what it costs to produce a West Point graduate and whose admission standards are far lower. Our nation of draft dodgers is afraid to criticize the military. Someone needs to express concern that the top military people cannot even produce football players who execute basic fundamentals or coaches and administrators who cannot even figure out that conventional tactics and strategies will not work when you cannot recruit the same athletes as our opponents. Perhaps Army football should consult with the guys who have kicked America’s butt in real combat in Vietnam, Somalia, Afghanistan, and Lebanon. They were bigger underdogs than even Army football, yet they figured out ways to win. The North Vietnamese, for example, figured out that they needed to “grab the Americans by the belt,” in other words get so close to the Americans that they would be afraid to use their air power and artillery. That is the kind of thinking we do not have in the U.S. Army or the Army football team. It is the kind of thinking I put in The Contrarian Edge for Football Offense.

4. Army has extreme recruiting disadvantages because of the Spartan cadet life, inability to have an NFL career after playing for Army, and almost certain post-graduation deployment to ground-pounding infantry type duty in places like Afghanistan and Iraq. Fine, that means we cannot recruit the same types of players as our opponents, including Navy and Air Force, who do not have to pound the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The antidote to inability to recruit is contrarian offense. I wrote a book about that, the ONLY book about it probably. It’s called The Contrarian Edge for Football Offense. That includes Moneyball type recruiting and designing an offense that puts the strengths it can recruit against the weaknesses of the opponent, almost all of whom are running the same sort of defense. I have offered a zillion suggestions to Army like recruiting left-handed quarterbacks, high school quarterbacks who are overlooked because they are second-string behind a great QB, recruiting great fullbacks and tight ends who are not good enough to play NCAA major college but who could be great interior O linemen in an offense that recognizes the line must move not sumo wrestle opponents on every play, and on and on.

Recruit the tweeners and give them a tweener offense

My oldest son was recruited by Ivy League and Division III high-academic recruiters. He got into Columbia, Dartmouth, and Yale and a football recruit, and played tailback for four years at Columbia. I wrote an article about it at In that process, I learned that college football recruiters have a word for great high school football players who are not recruited to play college: tweener. That is, guys who are not big enough to be big men in college football (offensive and defensive lines) and not fast enough to be fast guys in college (receivers, defensive bcks, and running backs). That means Army could recruit a whole team of great high school tweeners and give them a tweener offense that puts fast linemen on the field to befuddle the opponents’ big linemen and puts big on little against the opponents fast defenders. (We can’t run over your defensive linemen but we can out run them. We can’t outrun your blue chip defensive backs, but we can run over them with our beefier-than-thou tweener receivers and running backs.)

See my articles Suggestions for Army football and the following articles which also have additional suggestions:

2010 Army-Navy Game


Current Army coach Rich Ellerson has give Army some triple-option football, but otherwise the same stuff as everyone else. We cannot compete with everyone else using the same offensive scheme as everyone else because they have better athletes than we can recruit. We have to have a radically different approach to recruiting and to every aspect of offense. TV announcers should spend the whole game raving about the innovations and weirdness of Army’s offense when they broadcast Army games.

Will it work? I cannot be sure. But I am sure than not being contrarian will not work.

My contrarian book calls for doing the following in ways that your opponent has never seen or maybe never even heard of:

• unusual and unpredictable tempo
• never used locations of backs
• more versatile use of interior linemen—they are allowed to pass, run with the ball, catch backward passes, run pass routes beyond the line of scrimmage and block defenders while the pass is in the air if no pass that crosses the line of scrimmage in thrown on the play
• extreme line splits and line depths
• formations that are either totally balanced—more unusual than you probably think—or extremely unbalanced
• creating mazes made up of blockers on the other side of the line of scrimmage rather than always running straight “north”

There is a lot more in the book. You can see the table of contents here.

Army has excuses for not recruiting blue chip high school football players. But they have no excuses for Army players not executing fundamentals or for Army trying to recruit the same players as other colleges and for trying to run the same offense as the colleges who can recruit those players. We have to recruit the best high school athletes we can and give them every possible contrarian advantage so they have a chance to compete against more talented teams.

John T. Reed, West Point Class of 1968
author of multiple football coaching books