Copyright 2011 by John T. Reed

I DVRed the 10/1/11 game between Tulane and my alma mater Army. It was very encouraging for Army fans.

‘Couldn’t replicate’

The story of the game appeared to be the same old refrain Army used to hear in the Jim Young era. “Our scout team could not replicate the speed of Army’s option offense.”

That is one of the main principles in my book The Contrarian Edge for Football Offense—to run an offense that the opposing defense has little or no experience against. Furthermore, it is even better if you can do that with high-reps skills, like the triple option. That’s because the opposing scout team only has, what, an hour on Monday to learn how to run the contrarian offense. Then they only have three or four days to practice against the scout team’s version of it.

Other forms of contrarian-ness, like unusual formations, can be replicated by the enemy scout team in minutes. So good for Army that they figured that out and can execute it—at least against non-option teams. I am concerned however, as to how they will do against the other service academies—Air Force and Navy—when they play them. Those teams run the option, too. Their scout teams can replicate it.

Fumbled snap

I saw a fumbled snap by Army in the game.

That is bullshit.

I have made this point in previous comments about Army games, perhaps no clearly enough.

There is no excuse for screwing up a fundamental.

Fundamentals include:

• snapping

• holding

• tackling

• blocking

• pursuit angles

• pursuit speed

Army has several excuses for not being as competitive as they would like to be:

• ongoing wars that West Point graduates have to serve in

• the unattractive ordeal of cadet life

• inability of army football players to have NFL careers after college

But when it comes to mastering fundamentals, I am not interested is hearing anything about those excuses. You don’t need talent to hustle and using proper technique is hustle.

Significantly less talented

My youth teams were generally significantly less talented than our opponents. We had to have 18 players and could have no more than 35. We typically had around 18 or 20; our opponents, 35 that they cut down to. We could not cut at all because you can only do that when more than 35 tryout.

I had affluent suburban kids. Our best opponents were inner-city kids. They would typically have about five guys faster than my fastest guy. On one long TD run, Oakland was being chased by my son Dan, who later played tailback at Columbia. Dan could not shrink the gap between him and the ball carrier on the 70-yard run. But another Oakland player overtook Dan from behind, passed him, then turned around and decleated him.

Anyway, Army’s talent gap is not as great as mine was. Our solution was to get to the opposing offenses while they were still in first gear because we could not catch them when they were in third gear. We ran a gap-8 defense all the time one year, a 10-1 defense the next, and finally settled on the Gap-Air-Mirror defense which I invented. It rushes six to eight guys on every play. It worked great. See the testimonials at my Web site if you doubt that.

But our success on defense was not just from my scheme. You have to have good fundamentals, including pursuit. We emphasized that and demanded perfect angles and full speed, 15 minutes per night at practice every night. The result was that our game films often looked like training films of correct pursuit.

Was our full speed slower than our opponents’ full speed? Absolutely. But we were damned well going at our full speed. The problem I saw last year with Army was that they were not pursuing at even their own relatively slow full speed. There is no excuse for that.

Same is true of taking correct angles on pursuit.

Speed handicaps at Army or on my youth teams are irrelevant until you let the SOBs get behind you. The whole idea of correct defensive fundamentals and our scheme was to prevent them from getting behind us, which we generally did once we figured it out.

There was no excuse for Army’s poor defensive fundamentals in 2010. I am glad to see they have generally corrected that in 2011.

What is the technique that prevents fumbled snaps?

Get each QB-center pair at least 1,200 snaps before the first game and then give them 50 to 100 snaps per practice thereafter.

Did Army do that?

Since they had a fumbled snap in the fourth game of the season, I strongly suspect they did not get those reps.

By the way, we also brought out buckets of water often to make sure many of the practice snaps were with wet balls. Same applies to the long snapper for place kicks and punts although he does not need a partner. He can practice alone. But all three strings of each position—center, quarterback, and long snappers—must get those 1,200 reps, with each QB-c pair in the case of the QB under center snap.

Like I said, Army fumbling a snap in the Tulane game was bullshit. Either inability to count to 1,200 or not knowing that they need to.

Gang tackling

I saw lots of good gang tackling in the Tulane game. Excellent. That is a fundamental, a habit any player of any talent can exhibit. When I coached my teams always practiced pursuit 15 minutes per day. One day a week it was to emphasize gang tackling. The other two days were pass pursuit and wide play pursuit. This is discussed in my books Coaching Youth Football, Coaching Youth Football Defense, Coaching Youth Flag Football, and Gap-Air-Mirror Defense for Youth Football.

There are three aspects to gang tackling:

• recognizing when it’s time to sprint to the ball carrier to join the tackle (our sideline yells “Gang!” once a tackle has been started)

• sprinting to the ball carrier

• refraining from continuing to make the hit after the whistle

Problems are typically eight or nine guys going off duty before the whistle, going at less than full speed, and jumping onto the pile after the whistle.

In general, I thought the Army defense looked very good, very much improved in this game.

I do not know. Maybe someone can tell me. Did Army get a new defensive coordinator between 2010 and 2011?

Passing game

Army’s passing game has been pathetic. In this game, they were 3 of 3 for 70 yards, one TD, and no interceptions.

It this a great thing? We studied probability and statistics at West Point. Because of that I must say that we need a larger sample size before we conclude that Army now has a great passing game.

For a contrarian team like Army, the pass is like insurance. It’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. In general, they should run to victory. But if and when that is taken away, they need to be able to take what the defense is giving them, including the pass.

No timeouts in odd-numbered quarters

Army called two timeouts during the first quarter. Page 197 of my Football Clock Management book says never call timeout in an odd-numbered quarter. It also says not to call them until about 5:00 left in each half. Why? Until then you do not know if you are going to be in a hurry-up or slowdown at the end of the half. Until you know, you do not know whether to call a hurry-up (right after previous play) or slowdown (just before play clock ends) timeout.

Army calling two timeouts in the first quarter was coaching malpractice. You have to actually script not calling timeouts into practice to prevent them. Generally, with current rules, the quarterback probably should not be authorized by the coach to call timeouts. It used to be coaches could not call them, Now that they can, why is the QB allowed to do so?

Extraordinary number of turnovers and penalties by Tulane

It must be acknowledged that the Army rout of Tulane was greatly aided by Tulane turning the ball over and getting penalized more than normal.

Pete Dawkins

Pete Dawkins was in the booth for the third quarter. He is West Point class of 1959, won the Heisman Trophy in 1958, was First Captain of the Corps of Cadets (cadet commander of all the other cadets), and was a Rhodes Scholar. Pretty spectacular, huh? He was a professor when I was a cadet. The whole Long Gray Line was sure he was going to become president in his 40s.

Did not happen. He became the youngest brigadier general, then,while in the hospital with a bad back and a lot of time to think, he decided to get out of the Army. That was a big shock. I mean you would think the guy had it made in the Army. Reading between the lines, I suspect he encountered a lot of jealousy from superiors in the Army. When you win all those awards, people tend to be on high alert for any evidence that they are better than him at anything or that he is imperfect.

Anyway, he went to Wall Street. Not fitting the prior story line that well.

Eventually, he did go into politics in 1988. He ran for Senate in New Jersey. He is from Michigan. His opponent, Democrat Frank Lautenberg, a non-West Point, non-Heisman Trophy winner, non-Rhodes Scholar, beat Dawkins by an 8-point margin.

Lautenberg accused Dawkins picking New Jersey based on political analysis, not any connection to the state. When you work on Wall Street, you can probably run in NY, CT, or NJ. It was also discovered during the campaign that Dawkins campaign literature said he had been wounded in Vietnam. He had not. Time or one of those expressed astonishment that Dawkins, of all people, would get caught padding his resume. Dawkins blamed a staffer—an un-West-Point-Cadet-like thing to do. We were trained to say “No excuse.”

During the campaign, all of us West Point graduates received a letter from Pete. My opinion of him dropped from very positive to very negative because of that letter. Basically, it asked for campaign contributions. It said nothing about his policy positions. It did not even mention his party. Its thesis seemed to be that we should give solely because we went to the same college and that his success in politics would reflect a little glory on us.

My sense is that the current opinion of Dawkins in the Long Gray Line is that he peaked too early. Great senior year of college then never heard from again.

He seems like a nice guy. Intelligent but I think one who did not know he was a Rhodes Scholar would be mildly surprised to learn that. Very political. Has a filter when he speaks. Plays well with others. Super at winning college kid awards in a variety of fields but no evidence of any adult accomplishments other than persuading various committees to anoint him to various large organization bureaucratic positions or boards or commissions.

No individual accomplishments after college. No books written. No inventions. No businesses started. No buildings built. No companies taken public.

But George Bernard Shaw said

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world. The unreasonable one persists in trying to adjust the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.

Pete Dawkins is a reasonable man. Make a nice impression.

Incompetent slowdown

In the Northwestern game two weeks before, Army’s slowdown offense was incompetent. It was also in this game. They should be snapping the ball at :01 left on the play clock. Instead they are snapping it at :05 and up to, I’m guessing because sometimes it was so early the TV as not showing the play clock—:15.
John T. Reed