Copyright 2014 by John T. Reed

Below are comments I posted on Facebook during the 2014 BCS title game on January 6, 2014. They are in chronological order.

Nick Saban is a great TV analyst. Tebow, on the other hand, should not quit his day job. What a stiff!
Unfortunately, being a TV analyst IS Tebow’s new day job.
Oh, well, he’s still young. But I’m guessing he will end up as a high school football coach.
Saban, on the other hand, is a 750-pound gorilla. He can coach, TV comment, become a Hollywood leading man, run for governor, go to Harvard Medical School, whatever he wants.

Coin toss

After a controversy because a team claimed they called the opposite of what the ref said and should have won the toss, I said, “Just print home on one side and visitor on the other and flip it without a call—or go to the baseball format: visitors bat first.” Tonight in the BCS title game, they had a coin with Auburn on one side and FSU on the other. No call.
Did the get that idea from me? I doubt it. But they sure as heck took years more to figure it out.

Timeout at beginning of game

Auburn just called timeout 1 minute into the game! My clock book says never call timeout in an odd-numbered quarter. Indeed, never call timeout until the last five mutes of a half, and even then, there is an optimum time to call them.

Lack of vision

A lot of running back and running QBs in the bowl games seem to lack vision. Vision is the ability of a ball carrier to see daylight or green grass as opposed to piles of bodies, then run to the daylight. The Auburn QB just ran into a pile of bodies for not the first time in this game.
My son Dan had vision which is pretty important for a white college tailback, but coaches seem better able to see 40 times and less able to see vision so I think my son did not get the amount of playing time and carries he should have in college. My youngest son also had vision as a high school tailback.
I think I may have had vision, too, but it was so long ago I don’t remember. I got tackled but I do not remember ever running into a pile of people that did not surround me.
I think the others—those lacking in vision—get tunnel vision. They pick their path in advance then see that path as if through a keyhole. They are intent on blasting through there which is good, unless there was an open path just to the right or left that required no blasting.

Coach Malzahn

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn, whom I lauded as one of four contrarian coaches back in the first edition of my book The Contrarian Edge for Football Offense appears to be out-scheming the FSU defense in the BCS game.
I love that kind of thing. Fans love a great catch or run. I love a great coach move.

Auburn’s defense also seems to be out-scheming FSU’s offense.

Mason has vision

Auburn’s Tre Mason has vision, and their QB has speed.

Broadway Joe and Heisman Jameis

Joe Namath was called Broadway Joe initially. Then he got involved in owning a bar with some undesirables. He was ordered to divest. He refused. The NFL banned him. He sold the bar interest and was reinstated. Sportswriters said he looked more like Beaver Falls Joe (the PA town he was from) than Broadway Joe.
Jameis Winston of FSU is the second freshman to win the Heisman. But in tonight’s game, Jameis looks more like Freshman Jameis than Heisman Jameis.

Fake punt

Great call and a great execution of the fake punt by FSU. I love coaches who compete on special teams. Most just try to get them over with without a disaster.

Attacking the weak point

I coached flag football one season when my youngest son was 11. 1 coach from each team was allowed on the field. I would walk up to the line like Peyton Manning, look at the defense, find the weak spot, then call a play code, and the kids would run that play through the weak spot. It was like shooting fish in a barrel. Eventually both my players and their parents were laughing out loud about how easy it was. Then the defensive coach out on the field also saw what I was doing and started stemming his stud after my play call. So I started calling plays AT the stud. See my book Coaching Youth Flag Football ( CYFF.htm)
Gus Malzahn looks like he’s doing the same—in the BCS title game!

Parking at the Rose Bowl

I went to a Rose Bowl game once—the stadium, not the Bowl. My son Mike’s team, Arizona, was playing UCLA in a regular season game. The Rose Bowl is UCLA’s home field. Mike was an equipment manager for AZ. Don’t laugh. It got him a full-out-of-state tuition scholarship plus additional money, per diem, free clothes, and trips to the Las Vegas, Holiday, and Alamo Bowls. He was there along with Gronkowski and Foles among other future NFL players.
You park your car on a freaking golf course! Not at the parking lot of a golf course. On the fairways! Considering they have been playing there for 100 years, I would have thought they would have created a parking lot at some point.

FSU calls timeout in 3rd quarter!

Now FSU calls a timeout in an odd-numbered quarter. Very suboptimal. The best time to call timeouts is when you are likely to lose (because you are trailing or about to trail) and your opponent is in a slow-down. Doing it that way saves enough time to run seven more plays. When you do as FSU just did, they only save enough time to run about two or three more plays.

As fas as getting out of a bad play is concerned, it’s not worth five plays plus you have to be able to do that when you have no timeouts. Use that method.

Halftime adjustments

Some coaches are good at game planning, like my son’s college coach at Columbia Ray Tellier. Some are good at half-time adjustments. Not Ray Tellier. Apparently, FSU roach Jimbo (they made me add the bo) Fisher is better at halftime adjustments than Gus Malzahn.

No block tackles

Auburn guy tried to block tackle an FSU fullback at the five-yard line. He should have wrapped him. You always wrap. Never try to block a guy down. The fullback hurdled him and scored the TD to bring FSU to within one point of Auburn. That is another example of using technique that works against lesser opponents but not the top opponents. Coaches have to discipline their players to use the championship game technique all pre-season and all season long.

Question from a reader

Jason P Wilcox Without the penalty there. .. go for two?

John T. Reed Without the penalty, I would go for two, maybe as a fake place kick. I do not like the common preference for OT to going for the win. What reason is there to believe that if you could not win in 4 quarters that you’re suddenly going to win in OT? When you have a chance to win in regulation, go for it.

Finish the run

Auburn’s QB Marshall is a training film of how NOT to finish a run. Shoulder down and head up legs driving is correct. He kind of reacts to the tacklers by leaning back as if he were avoiding a baseball bat being swung at chin level.

Wear out the opponent with no-huddle

Auburn’s whole-game hurry-up is driving at least one FSU DL out of the game with fatigue. Auburn should have been in what I call a hurry-up slowdown the whole game until they lost the lead. That is, you snap near the end of the play clock, but between the ready-to-play signal and the snap, you exhaust the defense with multiple high-speed shifts and motions. I have never seen anyone do it. Whether it would have been enough to end the game before the KOR TD, I cannot say at the moment. But the hurry-up slowdown exhausts defenders faster if you force the linemen to move with going from balanced to unbalanced or even the swinging-gate formation.

How about that Tre Mason!

Did I say Tre Mason had vision?
Not to mention everything else you need in a running back.


Except for the lousy Auburn kickoff coverage on the FSU TD return, I have not seen much coaching in the fourth quarter. Mainly just gutty players giving “110%.”

Chris Davis: hero to goat

Chis Davis, the hero who scored the 109-yard TD to get Auburn into this game, has been a bit of a goat. I think he muffed three kickoffs and he committed interference at the end of the game giving FSU 1st and goal at the two. Davis’s final kick return should have been a touchback. He did not get out to the 25.

Final play laterals

Correct final play by Auburn, but not executed correctly. Mason had to lateral, not get tackled. He may have tried. Not much blocking that I could see during the final play. There is a chapter on laterals in my clock book and one of my clock rules is that certain final plays should always end with endless laterals, not being tackled or run out of bounds. In HS and NFL, that applies to PATs and final plays of the game. In NCAA, only to final plays of the game.


Heisman Jameis made a late, just-in-time appearance in the BCS title game. Hell of a finish. Everyone got their money’s worth and no one stayed home because it was 5º below zero in Pasadena.

Special teams

The fake punt by FSU was well executed and the defense against it was lousy. There is a contain man on each side of a defense and each side of a punt or kickoff coverage team. Standard rule is if flow goes away from you, you change into the trail man and your job is to look to the other side of the field to see if there is a possible ball carrier coming at you. If the play is a reverse, you will see that there is—before he gets the ball. Then it is your job to tackle him or at least make him change direction to avoid you. Auburn’s trailman either was not where he should have been or he got blocked. I do not remember seeing such a defender get blocked. Basic mistake I as a coach and as a writer of coaching books emphasize the importance of the trail man against scrimmage reverses as well as punt return and kickoff return reverses.
My weekly punt defense and kick off defense practices always have reverses, fake reverses, and backward pass scripted into the practice schedule so the players are reminded of the existence of reverses, fake reverses, and backward passes—and how to defend them—every week all season long. That also made us better at executing the play as the team with the ball.
Want to know what went wrong on Auburn’s kickoff coverage? The TV announcers did an excellent job of explaining that showing in a replay that Auburn #33 failed to stay in his lane which was out wide to the right. Instead he went inside, a mistake I doubt you would see on a kickoff by my teams or those of my readers, even at the youth level. Why?
I made the same mistake as #33 when I was a freshman in High school. No coach had taught me to stay in my lane, nor did any say anything after the play, but I figured it out for myself at age 14. So my teams and my readers were informed with emphasis not to make that mistake.
In 1997, when I coached Granada freshmen my kickoff team let a ball carrier get outside him for a TD—no reverse or backward pass. He only momentarily put his head on the inside of the widest blocker. But that was enough. I fired him immediately and he complained he only made one mistake.
I repeated that he was fired and he stayed fired and no one else on that team made that mistake the rest of the season.

For some reason, I found that contain men would not believe me with regard to the existence of the reverse and fake reverse until they were burned for a TD in a game or TD. When I practiced it weekly, that did not convince them. So we tried to do a formal intrasquad scrimmage complete with special teams and officials in pre-season and burn them in that game rather that have them get burned in a real game. After they got burned, they had trailman religion.

Another special teams failure by Auburn was they missed a chip-shot field goal. And what was the final margin of victory in this 34-31 victory. Why did they miss the field goal? Kicker screwed up. Snap and hold were good. Protection was good. He just pulled it. A reader said he pushed to the other side. Whatever. On TV they showed it from so many different angles you can lose track. The point is it was so short range than the probability of success is well into the 90%s.



Reader comments

John Matthews I hadn't seen much of Winston until tonight. I was beginning to wonder. Can't forget he is only a freshman. I don't like his throwing motion. not real smooth but he responded

I am not sure what to make of Jameis Winston. Here is a Wikipedia mention of a criminal investigation:

On November 14, 2013, the Florida State Attorney’s Office announced they were opening an investigation into a sexual assault complaint involving Winston that was originally filed with the Tallahassee Police Department (TPD) on December 7, 2012.[13] The complaint was originally investigated by the police and classified as open/inactive in February 2013 with no charges being filed.[14][15] Tallahassee police stated that the complaint was made inactive "when the victim in the case broke off contact with TPD, and her attorney indicated she did not want to move forward at that time" and then re-examined after media requests for information started coming in early November.[16] On December 5, 2013, state attorney Willie Meggs announced the completion of the investigation and that no charges would be filed against anyone in this case.[17] Allegations of improper police conduct have been made by both parties, with the victim claiming to have been pressured into dropping her claim and Winston's attorney alleging inappropriate leaks to the media.

I heard Winston declare that he had been vindicated or exonerated. No. That would take a trial. Some people would want such a trial to clear their name. I got honorably discharged from the Army for “defective attitude.” I did not want to stay in the Army, but I had a five-year obligation as a result of graduating from West Point that I felt I should complete. They said I could resign immediately but I insisted on their holding the administrative hearing where evidence would be presented. The law said I would get a copy of the transcript, which I did. I had to stay in the Army for an extra year—delaying the start of my life that long—I was not going to accept an evidence-less cloud.

If Winston assaulted that girl, he should not have been on any NCAA football team, eligible for the Heisman, or winning a national championship.

OJ Simpson also won a Heisman, with the highest vote total ever. Even as a boy in San Francisco, he was a famous, great athlete, but also a criminal punk. People who knew him asked San Francisco Giant baseball player at the time Willie Mays to please go talk to Simpson. He did, urging Simpson to knock off the bad behavior. It seemed to work.

I am concerned that if Winston assaulted that girl, then got police to dismiss it, won the Heisman, and the national championship, that he thinks he is above the law and beyond suffering any consequences.

He reportedly has been a great student of football and quarterbacking since age 12. I am very impressed by that.

But he talks like a moron. He is from Alabama and seems to speak in some sort of Deep South black patois.

If he was smart enough to learn quarterbacking at age 12, why has he not been smart enough to learn English. Certainly he would earn more money from endorsements if he did after college. Desmond Howard, another former Heisman winner, was one of the analysts for the BCS game. He is black and infinitely more articulate than Winston. Hell, even OJ can speak English. Johnny Football was another BCS analyst, and the first freshman Heisman winner from 2012. The contrast between the speech of the two, back-to-back, freshman Heisman winners was painful to watch. Take away the football stuff and if they both went through a 100 job interviews, Manziel would probably get 95 offers and Winston, 1—maybe.

And it’s not just word choice. Winston also spouted all sorts of illogical nonsense along motivation lines. The interviews with him sound as if they were interviews with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Uncle Remus alternating rapidly between intelligence, incoherent babble, and hip hop. Using different words to describe it, one of the ESPN analysts noted the wildly varying nature of Winston’s various comments.

Ray Pascali I just finished reading all of your post. Excellent analysis! I missed most of your points while watching the game live but could see it more clearly after watching the ESPN highlights this morning. Basically I'm just watching the ball while you're seeing the entire play.

Ah! The difference between a fan and a coach. We see more of the play—not all of it—because our job is to win the game and you have to see the whole play to see what’s working and what’s not. From watching endless hours of film focusing on one player each time you run the play and then running the same play about 15 times to see all 11 players, you unconsciously acquire the ability to see more of the play than just the path of the ball.

We see each play as sort of a hologram. Similar to what you see when driving a car. You don’t focus on the dashboard or the lines painted on the road or adjacent vehicles and all that. You mainly focus on pointing the hood ornament down the middle of the lane you are in and you pick up all the rest from peripheral vision and some eye movements as needed.

For example, in the FSU KOR for a TD, I saw Auburn’s # 33 leaving his lane—as did TV analyst Herbstreit a the time—because to us football coaches, he was a coverage lane tackler moving diagonally. I have walked behind walk-throughs of my kickoff coverage team and punt team thousands of times in practice looking intently for just that or even slight facsimiles of that. As soon as I see any of my coverage guys moving other than in a straight line down the field, I yell “FREEZE!” then go to the guy moving diagonally and point out what he is doing to him and the rest of the team. “Look where you are! Look at the big gap you have opened between you and the guy on your right and how close you are to your teammate on your left! Get back where you belong! Stay in your lane!” Then after repositioning that guy, I would yell “Resume!” and the team would continue walking down the field toward the kick returner with me again looking for the slightest deviation from staying in your lane. Then we would do it again in the other direction this time at full speed but with me again chasing them down the field looking for the slightest deviation from staying in one’s lane. There was nothing slight about what Auburn’s #33 did. The guy went flying across two lanes to his left leaving his open and that was compounded by the guy to his left coming up lame in the middle of the play.

You guys who watch the ball, perhaps including Brent Mussberger, see a great kick return. We coaches who have a softer focus on about 15 or 20 players at a time, see the egregious crossing of multiple lanes by #33. It was not a great return. It was one defender in the path of the ball carrier going lame and the guy next to him committing one of the monstrous cardinal sins of kick coverage—not only leaving his lane but going two or three lanes to his left! FSU also made two good blocks. The ball carrier had little to do other than outrun one or two guys from irrelevantly far away coverage lanes.

Some of my readers may ask, “Could #33 have been a free tackler?” I recommend either all coverage personnel in lanes other than the kicker who stays longitudinally even with the ball carrier OR having two free tacklers who go straight to the ball carrier and everyone else in wider lanes. So was #33 a free tackler? If he was, he did a lousy job of that, too. He was way to the left of the ball carrier. He should have tackled him early in the return if he was a free tackler, or drawn away one of the two effective blocks. He did not come close to doing either. He took himself out of the play.

Also, no one is supposed to penetrate deeper than the ball carrier. They all did. They need to break down at about 15 yards before they get to the latitude of the ball carrier so they can converge on him. Again, when we practiced this I as a coach am totally ignoring irrelevancies like the ball carrier and focused totally on the lane discipline and on the proper converging angles and technique—you widen your feet and bend at the knee to be able to change directions with the now very close ball carrier. After doing that for years, you immediately see the lane changing and overpenetration simply because the big, soft focus picture looks all wrong to you.

John T. Reed