John T. Reed’s Football Think Tank

How this Web site can change the sport

Step 1: An idea is posted on this Web site.

Step 2: Other readers comment on ways to improve the idea.

Step 3: One or more of the rare active coaches who are willing to try new ideas do so.

Step 4: The coaches who try the idea report back how it worked—including coaching points not anticipated by those who suggested or commented upon the idea, lessons learned, and other details of how to implement the idea in the real world, including any unanticipated disadvantages or problems.

Step 5: The improved, field-tested version of the idea replaces the original theoretical version on this Web site.

Step 6: The idea slowly gets adopted by more coaches as it works in games around the country and gets written about and commented about in the media.

Step 7: If the coaches become educated by this Web site or otherwise, yet still refuse to employ the best practices, this site will then attempt to persuade those whom the coaches fear, that is, their superiors, the media, fans, aumni, and so forth. When the coaches start to believe that continuing to deliberately do the wrong thing may get them fired, they adopt the best practices.

Step 8: The formerly new idea becomes the norm in the sport.

Had this Web site existed 40 years ago, here are some of the ideas it probably would have contained:

• place kickers should switch from toe-punch to soccer style
• an offense can leave two defenders unblocked and option them
• a receiver could run a pass route that changes according to how the defender plays him (now called a sight adjustment; part of the run-and-shoot offense)
• offensive coordinators should call the plays, not the quarterback, except in audible situations
• why don’t teams run a hurry-up for the whole game?

Those are examples of innovations that occurred in football without such a Web site. They show that the current version of TV football has never been all figured out. In 1843, the head of the U.S. Patent Office Henry Ellsworth said the advancements being made, “…seemed to presage the arrival of that period when human improvement must end.” We have not reached that and probably never will, either in inventions or in football.

Does the fact that change has occurred in the sport mean no outside influence is needed? No. If you look at the history of football, you see that the rate of innovation and use of contrarian tactics and strategies has diminished geometrically. The great innovators were Pop Warner, Knute Rockne, Walter Camp, Paul Brown. Also, a number of high school coaches like Emory Ballard (the option) and Glen Ellison (run and shoot) have innovated more recently. But it is hard to name an innovator of the stature of Pop Warner or Paul Brown since the 1970s.

What innovations we have seen since then have been more incremental than revolutionary, namely the 46 defense, the West Coast Offense, the spread offense, the zone blitz. The reason appears to be higher college and pro coaches salaries that the coaches do not want to lose, greater media attention that moves football decision making to the media and their audience members, and league rules and collective bargaining agreements that standardize the sport. Forty years ago, they were confident and in charge. Coaches nowadays are hunkered down protecting themselves from criticism.

To contribute an idea or comment to this Football Think Tank web site, either email to or fax to 925-820-1259 or snail mail at 342 Bryan Drive, Alamo, CA 94507.

Best wishes,

John T. Reed

Order Form | Coaching home page | Secure shopping cart | Football Think Tank

Copyright by John T. Reed

John T. Reed, a.k.a. John Reed, John T Reed, Jack Reed, 342 Bryan Drive, Alamo, CA 94507, Voice: 925-820-7262, Fax: 925-820-1259, Email: