Last week, Nick Saban caused an uproar among coaches who run up-tempo, no-huddle schemes. Alabama’s coach — fresh off a game with Hugh Freeze’s fast-paced Ole Miss offense — suggested that defensive players are put at such a disadvantage by those no-huddle systems that it could be dangerous and lead to more injuries.
Naturally, coaches using that offensive style responded negatively to Saban’s claim. And many non-Bama fans said Saban was just whining because his team had won by only 19 points (which doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense to this writer).
I thought it sounded, however, like a defense-first coach who hates to see defense go the way of the dodo bird in college football. That’s not crying. That’s just a guy taking up for his own style of football in the same way that the speed-it-up coaches have said in the week since that there’s nothing wrong with their system.
Well, Saban’s finally found a backer in CBS color analyst Gary Danielson.
Yesterday on Paul Finebaum’s radio show, Danielson made it clear “finesse football” is not his “cup of tea.”
“I think it was kind of funny the way it was presented that Nick was crying. I think when Penn State plays Northwestern, and both team run 98 offensive plays, and an NFL game has 65 to 70, the college powers-that-be need to look at their product…
There are so many times now that when I’m doing the game — I’m trained to do it, I watch tape on it — and I don’t even know who’s out there. I know the people that are watching on TV might be able to recognize after the tackle, but most of the time people are going, ‘Where’d that guy come? Why didn’t anybody cover that guy going out for a pass?’
What it is, people are playing trick ‘em football.
When yo have time to prepare for four or five weeks, or two weeks for a game and you can sort it all out, you can do it. When you’re in the middle of a three-day preparation, and they’re trying to trick you, they have an advantage.
I don’t like the product personally and I think the officials should allow the defense more time to substitute.”
Interestingly, one of Saban’s NFL mentors is taking an “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em stance.” This past weekend, Bill Belichick’s New England Patriots used a hurry-up offense and ran 89 plays in a win over the Denver Broncos. The Patriots rolled up a franchise-record 35 first downs. CBS color analyst Phil Simms said NFL fans had just witnessed a vision of what pro football is going to become.
Well you know who was in Foxboro recently to hang out with Belichick and crew? Oregon’s Chip Kelly… who’s one of those go-fast gurus at the college level.
Personally — and I said, “personally” — I’m not a fan of go-go football. To me, it’s not traditional football. It’s video game football.
But, it also happens to be a natural evolution of the game. At one time the Notre Dame box and single-wing offenses were all about deception and sleight of hand tricks with the football. Then came wishbone attacks. Then run-and-shoot style offenses. Now the many variations of the spread — some with option, some based on speed, some focused on passing — are all the rage.
Eventually, something will change and a new fad will take the current fad’s place. Danielson said that he’s asked defensive-minded coaches like Saban and Florida’s Will Muschamp why they don’t push for rule changes, but the coaches told him their pleas have — to date — fallen on deaf ears.
The trouble with legislating up-tempo attacks out of the game is that it would likely a) stretch television windows by slowing down games (which the networks wouldn’t want) and b) open up officials for more scrutiny and more claims of bias, cheating, etc. If, for example, an official stands over the ball long enough to allow a defense more time to substitute, fans/media will be watching on a play-by-play basis for any sign of an official waiting a second longer or a second less than usual.
And the last thing football needs is more people claiming via Twitter, messageboards and YouTube that Team X is being aided by the officials from Conference Y. There’s enough of that as it is.
You can expect Saban’s comments to create more discussion on this topic in the offseason to come, but we at MrSEC.com would be surprised if the NCAA — at least for now — had the chutzpah to push “slow-down” rules into its most popular sport.