it's just the evolution of the game. the 80's and 90's were all about the hard defenses having the upper hand, so over the last 10+ yrs teams started figuring out how to counter that, and hurry-up offense seemed to be the answer. evetually teams will adjust and the game will probably revolve back to being all about defense. the evolution of the game is a revolving door. nothing should be done to stop its course short of addressing safety issues, and I'm pretty sure very few would be found if the NCAA did in fact start keeping statistical records on the matter.(what do you want to bet 85% of those "injuries"would be cramps, and about half of them would fall under the category of "skeptical"?)
Back in early October, Nick Saban made news when he talked about the dangers of football’s newest offensive sensation — the up-tempo, no-huddle offense. Here’s what he said at the time:
“I think that the way people are going no-huddle right now, that at some point in time, we should look at how fast we allow the game to go in terms of player safety. The team gets in the same formation group, you can’t substitute defensive players, you go on a 14-, 16-, 18-play drive and they’re snapping the ball as fast as they can go and you look out there and all your players are walking around and can’t even get lined up. That’s when guys have a much greater chance of getting hurt when they’re not ready to play.
I think that’s something that can be looked at. It’s obviously created a tremendous advantage for the offense when teams are scoring 70 points and we’re averaging 49.5 points a game. With people that do those kinds of things. More and more people are going to do it.
I just think there’s got to be some sense of fairness in terms of asking is this what we want football to be?”
So last month, Saban suggested that the NCAA might want to look at no-huddle offenses because those types of offenses can lead to greater player injuries. He also uttered the words “sense of fairness” — which implies those offenses running no-huddle schemes have an unfair advantage over defenses — in asking “is this what we want football to be?” (A week later, CBS analyst Gary Danielson backed Saban and said that he believes defenses should be given more time to substitute when offenses are playing “trick ‘em football” against them.)
This week, Saban’s defense will face a pretty good test from Kevin Sumlin’s up-tempo Texas A&M offense. The storyline of the week: Saban versus the no-huddle. Well, now Alabama’s coach is trying to back away a bit from his previous comments.
Asked about the no-huddle this week, Alabama’s coach put a little different spin on things… and dropped the blame for the initial dust-up on the media:
“I think everybody misinterpreted what I said about no-huddle. I don’t mind playing against no-huddle. We don’t mind that at all. That wasn’t what I said, it’s what you all interpreted it to be. I just asked the question, ‘Is this what we want the game to become?’ That’s for you to answer. But that doesn’t mean we don’t like playing against it. We don’t mind playing against it. It is what it is.”
Saban is technically correct in stating that he never said specifically that he dislikes playing against no-huddle offenses. Unfortunately, he’s spinning the rest of it.
If you read his first comments — injuries, “sense of fairness,” “is this what we want football to be” — it doesn’t take a nuclear physicist to figure out he’s not a big fan of that style of play. So it’s not really fair to claim “everybody misinterpreted what I said.” The interpretation is pretty clear. If his meaning was lost, perhaps he didn’t say what he really wanted to say.
But let’s put it another way for the sake of example. Hypothetically, let’s say you said the following to your significant other: “Honey, your waistline is getting larger and I’m afraid that could lead to health issues for you down the road. I think you need to ask yourself, ‘is this what I want to be?’”
Good luck backing outta that one with a: “Now, I never called you fat, you misinterpreted what I was saying.”
Interestingly, there’s no reason for Saban to even need to play down his initial comments. There probably aren’t many defensive-minded coaches who like the advantage fast-pace schemes give to today’s offenses. Saban also might be right as rain on the injury thing, though the NCAA would need to do some stat analysis work on that hypothesis before it started implementing any new rules.
Personally, this football fan would like to see defenses be given more time to substitute, but such a move would only add another layer of debate for the conspiracy theorists out there. The first time an official stood over the ball for a heartbeat longer than Fan X believed he should have, Fan X would say the refs/conference/world were out to help the other team by slowing down his own squad. Guaranteed. You’d have TiVo comparisons showing, “Now in the first quarter, they allowed a snap just .8 seconds after we got to the line, but in the fourth quarter, they held us up for 1.4 seconds and it’s clear they did that to aid (Insert Hated Rival’s Name Here).”
Saban should have just stood by his initial quote. He thinks no-huddle offenses provide an unfair advantage. Fine. A lot of people feel the same way.
And if he just wanted the story to go away, he should have just said that he went too far with his comments the first time around. Claiming that everybody else misinterpreted his meaning, though? That’s just a little silly. His meaning was pretty darn clear.
UPDATE – Ole Miss’ Hugh Freeze employs a hurry-up, no-huddle scheme and he says he’s already talking with the league office about officials in Saturday’s loss to Georgia not spotting the ball and marking it ready for play fast enough. To heck with Fan X, an SEC coach just proved my point.