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Playcalling vs. Performance 2: The Defensening

1. LBs aren't good
2. Chizik is a fraud

Topic over.

Not really. I'm way too wordy to let it stand there. Chizik first.

Last year, we ran the ubiquitous Tampa 2. It's not just a coverage, it's a philosophy. But before I get into that, I need to talk about what we ran this year, which is the base coverage OU and a lot of good NFL teams run.

It's got different names, cover 4, double switch, or as I call it, inverted 2, since the corners get deep responsibility instead of the safeties (Remember all the announcers wondering where the deep help from the safeties was? Good times).

So to over simplify, an offense might attack a traditional defense like this:


The WR will drive off the deep player, in this case the corner, and the settle into a hole behind the LB, and since the LB has to watch the QB and the TE, he can't always find the WR. It's a great route, and absolute bread and butter for us.

But defensive coordinators are crafty, and designed the inverted 2 to stop this and other basic, successful routes patterns. Bob Stoops brought it to OU (I have no idea what her ran at KSU or Florida) and cornholed most every team he played, because nobody knew what the fuck it was. It took most coaches 3-4 years to figure out how to attack it. It took Greg Davis 7. Par for the course.

If you attack the inverted 2 in a traditional manner:

inverted 2

The safety and LB read the tight end. If he runs to the flat, the LB follows, since it's an easy route to cover. The safety turns his attention to the WR, and looks to stay underneath and inside any route he runs, and play a 'robber' role. The corner's job is to stay on top of the routes (and, if they are good enough, jump outside breaks). This combinations of responsibilities also allows the safeties to be more aggressive in run support, since they don't have to stay on top of anyone. When Duane Akina said they wanted to run more 9 man fronts, this is what he was talking about.

If the tight end runs up the field:

te flat against cover 4

The safety does have to stay on top of him, and the LB drops into a traditional zone (quick side note: if you want to run a curl route against it, you have to run the clear out route vertical, instead of to the flat. It should not take you 7 years to figure this out).

It's basically a way to get your speed to match up with theirs. It takes away all deep stuff from the WRs, and the 4 vertical route that is so successful. And on top off all that it allows the safeties to be active in stopping the run, a major weakness of ours last year.

So . . . what went wrong?

As I said before, the Tampa 2 isn't just a coverage, it's a philosophy. Keep everything simple, be good at what you do, don't allow any big plays, and make the offense drive the field. There is nothing wrong with this, in principal.

Problem is, and this was even a problem last year, is that Chizik is too simplistic. Watch any NFL team that runs it. They will jump around in the secondary, they occasionally run something else. They will actually try to fool the offense. When The Chiz was first hired, he gave an interview about how he doesn't do any of that stuff, he just wants to do one thing, be great at it, and out execute people. This is part of why I was never sold on him.

When you're at a school like Texas, you give away our significant athletic advantages over most people. When you line up the same way every down, and play the same coverage every down, it makes the job of the offense so much easier. They know exactly what they have to do, making them play faster. Plus, they know where the weak spots are, and can hammer away at them (Bobino on the outside . . . yuck). It ended up working out, mostly, because teams still couldn't hit big plays, and eventually did screw up somewhere and kill the drive. Against teams good enough to sustain drives, we had #10. All is well.

But over the offseason, Chizik worried about our bad run defense, and came up with the new base coverage to compensate. On the chalkboard, it all works out. But . . . there is always a but . . . his do-the-same-thing-over-and-over philosophy doesn't really mesh with the new stuff, and his over aggressive preaching of run stopping clearly fucked with our guys heads.

Examples of how his new defense didn't work out:

1. It's not a do-it-all defense. You can't run it against spread teams without great cover safeties, which we don't have. Instead of a TE running against a safety, now its a WR. Remember how badly Anthony Gonzalez abused Michael Griffin? This is why. When your pass rush isn't working, and ours wasn't, it is extremely easy to get a bad match-up in the secondary, especially when you know exactly what is coming. The Chiz just kept calling it . . . and kept calling it . . . and kept calling it . . . then afterwards, said we "just didn't execute." I don't care how good a coach you are, nobody is teaching Griffin to keep up with Gonzalez. That's on you, not him.

2. Unless you have Deion Sanders, you aren't going to give deep responsibility to a corner AND have him stop underneath routes and whatnot. Wondering why we gave up so many comebacks and curl routes this year? Teams knew what was coming, knew how to get open, and hammered us. When a confident team has it's timing down, you aren't stopping those routes. Bob Stoops is successful with it because he plays a variety of coverages. He mixes it with a traditional cover 2, which allows the corner to take gambles at stopping curl routes. We didn't do that, because Gene appears to now know any better. He teaches what he knows, and what he knows is, do the same thing, execute, don't bother adjusting.

3. YOU CAN'T HAVE THE CORNERS LOOKING TO STOP THE RUN. Remember the second TD against Aaron Ross in the KSU game? They showed a replay from behind the receiver that showed Aaron Ross looking into the backfield during the beginning of the play. This is fine for Cover 2 teams, or anytime you have deep help. But if you are the deep help, you have to play pass first. He fell for the playaction, stopped his feet, and by the time he turned to face the WR, that wicked move was being put upon him, and Figures ran right past him Like Robert Joseph running from a cop.

Now I have no way of knowing if this is Ross' prerogative, or if it was instruction Chizik gave him. Either way, it's on Chizik (if he saw Ross doing it and didn't stop it, it's his fault as coach. Akina, of course, is liable here as well).

But think of all the time our entire secondary stood still while somebody ran right past them. Remember the first offensive play for Baylor? You can say he burned this guy or that guy, but it doesn't really matter. Nobody moved. He would've scored on anyone. This team was so intent on stopping the run that it fell for an obvious trick. When a Tech-like passing team lines up with in a goalline formation, on first and ten, on the first play of the game, they are passing the ball. This isn't hindsight. When the ball was snapped, I was in the process of trying to figure out how they were going to pass out of this (I thought they'd shift out, but they didn't). This just goes to show the narrow minded, stubborn teaching of Chizik. He isn't a teacher of football, he isn't a global coach. He teaches what was taught to him come hell or high water. And you know what? We fell for the exact same thing only one year ago. You think they'd remember that. Maybe not.

4. Along those lines, think of all the trick plays we fell for because we were so aggressive. And it isn't just the secondary. We are the easiest team to screen against in the world, because our linemen are just taught to run like hell after the QB if they read a pass block. We are a mindless, stupid defense. It's almost like somebody took a shallow, basic knowledge of a system and installed it, with no understanding of what was actually going to happen. Aggression is a good thing, but you have to be smart about it.

5. No adjustments. This spans back to last year as well. In the defense we run, the corners have to be concerned not only with deep routes from the receiver, but outside breaks as well. And since he has inside help the the safety, theoretically, he shades the WR to the outside. Fine. But what if you play a spread team that knows exactly what you are going to run, and hits you with quick skinny posts all game while distracting the safety with a vertical route from the slot receiver (Tech)? How many are you going to let them complete before you do something? 5? 7? 10? This happened so often that I started believing Chizik couldn't adjust if he wanted to. He just doesn't know what to do outside of his box.

More proof of that? A&fuckingM.

The Aggies are like 13-10 or something the last two years. They have been butt fucked by teams like ISU and Colorado. They lost to Baylor. And they out-coached Chizik. Twice.

We have better players. Every time A&M went with a straight handoff, or a straight dropback pass, we slaughtered them. But anytime they introduced any kind of misdirection or option, they slaughtered us. That is us refusing to take advantage in size and speed.

2005: Let's run through the checklist. They have an OL that can't pass block. They have big, fat WR who can't get open. They have a terrible QB with worse happy feet than anyone else on the planet. THEY ARE NOT GOING TO BEAT YOU THROUGH THE AIR! So what do we do? Naturally, we run the same thing we ran all year long, not giving a shit about what the other team was actually doing. It was OK at first, because A&M actually came out and ran some different stuff that they hadn't done all year. They looked more like Nebraska of old than the Urban Meyer inspired mediocrity we had come to know and love.

But, the option is the option. We still know they can't pass. For the love of god, run an 8 man front. It won't kill you. But we didn't, and A&M trampled us. They had more blockers than we had defenders, and when they ran the option, they had Martellus Bennett (one of the bestest blocking TEs in the country, if not the bestest) blocking our run support safety. Since he won, oh, 95% of those matchups, they had big plays all day with the option. By the time Chizik did adjust in the late 4th quarter, our defense was so tired that all Stephen McGee had to do was turn and hand the ball off. They were rolling us at that point. Luckily our special teams played so well, forcing A&M to have to pass, and of course, we killed them at that point.

2006: OK, a whole year later. What have we learned? Nothing! When you go against the option, you have to play differently. You just have to. There is no other option. Instead of the DL rushing upfield, they have to play gap control, sideline to sideline football. They have to take up blocks and let the LBs flow with the option. You have to string out the QB, and make him hold onto the ball as long as possible to let help come.

How many of those things were accomplished? Zero. Our DL still flew upfield like madmen, allowing the Aggie OL to simply step to the playside and seal us off (this is why the Aggie fans were so jazzed about their OL all off-season. It sure looked like they kicked our ass all game long. Well, you still suck Aggies, we did your work for you).

Since they didn't have to worry so much about double teams, the uncovered OL could get to the LB's much faster and cut them off from pursuit. The fact that our LB are mindless football chasing zombies didn't help either, since they all crashed into the LOS (like they were taught) at the first sign of a fake handoff up the middle. Attacking the LOS when they read run is fine, most times. Against the option, not so much, since you are needed in pursuit. You have to play smart football, something we haven't done since Robinson was here, really.

What about the guy with QB responsibility? Did he string McGee out? Nope, he sure didn't. Every single time he ran right at Mcgee for the big hit. Of course, McGee is used to big hits, and it doesn't seem to bother him, so he just pitched it quickly, and the RB had tons of room to run.

But what about the guy in charge of the RB? He is currently buried in three feet of dirt thanks to Bennett.

In short? You suck Chizik.

Now, somethings that weren't his fault:

1. Injuries. Pretty much everyone but Aaron Ross played hurt in the secondary. We lost our best DT (Lokey) and our best LB (Muck). We lost a potentially great Okam to his ankle problem, and was (were? Help me out grammar Nazis) left with the mediocre version. Robison, like always, played hurt. You can't make excuses for losing, and the injuries weren't n the top 5 reasons we lost to KSU or A&M, but it doesn't help.

2. LB play. I know he's the LB coach. But I don't really think he has all that much to work with. Robinson had to use Eric Hall for god sake. I'm better than him. Bobino can't cover and is worhtless is space. No amount of coaching will make him faster or taller. Killebrew is decent, but I don't think he has the athleticism to get much better. Kelson and Kindle can't tackle worth a damn, and that might fall on Chizik, but both players were rusty coming back from injuries, so who knows. Derry is pretty good too, but like the other starters, isn't that great an athlete. Chizik wanted to play Norton over Bobino, but Mack wouldn't let him, due to his loving of his veteran players who "earned" snaps. Selvin Young, anyone?

When we can put Kelson, Muck and Kindle out there, we'll be better. Norton is a player at MLB as well, and I have high hopes for that Texas High kid and the dude coming in next year. We'll be ok here, eventually.

3. Aaron Ross' speed, or lack thereof. Aaron Ross is a great player who deserved every inch of the Thorpe Award. But he isn't going to be drafted all that high because he doesn't play fast. He has great feet, greater hips, and even greater instincts. He can play you inside ten yards like nobodies business. But you know what? He isn't all that fast in a straight line. The first KSU TD against him was simply due to his lack of catch up speed. So was the pass to Ginn. We've seen his leaping swat move on deep posts before, but when the ball is thrown perfectly, as it was at KSU, it's a completion. This is partly Chizik's fault, because it's a misuse of his players, but you have to leave these guys on islands at some point no matter what you do.