Here we go again
According to Chip Brown at Orangebloods.com, Mack Brown had this to say in reference to the last two weeks on offense:
"It’s really hard when you’re reckless, and Colorado did the same thing," Brown said. "They were blitzing or twisting every play. And we put up with it for the Colorado game, knowing we had this package for Oklahoma."
As well as this in his Monday Q&A with members of the media:
“As you all were killing us last week over the run game, we just had to keep our mouths shut, knowing we had some things that were good for this game. It just stops the blitz.”
I read this Monday and have been thinking about it since. Mack’s demeanor and candidness have changed a lot since Muschamp’s arrival. Accordingly, I no longer take what he says with a grain of salt. Some Longhorn Fans have read these comments and it has made them respond, “Yes! They get it! They see that we are struggling and they’re going to fix it!” and it has given them hope for the offense the rest of the season. For me there’s a lot more to the story here.
In lab tests, rats that were exposed to the Texas offensive strategies for decadal time periods experienced psychological waves of disbelief, annoyance, confusion, hope, brief elation, extreme anger, and prolonged resignation. Last year made me question if we weren’t seeing a real breakthrough from our staff… I was in the hope and brief elation upswing of the cycle again… yay! The comments above helped me get into extreme anger and I’d like to think that prolonged resignation is just a stiff drink or two away.
Mack’s comments are like a sharp stick to the eye for me: they reveal a complete lack of awareness of the need for a complete offense. Seemingly, offensive strategy consists of a series of specialized tricks. Each package has a few plays and is designed to do a few specific things. We are akin to a chef with a box full of recipes but who doesn’t understand how to really combine ingredients. "What’s that… the tomato soup is too acidic? Well here! I have this recipe for flan that works good when you don’t want something acidic! Flan... Yummy! He ate the flan! I’m gonna stick with cooking flan."
"Here's the thing, Greg.
You should really be on Hell's Kitchen instead."
We have a couple of offensive packages that we have been playing as our base offense for a year. We don’t have a way to punish a team for an all out blitz built into those packages. We don’t consider that part of our basic needs in our offense. That requires a special new package. Let that soak in for a moment while I distract you with another hyperbolic analogy.
Sometimes in a movie when a character is confronted they'll say, “What’s that!” and point. When the target turns in response, a classic sucker punch is executed to perfection. Greg Davis would call this the “What’s That? Sucker Punch Package”. It might include plays such as “Watch Out for that Train” and “I Was Just Swatting a Mosquito on Your Face”. If you work on enough sucker punches it might be difficult for an opponent to prepare for them all. But after your first few fights, word is going to get around. Eventually your opponents are just going to start throwing haymakers right off the bat. Incredibly reckless of them. Better go back to your “Ducking the Haymaker” package. They probably won’t ever come up with a plan to stop that. Surely they wouldn't kick, right?
I was not anticipating that response. Uncool, dude.
Imagine if you really believed that a series of sucker punches could be used as a complete fighting system. If you used a move too frequently, it would eventually backfire. However, in the meantime you would want to get as much run out of that move as you could. You may even do strange things like land an open palm to someone’s ear then never use that move again (savin' that one for a rainy day, bro). Your repertoire of moves would look schizophrenic over time to an outside observer. If you were strong and fast enough you could probably win most of your fights. Occasionally you’d run into a wrestler or Thai boxer who would clock your ass and you'd rethink everything. But you would never really understand how to fight. You would never really develop a full fighting system.
Some of you may point to our offense under Vince Young as evidence of a complete offensive system. It’s the closest we’ve gotten. That’s because teams had to respect the broken play at all times and if they didn't Vince would embarrass thoroughly. With Vince you had to defend the whole field even if theoretically you didn't need to. Misdirection doesn’t work because it's a distraction, it works because there is more than one credible threat to the defense at a time. And misdirection doesn’t work long if you don’t keep those threats credible. See our zone read minus Vince Young for clarification.
Or more to the greater point: an offensive system is not just a collection of situational packages. It must have completeness. You must force defenses to make decisions each play and punish them severely if they make the same decision too often. It means having the stretch, the counter and the bootleg. The deep pass, the draw, and the screen. The iso and the play-action pass. You don’t have to have each ingredient in each package, but for each ingredient you add there should be at least one complementing ingredient in that package. There should be plays that make each other more credible. This isn't a special adjustment you make, it's part of the basic philosophy of sound offensive football. It’s also the reason why our chef has so much trouble designing our menu each year.
Our waitstaff and ambiance are saving our ass.
So back to our current football team: I don’t have a problem with the pre-snap motion package we ran against Oklahoma, it was good for a few pickups because Oklahoma has never seen it. I do have a big problem with that being our counter-measure to teams blitzing us too often. First of all, the notion that you would sandbag a counter-measure to blitzes, twists, or stunts is crazy in it’s own right. But assuming you were in that ridiculous psychology, it's completely asinine to believe that the package we rolled out against Oklahoma in the first half is appropriate in that role. It announces itself as a new and separate package with it’s pre-snap motion (which we never run that out of the package that we are trying to enhance)!
It’s just further evidence of our lack of understanding of how our offense looks to an opposing defense. Our chef is telling us, “Don’t even worry about that whole tomato soup thing man, because we had this flan all cooked up and just waitin’ for the next time someone didn’t like the tomato soup! Just waitin' bro! Look at 'em out there. Looking at the flan all confused like. See... now what I'm sayin' is this is the perfect time for a sucker punch, bro. The old flying flan fist maneuver I learned on the streets of Madrid!” We are making some personnel changes and going to a different package to emphasize the run and deep ball. Yummy!
Before you dig in, make sure to check your blindside.