One blogger who not only can do those things, but has done them (time and time again, in fact) is Mike from The Bird Dog. I've long appreciated Mike for the time and effort he puts into analyzing post-game footage from Navy games, but until yesterday I never really quite knew how much I appreciated his efforts.
I bring all this up because yesterday I had the chance to be part of a special two-hour film session with Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo and several other members of the Baltimore/DC sports media. The session was brought on due to the outstanding efforts of my fellow GoMids.com writer David Ausiello, as well as Navy SID Scott Strasemeier, who arranged for the session to take place. I have to say it was a truly eye-opening experience for me, and perhaps the most fascinating lesson in college football that I have ever received or could ever hope to receive.
I thought I knew some things about both Navy's triple option offense and college football in general when I walked into the Navy film room of Ricketts Hall at 1 PM yesterday afternoon. Yet by the time the clock hit 3 PM I realized that I had in fact known pretty much next to nothing when it came to the actual schematics of what happens on a triple option play. Once more, I think I've now reached the sad conclusion that I had forgot more than I previously knew within that span of those two hours, as Coach N's constant references to easy stunts, unbalanced lines, and 'running to the numbers' came and went like the pre-Calc stuff they tried to teach me during my senior year of high school. The fascinating thing for me is that as I try to piece it all back together, I find myself going back to Mike's website, in the process realizing that Mike was saying the exact same things coach was saying.
Not only did Coach N use some of the exact same film footage that Mike used (such as this footage from the 2008 Navy-Notre Dame Game) but he even detailed - almost to the exact phrases - the kinds of explanations for why a play went as it did that Mike would use in his post-game analysis. One of those points had to deal with just how precise the blocking needs to be on a triple option play. Whether it be in relation to the guard cutting the middle linebacker or the slotback and receiver communicating as to who they are supposed to block, I never realized that how just one missed assignment on any given play could be the difference between a touchdown and a five yard loss
. Once more, I realized that in a lot of cases the usual mantra of "blame the quarterback" is not only inapplicable considering the given play, but it's inaccurate. I'm not even going to try to bring up a specific example based on film (because, frankly, I haven't digested it enough and know I would only screw the example up) but I will say that it was amazing to see the number of times the quarterback was making the right read but because of one minor missed blocking assignment the play was blown up. And as I was watching all of this I began to come to the realization that many of us fans and media members alike just don't know what we're talking about half the time, and that coaches and players should get the benefit of the doubt if for no other reason than that they do.
Frankly, after being in that film room I'm starting to think that we are part of the problem between the growing disconnect of coaches and players and media and fans, as opposed to the other way around. Look, I'm not going to pretend like I know everything about the triple option now that I've watched film on it with Navy's head coach, nor do I assume that I'll be able to differentiate between a "dummy" check and a real check based off of which way the safety is cheating.
Yet in those two hours I spent "in the filmroom" with coach Niumatalolo, I can honestly say that I have gained a new and humbling understanding of the challenges that college football players and coaches face. I can also say - with confidence - that I will no longer be referring to any quarterback as an idiot in the future, unless of course he misses a blatantly obvious easy student between the DE and OLB 8)