Monday, May 16, 2011

The T-Formation - Football is Complicated

I'm older than you.  I remember when the Detroit Lions and Cleveland Browns were powerhouse teams. 

I remember Mike Lucci, the Lion's great middle linebacker.  Lucci was so great no one could remember who preceded him, which gave rise to a trivia question:  Who was the Detroit Middle Linebacker before Lucci?  Answer:  There wasn't one.  Before Lucci we had a nose guard, Les Bingaman, a huge 300 pounder who lined opposite the offense center.

Football was simpler back then.  Seven offensive linemen - center, two guards, two tackles, two ends.  Four backs, Quarterback who lined up over center; fullback, a big powerful guy who lined up behind the Quarterback; two halfbacks who flanked the fullback.  Forming a T.  The defense lined up opposite the offense with essentially the same seven on the line, four in the backfield. 

Then things started getting complicated.  There was increased emphasis on passing.  Teams set halfbacks wide to become receivers.  They started sending one end wide  keeping the other as a "tight" end.  San Francisco introduced a shotgun formation spreading out the offensive formation.  In the shotgun, the Quarterback didn't line up over center but several steps back.  The niners trounced my beloved Lions the first time they used the shotgun in a game.   Defensive lines shrank from seven to four players as three dropped back as linebackers and defensive backs.  And these days they sometimes have three-man defensive lines.

Sports were for guys.  Girls did cheer leading or some strange game called field hockey.  I've never seen a field hockey game.  Girls were allowed to play one real sport, basketball.  Half-court basketball because everyone knew females weren't up to the rigors of running the full court.

Football for girls?  No way! 

Boys were drilled in sport fundamentals from an early age.  Girls not at all.  I played organized football from the eighth grade and pick-up sandlot games before that.   In spite of all that play and watching the Lions every Sunday of the NFL season I still find the game complicated.  I appreciate announcers like Chris Collingsworth, John Gruden, John Madden (I miss him!) with fancy replay video to explain what's going on.  Explaining how the Quarterback and receiver "read" the defense and adjust the passing route accordingly; how the defensive line does stunts to avoid blocks and how the offensive line pulls guards and tackles to do trap blocks and frustrate the stunting defense.

This blog is for the Outlaws and about women playing football.  One thing I've admired most watching practices is how eager the ladies are to learn.  I once demonstrated the three point stance to a couple linemen (linewomen?); they wanted to sign me up as assistant coach.  Until I told them I had just demonstrated everything I know.

When I watch the game, I'm awed at just how well they have figured out what to do.

The ball is snapped and the Outlaws defense know exactly what to do as they fire across the line.
Complicated?  Not for them.  They sure don't look confused.
 Try to explain the rules of football to someone who hasn't been drilled on it from childhood.  Explain the difference in how you handle a kick-off versus a punt.  Explain that a kick-off is a live ball, a punt not live until touched by a receiving team.  So always get control of the kick-off and don't go near a punt unless you are certain you can control it.

In the play pictured here, the Dallas players didn't realize that the kick-off was a live ball.  They're blocking and treating the play as they would a punt.  But Outlaws Suires and Dikibo knew. They recovered the ball inside the Dallas twenty and set up a great opening for the home team.

I was at an Outlaws practice and watching as a couple kickers were going to practice PATs (Point-after-touchdown kicks).  They had a tape measure and started measuring from the goal posts to the two-yard line, which is where the ball is placed for the PAT.  And they noticed they were already twelve yards (36 feet) from the target because the goal post is ten yards beyond the end of the field.  But in competition, the ball is snapped back from the two yard line and spotted around the 17-yard line.  So a simple kick for point after touchdown is about 27 yards.  The kickers were measuring with a 100 foot tape and used most of it just to find the spot from which to practice kicks. 

Just learning how the game is played.  When I think of how much these young women have to learn when they show up at that first tryout; when I see how much they have learned when I watch a game; I just have to tip my hat in admiration.

Football is complicated.  Football is hard.  Certainly too hard for women. 

Not for these women.  


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