Monday, November 24, 2008

College-ing It Up: OU v. Boise State and the NFL

Matt Yglesias posts this video of some fun moments from one of the more entertaining football games in recent memory, the 2007 Fiesta Bowl between Oklahoma and Boise State, and adds:

[I]f you’re going to watch college football it’s much more entertaining to see teams that really college it up with options, trick plays, and generally goofy stunts that you couldn’t get away with against the too-fast, too-athletic NFL defenses.
The line about the futility of such plays against "too-fast, too-athletic NFL defenses" is the conventional wisdom on the matter, familiar to anyone who has wasted even a modest portion of his life watching men argue about football on tee-vee.

I am not convinced. The limiting factor on the halfback pass is not, it seems to me, the athletic abilities of NFL defenders but the passing abilities of NFL halfbacks, which in turn results from a failure to practice. When it is coached and practiced and attempted in games, it tends to work, as in the case of LaDainian Tomlinson, who, Wikipedia notes, has "completed eight career passes, seven of them for touchdowns [for] a career passer rating of 154.4."

It's not that the halfback pass or any other so-called "gadget play" is a sure thing, or even 7/8ths of a sure thing, but I think NFL coaches -- perhaps players too -- consistently underestimate the value of surprise, misdirection, and guile.

It seems a good time to make clear that I will seriously consider all offers to serve as a highly-paid offensive coordinator for any football team. My thinking is not just deeply but also polymorphously offensive.

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