Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

24 Dec 2005

History Lesson

Today, instead of his usual press conference, Bill Belichick took all the reporters into a meeting room and showed archival footage of the Great Lakes Naval Station team of the early 40s, commenting on differences between historical football and today's NFL. Then he showed film from a 1941 game between the Green Bay Packers and the Detroit Lions, featuring a part-time running back and punt returner named Steve Belichick. Raise your hand if you wish you had been a Pats beat reporter today. Yep, me too. This is pretty damn cool.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 24 Dec 2005

23 comments, Last at 31 Dec 2005, 5:48pm by PatsFan

Comments

1
by Richie (not verified) :: Sat, 12/24/2005 - 1:32am

Wow. I would love to have an expert of the game show me vintage footage and explain what's going on. Wow wow wow.

2
by Richie (not verified) :: Sat, 12/24/2005 - 1:35am

Belichick says that the option wouldn't work in the NFL, because the QB's would get killed. But why wouldn't it work if you used a RB at the QB position? Don't RB's take lots of punishment every time they carry? Have 4 or 5 RB's on your team, and rotate them in at the QB spot, so one guy doesn't take all the beating.

3
by sippican (not verified) :: Sat, 12/24/2005 - 1:45am

The other coaches in the league are still trying to figure out how to get the players on a bus on time, and count how many men are on the field. When they're not scalping tickets.

Baseball used to be the intellectual game. Before that, it was boxing. Now, it's football. And Belichick's the deepest thinker in football.

4
by Glenn (not verified) :: Sat, 12/24/2005 - 2:19am

Don't underestimate the time of year in which BB did this....it's his Christmas gift to the beat guys. This meeting was a larger-scale version of something he does every once in a while at his regular press conferences; if he's asked the right question, he'll wax poetic about arcane football matters. But since he's usually asked crap like "How's Brady's shoulder feeling today?", or "Are you worried this might be a trap game with the Jets?" I don't expect his rep as a closed-mouthed guy will change.

5
by Iacocca cola (not verified) :: Sat, 12/24/2005 - 3:05am

that's totally awesome, I'd love to see some old time football footage.

6
by jeff (not verified) :: Sat, 12/24/2005 - 4:25am

"Have 4 or 5 RB’s on your team, and rotate them in at the QB spot, so one guy doesn’t take all the beating."

There are a couple problems with this, as I see it.

1) Many (all?) of those RB/QBs would have to be decent throwing the ball or the defense would have all 11 men in the box.

2) Can you find 4-5 guys who don't all want to be "the guy"? Can you pay them appropriately and manage their egos?

3) In the option, two players usually get hit on each play - the QB throwing the pitch and the RB. That's a lot of pounding, even with multiple guys cycling through.

7
by Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Person (not verified) :: Sat, 12/24/2005 - 5:29am

I wish the author went into greater detail about the kinds of insights Bill discussed with them, instead of just the occasional quip here and there. Oh well!

8
by Jason (not verified) :: Sat, 12/24/2005 - 6:23am

This article brings up a good point that I try to bring up at times. I hate when people say quarterbacks like Vick, early McNabb/McNair are the future of football and that we are witnessing the evolution of the qb position. In reality it is the opposite. The game used to be run with players like that but then the position evolved into more of a pure passing position. Players like VIck represent a look at football's past not its future

9
by BillT (not verified) :: Sat, 12/24/2005 - 10:02am

Bill Belichick is so freakin' awesome.

10
by Glenn (not verified) :: Sat, 12/24/2005 - 10:48am

This link provides a couple other details, but unfortunately, the beat writers with whom BB shares this knowledge would probably find it hard to explain it to the average reader without benefit of the same film the writers had.

In the film, the Lions lost 24-7, and their only score was Steve Belichick's punt return. Several "Fire Millen" signs were seen in the stands.

11
by JonL (not verified) :: Sat, 12/24/2005 - 12:28pm

This is neat and all, but I'm sure the reporters' editors were mad that they didn't get any game-related quotes.

12
by Steve Sandvik (not verified) :: Sat, 12/24/2005 - 1:03pm

The option also might have trouble in pro football because the backside linebacker is fast enough to get to the point of attack, which takes away the number advantage that the option's supposed to have turning the corner. That allows the play-side backer to commit to the running back earlier without worrying as much about the quarterback turning upfield. Also the safeties are quick enough to get farther upfield by the time the tackle is made, meaning that even if you do it right and force the secondary to make the tackle, you might not be getting enough yardage.

On the other hand it could be a way to get the defense to really commit to an 8-man front, which could open up some deep passing possibilities. Unfortunately, it's such a precisely timed system that I think you'd have to practice it too much to use it as a mixer successfully.

I'm not completely convinced about the "too many hits" argument because I think most of the hits the QB takes in the option are straight up hits, which I suspect are less likely to cause injury than the strange things that happen on broken-field scrambles and collapsed pockets. Then again, I'm neither a trainer, nor a coach, so that's all speculation, obviously.

13
by Vash (not verified) :: Sat, 12/24/2005 - 1:49pm

2: Did you see what happened when Pittsburgh lined up Randle El at quarterback and ran the option?
He got decked and Parker lost two.

14
by jack (not verified) :: Sat, 12/24/2005 - 3:15pm

Didn't the Patriots run the option with Jim Plunket? Chuck Fairbanks was the coach, I think. Didn't Plunket get killed?

15
by Harris (not verified) :: Sat, 12/24/2005 - 3:49pm

If you're a columnist, this probably was a blast. If you're a beat writer on deadline, the guys who actually work for a living, you'd be tearing your hair out . This sounds cute, but if I were in that meeting room, I'd be pissed.

16
by Michael (not verified) :: Sat, 12/24/2005 - 11:58pm

The option requires a QB to take defenseless, wide-open shots after pitching the ball. Most college teams chase the pitch. I'm thinking most NFL coaches would follow the lead of Barry Switzer when OU faced Ohio State in 1977. OU ignored the pitch man and simply punished OSU quarterback Rod Gerald. He left the game midway through the third quarter and the OSU offense was ineffective the rest of the way.

Most option teams succeed either through novelty or by sheer physical superiority. I do agree with Gregg Easterbrook that Atlanta might consider switching to the single wing with Michael Vick.

17
by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Sun, 12/25/2005 - 12:36am

Harris (#15 )--

Mike Reiss (the guy who wrote the linked article) is the Boston Globe's Patriots beat guy. His piece seems to imply he enjoyed the session.

18
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Sun, 12/25/2005 - 1:33pm

Re: #16

Actually, Reiss isn't (which is a crying shame). The Pats beat writer for the Globe is Jerome Solomon.

19
by CaffeineMan (not verified) :: Sun, 12/25/2005 - 3:40pm

If the beat reporters in the room were all pissed, then maybe it's Belichick's revenge on them for asking him the same totally uninsightful questions. :D I've got no sympathy for the Pats beat reporters, given the usual level of content-free crud they hand us.

20
by Jason (not verified) :: Mon, 12/26/2005 - 10:30pm

The closer hashmarks and equal speed among offense and defensive back, even some linebackers makes the option a pipe dream. Who could afford to have 4-5 RBs in a game financially? Plus teams would play 9-10 on the line of scrimmage and a centerfielder, it would last for one quarter.

21
by Dennis (not verified) :: Tue, 12/27/2005 - 1:01am

Re #20: They don't need to be marquee RBs. It would be paying a bunch of backups, guys like Adrian Peterson, Samkon Gado, Cedric Houston, etc.

That aside, as others have said, the defenses are too quick in the NFL to have it work effectively.

22
by Richie (not verified) :: Tue, 12/27/2005 - 4:43pm

It would probably be boring if too many teams in the NFL switched to the option, but I just like the idea of teams having a little more personality in their offenses.

23
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Sat, 12/31/2005 - 5:48pm