A few weeks back when talk of eliminating dangerous hits was all the rage, a few NFL experts explained that part of the problem had become the fact young quarterbacks didn't know what types of coverages they were throwing into and thus wide receivers were being put in a position to be clobbered.
It was an interesting assessment but my problem with it was simple: These young quarterbacks might be making mistakes but part of the reason is because they are being asked to digest way too much information by their coaches. Part of the reason there have been so many mediocre to bad football games in the NFL this season is because the league's prime attraction, its athletes, are being held back by coaches who have way too much time on their hands to scheme and come up with new concepts that look great on computers but aren't necessary or even useful.
Until today, I've toyed with the idea of bringing this up with some veteran players to see what they thought because in reality it was just my opinion that coaches had run amok and thus were partially to blame for hurting the game. Well, it turns out there is one veteran who agrees.
Quarterback Brett Favre said as much this afternoon while talking about potential changes that might be made to the Vikings offense now that Leslie Frazier has replaced Brad Childress as coach. Favre made it clear that he didn't expect any major changes -- an overhaul isn't possible with only six games left -- but he did bring up the less is more argument and had some pretty good examples.
"I've been playing 20 years," Favre said. "I would always say less. Every playbook across this league is way too thick. You never practice it all. How can you become consistent if you're running a different play every week out of different formations with a different motion with different guys? [That] has been the case for us this year. There have been a lot of guys that have been injured and this week it's Percy [Harvin] in the slot. Next week it's Greg Lewis. Next week it's Greg Camarillo.
"Then maybe we're in the tiger formation and maybe it's [Visanthe] Shiancoe, [Jeff Dugan] in the slot. How can you get used to throwing slants when you never get to practice them? So be good at what you do. I always say if I were a coach, which will never happen, I would be very simple and be more, 'They have to stop what you do.' You think those guys crack that book, go through all 500 pages, c'mon? You could hide a couple hundred dollar bills in there."
Favre was then asked a follow-up question about if there was a point early in his career when ...
"When I found the hundred-dollar bill?" Favre said. "Mike Holmgren [who was Favre's first coach in Green Bay], I thought was a great play caller, a great coach, very demanding, a perfectionist. But I thought he was a forgiving and patient coach because it took awhile for us to kind of get on the same page.
"More me getting on the page with him. But I can just remember him saying over and over again, 'I don't care if they know what we run. They've still got to stop it.' And if you've run the same plays over and over, then you can disguise it a little bit maybe with a formation or a motion or putting a different guy in there to do that, but it's still the same play. The concept's still the same, and that has always stuck with me.
"That's true: Don't let them dictate. We're going to do the dictating. You have to stop what we do. And if we run it once and it works, run it again. So that's the way I look at a playbook. You look at a playbook and you're like, 'Wow, man, that's a lot of good plays.' You run average of 70 plays a game. Of those 70, you have half or less than half or sometimes more than half are pass. Of those passes, or even runs, you repeat. So with 300, 400 pass plays or run plays in your book, go back to the ones that work."
And the best idea might be to eliminate (not just ignore) the ones that don't work.