Sunday, December 14, 2014

Book Review: Ted Seay's Wild Bunch

There are moments in everyone’s development in any role that resonate.  From a father’s first realization to just how closely his young son watches (and sometimes to his horror, mimics) him, to that one positive or negative work experience that cements an attitude that lasts decades.  These moments figuratively fill us with a deep, full, reverberating sound that echoes in our mind’s ears whenever a decision is weighed.  “Remember when…”
This looks cool, but memory crystallization hurts like Hell....

                In my coaching life, one such event struck me in my formative years, the reading of one Ted Seay’s Wild Bunch: A Side Order of Football.  I have previous written about Ted’s concept of Unity of Apparent Intent.

                Ted’s most recent expansion, The Wild Bunch: A Conflict-Theoretical Approach to Offensive Football, is more than a mere re-write.  It is not just an unpacking of the what’s (plays), the how’s (technique), or even the why’s (philosophy)-though it has all of these.  It is a digestion down to the fundamental nature of football:  conflict.
                Ted’s mastery at analyzing this concept (on which his newest book wonderfully expounds), coupled with my firm belief that any coach cannot begin his education with fully understanding and owning this concept, has led me to recommend this book for several years to any coach wanting to learn more about offensive football.  Subsequently, dear reader, I also recommend it to you.

                I don’t care if you can diagram every play from Michigan in 1922, or Army in 1945, or Houston 1989, or Kentucky in 1997, or West Virginia in 2005, or Baylor in 2013…..without an understanding of the underlying principle of all these great offenses (beside having talent), you have the directions on how to build a fine sports car, but no idea how to use the tools.

                That underlying principle is conflict.  I mean, if one has the brute force to run wedge every play for no less than 3 yards, then that is exactly what they should do.  In the real world, however, no one is THAT much better than their opponents (and if you are, feel free to stop reading and go back to dusting your trophies).

                A conflicted defender is one who lack certainty about where the ball is/is going, and consequentially, where he should be heading.  Have you ever had a team period where the offensive coordinator just tells the offense to “run it again”, and everyone on the scout team hears it?  You never saw a cornerback fill on iso like that kid just did.

                The lack of conflict, and certainty with which the defense could sprint to ball creates very tough sledding, and soon the offensive coordinator is yelling at the scout defense to “play it honest”.

                It should also be noted, that space is a vital component (and in fact, the end goal) of conflict.  Even the phone booth knife fight that is the Double Wing offense wants to eventually get the ball in space.

                Those who doubt that last statement have never played a good DW team with the ability to go play action, and the corner route is so wide open your pregnant wife could throw the touchdown.  Conflict (secondary players needing to help on power) creates space (PAP over the top of flat footed cornerbacks).

                Ted expertly defines this in chapter 3 of his book:                                            


“…….don't take on your opponent at what he does best or where he is most concentrated. Coach Woody Hayes put it very well, misquoting Sun Tzu slightly, but to good effect: "Don't attack walled cities." I would add to that a corollary -- don't attack walled cities while the defenders are fresh and alert. Maneuver past the concentrations of enemy forces into open territory and ride like hell. Force your opponent to redeploy his forces to cover more ground, until you have him stretched thin from sideline to sideline. Then attack the walled city, while its defenders are out in the plains waiting for a cavalry end run that never comes.”

"Don't chase the enemies fly sweep!!  But still stop it somehow!"

                That concept alone is worth buying the book. 

                Ted goes on to lay out the personnel, formational structure, plays, drills, and practice plans associated with his offense, all the while relating his decision making back to the original premise of conflict theory.
                For years I have said this, and with this new edition (which stands apart from the rest), it has never been more true:  I do not care what offensive system you run, this is a MUST READ.