Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Game Dynamics and Football Part III

The ideas I will discuss were inspired by a Poker Book, No-Limit Hold'em: Theory and Practice by David Sklansky and Ed Miller. I am in no way as astute at math and game theory as they are, but I was intrigued a couple years ago by a couple chapters from this book. I thought about how these principals could apply to two things I coached at the time: football and debate. After some thought I came to see these principals as integral parts of both the games of Football and Debate. The first one I will discuss is the Dynamic of Mistakes and second I will discuss the importance of multi-level thinking.

Dynamic IV: Winning the Battle of Mistakes

It has been said for many years, football games are won by the teams that make fewer mistakes than their opponents. Many games are decided by mistakes. If mistakes were not made, no one could ever win. Think about the lowest form of a game Tic-Tac-Toe (Questionably a game). If you know the perfect strategy you will never lose. However, if your opponent knows it too, neither of you will win. The game will always end in a "cat" game (tie). The only way to win is for one of the players to make a mistake. It could be an obvious mistake, where one person does not see that the other has two and a row and leaves the third spot unprotected. Or a not so obvious mistake where the mistake takes to more turns to come to fruition (some of you know the "trick" that gets the unaware people).

Whenever you win at a game, one of two things happens:

1. Your opponent makes a mistake by some oversight or similar error.

2. You cause your opponent to make a mistake.

Some times we because of the 1st type of mistake, when we really learn a game we begin to win because of the 2nd type. Football is no different. Some football games are won by an opponent oversight. For example, LSU lost a game recently because of poor time management. As coaches we work hard to avoid these types of mistakes. These kinds of mistakes get a coach fired quick.

So if the object of a game is to win the battle of mistakes, then a football game can be through two methods.

1. Try their best to limit the number of mistakes they make.
2. Force their opponent to make a lot of mistakes.

Some coaches have a philosophy that involves one more than the other. In my opinion, this is the dividing point between the conservative and the aggressive coaches. I am not saying one method is better than the other, just that these coaches have a different philosophy about winning the battle of mistakes.

The conservative method tries to win by playing simple mistake free football. They patiently grind out a game hoping for their opponent to make a mistake. When two of these types of teams face each other, most of the time the game comes down to 5 plays or less. These 5 plays can decide the outcome of the game. The drawback is, if your plan backfires you might not be able to catch-up if you fall behind.

The aggressive method tries to win by forcing their opponents to make more mistakes then they do. They don't care if they make 100 mistakes in a game as long as their opponent makes 101. When you think in this mentality, you become more aggressive, and more relaxed when mistakes occur. The drawback is, when your plan backfires you have a good chance of getting pounded.

Whichever style is more fitting to you is probably best, but both can be used to win the battle of mistakes. I really, used this concept in debate. My debate philosophy became much more aggressive, the students I worked with were more concerned with attacking their opponents and less concerned with making an error. The biggest overall benefit for debaters was the increased willingness to make decisions.

Dynamic V: Multi-Level Thinking

Multi-Level thinking requires two people. The levels (depth) proceed as the people involved proceed. In football multi-level thinking can happen in many different circumstances. The first being in the scheme and scout process. Consider an offense vs defense battle. The offense runs the spread and adheres to the 5 in the box/ 6 in the box rules. If there are 5 in the box, run, and if there are 6, pass. An astute DC can think beyond this OC by giving the appearance of 5 in box, but triggering a 6th man quickly on run plays (Squat/halves, cloud force coverage). Many DC's have done recently, the "tweener" linebackers that split the difference between the EMOL and Slot WR have caused offenses problems.

When I first saw the technique, I was amazed at how fast they could fall in and support the run and at the same time get in good pass coverage. It causes fits for the offense. The offense has to find a way to combat it. The way to begin this process is to figure out the techniques and assignments of these players. First, most of the time backers in this alignment are keying linemen. If they see forward movement or pulling they trigger on the run immediately. If the linemen pass block they know to get their eyes on the pass keys. With this information the offense can begin to think a level deeper and use their scheme against them.

What if you were to pull the linemen and throw a bubble screen away from the pull? The blocking WR would be on the corner and the other WR would have the ball with nothing but late safety support to worry about. The backer would not be readily available to help, because he triggered into the box on run support. How would the defense respond to this? Option 1, is to slow down the run support, which is great for the offense. Option 2, play the safety more aggressively on the bubble. The adjustment to this is common, pump the bubble and hit the other WR deep behind the overly-aggressive safety.

Suppose the defense is aware of what the offense is doing to them, how should they adjust. Whenever an opponent thinks at a level deeper than you, you must find a way to think a level deeper than them. The defense would need to utilize a different coverage and run fit package. Preferably Quarters type coverage robber, blue, and man combinations that change who the run force players are. These coverages employ a different combination of players who trigger into the box on running plays. The FS would now be the main person triggering into the box and run fits. A different type of play pass that uses the linemen pulling as false keys would be desired. (Faking a run, then throwing the ball to the Slot (#2 WR) deep behind the area vacated by the safety.) If the DC begins to mix quarters with the squat halves coverage, he can begin to put the OC off balance again. If he was unaware of the OC's plan to attack his squat/halves coverage and "tweener" backer, he would be getting exploited all day. But thinking a level deeper he can find a way to get the upper hand.


This brings an end to the discussion over game dynamics and football. I am not sure how much interest there out there for this subject. As a person whom enjoys games in general and has made a commitment to learning the game of football, I have enjoyed applying various game dynamics to the sport. Football is game with base rules and variables like talent, decision making, game theory, and multi-level thinking at its core. There are many other dynamics like preparation, team unity, and human attitude that play a roll. For the discussion, I believe that these dynamics are sufficient to illustrate the relationship between football and game dynamics.

I am planning to write some blogs on more 4-2-5 defense stuff, I am just trying to get an idea of what people are interested in reading. If anyone has ideas let me know. I have considered more trips coverages, linebacker run fits, man coverage combination, front/ stunt calls, and utilizing the system through efficient play calling.

No comments:

Post a Comment