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The Genius of Desperation by Doug Farrar

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The Genius of Desperation by Doug Farrar
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The new book from Doug Farrar Sherrick McManis Color Rush Jersey , The Genius of Desperation, takes a chronological view of the evolution of football strategy. While it documents the schemes and the men behind those innovations, the book also does a nice job of underlining why some of these changes came about. This book really helped connect some dots for me to help focus what I think is going on in the game today. Often, we can look at history to learn about our present, and Farrar’s book serves us well in that capacity. The first example Farrar covers that really stuck out to me was Clark Shaughnessy with the Chicago Bears. Shaughnessy’s influence on the Bears’ T-Formation led to a 73-0 drubbing of Washington in the 1940 championship game and set up a stretch of dominance for those Bears (4 championships in 6 years). Those innovations really took the league by storm and were the major impetus behind that sustained success. But, the league eventually catches up and reaches a state of equilibrium until the next innovation comes along. Conversely, Farrar digs into Vince Lombardi, who he says isn’t credited enough as an offensive innovator because the Packers ran a fairly simple scheme. Here’s where I disagree with the author. Lombardi’s greatness was not in innovation but in perfection of his scheme. No one had dug into the details of each player’s responsibilities, techniques, and iterative variations to attack different defenses quite like Lombardi. That’s not necessarily innovative with regards to scheme but rather maximizing the efficiency of the scheme. Think of it as the difference between an entrepreneur and a Six Sigma Black Belt. Lombardi squeezed every drop out of that Packers Sweep en route to 5 titles over 7 years. The Lombardi Packers were the epitome of the end of that evolutionary cycle, so to speak – when someone or something dominates to such a degree that there has to be a major innovation to overcome it. In the evolution of football strategy, I would argue that schematic innovations have moved in predictable cycles. An innovative strategy provides the innovator with a strategic advantage, many times resulting in immediate success. This is essentially the same thing as a “first-mover advantage” in the market place. This is followed by the death of old, dated concepts (and usually fired coaches), copying and incorporating elements of the new scheme throughout the league, and finally settling into some sort of equilibrium. The successful teams during that equilibrium are usually defined by who can do their best Lombardi impression and maximize that scheme with the best personnel. With the advances in technology, scouting, free agency, analytics, etc. we see these schematic changes adapted by the league more quickly than before, thus reducing the windows of the first-mover advantage. Book cover for Doug Farrar’s the Genius of DesperationFarrar has laid out the tick-tock of the innovative disruptors and the schemes that got them there throughout the league’s history. Sometimes it was just a mad genius with some chalk, but many times these innovations were born out of desperation – how can I beat this Goliath with a rock and a slingshot? I know I can’t win if we play their game. How can I use my players that aren’t as good as the team we’re playing and outsmart them with how we run our offense or defense? Put another way – the best swordsman in the world doesn’t worry about the 2nd best swordsman; he worries about the most unconventional one. The history of football is full of these innovations, and many of them resulted in multiple championships and dynasty runs. Think about the 49ers in the 80’s with the implementation of the West Coast Offense. That offense led to 5 championships and a new definition of what good QB statistics look like. Seriously – take a look at players before Montana and since and tell me there isn’t a huge difference in accuracy expectations for the modern NFL QB. Those concepts fundamentally changed the way the game is played forever. But, the West Coast Offense was born out of a sense of desperation, not with Montana, but in Cincinnati with a weak-armed QB where Bill Walsh served as Offensive Coordinator.Some innovations send shockwaves, others send ripples. Think about the wildcat – very effective for the desperate Dolphins to beat the Patriots, but now merely a gadget play. Or, think about the Bears 46 defense, something so dominant it gave birth to some of the most devastating defenses in NFL history but is nowhere to be seen in today’s NFL. This book is full of these examples and provides for a fun history lesson. Farrar digs into both sides of the ball with vigor and uses a fair number of diagrams to illustrate the innovations. If I had to pick some nits, I would have liked to see a primer at the front of the book for the novice fan to make this more accessible to a wider audience and more diagrams along the way for all of us to enjoy. If you’re an avid football fan and have at least a cursory understanding and interest of the X’s and O’s, you’ll absolutely love this book. If you’re more on the front end of the learning curve, this book probably doesn’t meet your needs. Honestly Charles Leno Jersey , I’d love to see the author turn this into a video series, showing film to illustrate the innovations and how they worked. I’d be all-in for an 8-part NFL Films documentary too – and the Sam Spence soundtrack to go with it.This brings us to the present and future of the game that Farrar closes the book with, including the takeover of the RPO. I believe the league had been sitting in an era of equilibrium for a while, where it essentially required an MVP-level pocket passing QB to be consistently competitive or a defensive juggernaut to bring them down. For the most part, this evolutionary cycle has been defined by the premiere pocket passers fitting in tight window throws to receivers. Something earned over years of tape study, timing with receivers, and wisdom gained the hard way. Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers. If you didn’t have one of “those guys”, you almost certainly had to have something special on defense to compete.The problem with that from a team building standpoint was that it was increasingly difficult to find one of those premiere pocket passers. The college game was shifting and teams were sinking high draft picks into QBs that couldn’t adapt to that game quickly enough for anxious franchises. Add in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement and the containment of rookie contracts and all the sudden, relying on young QBs with a modest contract surrounded by a great team context was en vogue. But what can those young QBs run right out of college? You got it – RPO’s, spread concepts, putting pressure on defenses with the ability to run read option plays. The hope, it would seem, is that when the price tag comes due on the second contract, that QB can carry a heavier burden and transition to the traditional pocket passing scheme. The NFL today feels like it is experiencing one of those innovation moments – a disruption in the equilibrium. The best teams of 2018 appear to be in one of two molds - the young QB running creative concepts with wide open throws or the last vestiges of the old guard premiere pocket passer able to fit in tight windows with consistency. In one corner, Sean McVay, Jared Goff, Andy Reid, and Patrick Mahomes. In the other corner, Sean Payton, Drew Brees, Bill Belichick, and Tom Brady. Will the best swordsmen in the world win again or will it be the unconventional ones?The Genius of Desperation is the type of book that needs to be in your library if you care about the history of the game and the schemes that make it so interesting. Simply put – this book makes you a better fan of the game. Doug Farrar can be found on Twitter @NFL_DougFarrar. I can be found on the same format @gridironborn.Five Questions with Gang Green Nation: “Bowles needs 7 wins to save his job” The Jets are flying into Chicago this weekend and the Bears are still looking for their first win against the AFC East this year. The Bears and Jets have some recent shared history, including Brandon Marshall, Matt Forte, and Josh McCown (still there!) playing in green after their time donning navy and orange. As you’ll see from the exchange I had with our sister site Gang Green Nation and Michael Nania, the Jets are similar to the 2017 Bears or the 2016 Rams. Windy City Gridiron - 1. When I watched the draft this spring, I thought that the NY Giants made a monumental mistake in taking Saquon Barkley. Not because Barkley isn’t a rare talent (he looks to be a stud) but because they passed on Sam Darnold. How excited was the fan base that Darnold fell to the Jets and how has he looked in his rookie campaign?Gang Green Nation: The excitement was tremendous. Fans wanted a quarterback badly from the very start of the 2017 season knowing the team was tanking. When they fell to 6th in draft position, there was a bit of skepticism as you were unsure which quarterbacks, if any, would fall to the Jets at #6. When the Jets made the trade up to ,2# everyone knew it was for a quarterback, and the excitement leading into the draft was surreal.Fans would’ve been happy with any one of Baker Mayfield, Josh Rosen, or Darnold, so long as the pick was not Josh Allen. However, most fans presumed Darnold would go to Cleveland #1 and that the pick was between Rosen and Mayfield. When Darnold fell to ,3# it was a shock, and fans were ecstatic to have him in particular and to simply finally have that franchise quarterback they could rally around.Production-wise, he’s been a typical rookie. Darnold has played great in each of the Jets’ three victories and also played well in a loss to Miami. However, in the Jets’ other three losses, against the talented defenses presented by Cleveland, Jacksonville, and Minnesota, Darnold was plainly terrible. He sits near the bottom of the league in completion percentage and passer rating and leads the league in interceptions with 10.However, as I previously mentioned, that’s typical of a rookie - let alone the youngest ever. Few rookies are plus starters - after all, take a look at the rest of the rookie class. Mayfield is in a similar neighborhood with high highs and low lows, while Allen and Rosen have struggled mightily in poor situations.Darnold has been remarkable off the field with his team and football-first mentality, and on the field has flashed with money throws, arm strength, aggressiveness, and bounceback ability that fans are not used to seeing from quarterbacks on this team. He’s going to continue to have his ups and downs this year, but long-term, the promise is high.WCG - 2. The Jets may be where the Bears were a year ago – with a rookie QB playing for a defensive coach and no real weapons for him to throw the ball. Am I wrong on my assessment? Who should Bears fans be worried about making plays against this Bears defense on Sunday?GGN: A month ago or before the season I would’ve lauded this skill group as underrated and a top-half unit, but they are very banged up. Their best skill player, WR Quincy Enunwa, will miss another game. Terrelle Pryor, not a good player but capable of occasional big plays, is off the team. Jermaine Kearse does not look 100%. The Jets are down to that declining Kearse and Robby Anderson as their top two WRs - they recently picked Rishard Matthews off the scrapheap to save Darnold from the situation he was in against Minnesota throwing to fringe roster players.Don’t sleep on Anderson. He’s a legit deep threat. He toasts his way open downfield against top corners weekly - whether or not he racks up the production to match his play is a coin toss based on the quarterbacking performance. He toasted Xavier Rhodes this past week but was overthrown by Darnold. The downfield chemistry between these two is still a work in progress, but the flashes have been there.At RB, Bilal Powell is now done for the year. He is a far, far better pass protector and pass catcher than Isaiah Crowell Nick Kwiatkoski Color Rush Jersey , who will likely take over the lion’s share of the carries. Rookie Trenton Cannon is very speedy and flashed with a 30+ yard wheel route reception last week - but has very shaky hands as a receiver and ball-carrier. We’ll have to see where he fits in with Powell out.At TE Nick Kwiatkoski Color Rush Jersey , the Jets are uninspiring. They love to utilize all four of their tight ends in pass protection and as run blockers, but don’t have an established receiving threat. That could be changing - rookie Chris Herndon has begun to flash with touchdowns in back-to-back weeks. Earning playing time as a strong pass protector, he had an ugly drop early in the year in a key spot of the Miami loss, but is now making more and more big plays each week.As for your assessment, I agree wholeheartedly. I’ve said a lot that the Bears are who I want the Jets to be next year - 2nd year QB, fresh new HC (preferably offense-minded), and a lot of new weapons.WCG: 3. Todd Bowles is in his 4th year as Head Coach for the Jets and has a 23-32 record. (Fun aside – a fight over Todd Bowles is the reason the Bears passed on Bruce Arians as then-GM Phil Emery insisted Arians keep Rod Marinelli on as Defensive Coordinator but Arians wanted to bring in Bowles. That led to the Bears hiring Marc Trestman instead and everyone lived happily ever after 鈥?let’s just move back to the questions) Back to the parallels with the Bears – it seems like the Jets may be in prime position to hire a creative offensive mind (John Defilippo?) as HC and stock the roster with weapons for Darnold. Is there a sense of inevitability to that plan or can Bowles save his job?GGN: I think Bowles is in the middle of the see-saw right now. Coming into the year, in spite of his mediocre track record and lack of progression, he seemed safe. With a rookie quarterback, he looked like he would have a lot of rope. However, Bowles has had ugly performances in a few losses this year, making blatant playcalling errors defensively, watching his players commit timely penalties and ridiculous post-play ones, and failing to adjust. All of these things have been issues back to his first year in 2015.The Jets did not have the expectation of winning games this year, but I think Bowles needs to get to at least 7 wins to save his job. The Jets have won 5 games each of the last two years. At some point, enough is enough regardless of circumstance. If he finishes in that 7-8 win range without the playoffs, I think it’s up in the air and will depend on the organization’s thoughts on him. If he falls short of 7, I think there’s a good chance he might be done. If he somehow gets a winning record, he will probably be back.I can tell you this for sure - nothing short of a Super Bowl win will turn this fanbase back towards his side.WCG: 4. On the other side of the ball, the Jets spent the 6th overall pick on Jamal Adams, safety out of LSU, who was my favorite player coming out of the 2017 draft. The Jets also, famously around these parts, took Leonard Williams one pick before the Bears spot in the 2015 draft with the 6th pick. How have those two popular Bears targets played so far and who else should we know from this defense?GGN: Leonard Williams is a huge enigma and splits this fanbase. I don’t think anybody will debate he has been a good player. He plays hard, executes stunts, brings tremendous power to the table, and defends the run very well. He’s at the very top of the leaderboards in stuffs and quarterback hits since he entered the league. However, he has not really progressed since his rookie season. He goes long stretches without sacks and sometimes has games with a lot of 0s in the box score. Does the box score tell the whole story? Heck no. Williams creates a lot of pressure forcing mistakes by QBs and draws quite a lot of double teams that limit his production and help teammates. Howver, he simply has not been as dominant as he was pitched to be. Is he good? Yes. Has he been the team’s most consistent performer across the 3.5 seasons he has been here? Yes. But is he great? Maybe not. At just 24, perhaps there is still progression to be made for him. At the least, he’s a presence on every play who typically plays good run defense and gets in the face of the quarterback a few times a game.Jamal Adams rocks. He had an up and down, but very promising rookie year. He defended the run well and contributed on a lot of turnovers, but struggled in coverage against tight ends as he yielded a multitude of touchdown receptions.This year Prince Amukamara Jersey , he’s started to bring it all together. His run defense went from very good to elite - he is making multiple stuffs per game, most of them coming off of the edge. He cleaned up some his tackling issues and has been very efficient finishing plays this year. If you don’t block him on the edge, he’s going to make the play, and if you do, it better not be a tight end or wide receiver - he’ll smash them.His coverage is so much better. In man, he’s less hasty and has stuck to his matchups. In zone, he has still made a few mistakes, but he’s done better making plays on the football. Last season, he was often overagressive and found himself tripping or being overpowered at the catch point and at the top of routes - those things aren’t happening as much.Though still with improvement to make - Adams is a playmaker in every facet and he has proven capable of lining up anywhere. He’s been most dominant on the edge defending the run. He’s the best player on the team (ideally Darnold takes over that title down the line) and the organization and fanbase alike are very happy to have him.WCG: 5. The NFL trading deadline used to be a nothing story, but in recent years has really heated up. Let’s pretend we’re the GMs of our respective beloved franchises. What trade makes sense between the Jets and Bears?GGN: This is a hard section to fill out since the Jets are devoid of many enticing trade pieces.I could see DE/DT Henry Anderson as an interesting trade chip. 27 but only in his 4th NFL season, Anderson was shipped out of Indy due to a throat injury and a switch from a 3-4 to 4-3. Now at home in his natural scheme and healthy, Anderson is a force. While not a strong run defender, he is a very solid interior pass rusher, has a great motor, and great awareness that has helped him deflect a few passes and get out to limit a few passing plays. I think he can help any 3-4 defensive front improve their pass rush as a rotational piece. For the Bears, he wouldn’t even have to be on the field more than 25%-40% of the time, but I think he could help them get even more dominant defensively. You could have him for a 4th round pick?That’s not exciting, so let’s make things ridiculous. Give us Allen Robinson, Cody Whitehair, Jordan Howard, and Khalil Mack, and we’ll give you Jamal Adams, Leonard Williams, Isaiah Crowell, Morris Claiborne, Jermaine Kearse, and two firsts plus two thirds. Deal?WCG: Honestly, I think it would take an act of Congress to trade Mack at this point. However, I think Jordan Howard probably be available. Can we interest you in, say, Dion Sims or Marcus Cooper?!Thanks to Michael and Gang Green Nation for the time and knowledge!


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