I don’t remember exactly when I started following NFL football. I went to football games in high school and college, mostly because I liked being outside in the fall, cheering and walking around. I didn’t understand football, though; it just seemed like physical theater, full of action, drama, noise and commotion. I liked it in the abstract.
Then I read a biography called When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi by David Maraniss. I was fascinated by the man and the myth who was Lombardi; according to the biography, Lombardi’s father was a meat cutter who had the letters for “WORK” and “PLAY” tattooed on the fingers of his hands. Although I still saw football as theater, I was introduced to words like “I-formation” and “the Wishbone.”
My father, who has no tattoos, loves football and on weekends when I would visit The Motel to rake leaves or put in the wood, there would always be a little Sunday afternoon football to watch. By 2008, we had begun our family tradition of watching the Super Bowl together. Throw in a little daily sports radio and I was a football fan. One of my friends even bought me a pink Patriots’ hat.
As much as I tried to understand the plays, the rules, and the schemes, I had no practical frame of reference. I had never played football. I bought The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Football by Joe Theismann and tried to understand the nuances of the game. I asked my father a lot of questions. I watched the pre-game shows and took careful notes of everything Boomer Esiason and Shannon Sharpe said. Things remained unclear to me.
This year, the New England Patriots are struggling. Something is not right in Foxborough and the talkers are talking. There is a lot of talk about the “no-huddle offense” or the “hurry-up offense.” What exactly is “the hurry-up?”
Simply put, the “no-huddle offense” is when play action is executed without a “huddle.” This reduces the amount of time the defense has to adjust and anticipate the offensive moves and the quarterback’s execution of plays. One explanation I’ve read describes it as “basketball on grass.” “Hurry-up” allows the offense to control the tempo of the game and instead of the stop and start nature of the huddle, concentration is focused on play action. Thus, Tom Brady’s “laser-like” focus.
When I first starting pondering the “hurry-up,” I thought it might be a bad metaphor for the amped-up nature of modern life. Maybe the Patriots were playing poorly BECAUSE they were rushing. Haste makes waste and all that. Was it possible? Bill Belichick is purported to be a genius.
I said to myself “there is no way a team can execute a no-huddle offense unless they know their plays by heart, have practiced the heck out of them, and can run them blind-folded in their sleep.”
This is how Gus Malzahn’s offensive philosophy, now commonly known as the “no huddle,” works. The offensive scheme affects practice by allowing the team to run more plays in their sessions and everyone knows “practice makes perfect.” More focus is on the plays and concentration during practice improves. There’s less stop and start; less broken concentration. Increased practice concentration leads to heightened game concentration.
“Hurry-up” almost seems like a misnomer; the words imply haste. It’s really about slowing down the defense and messing up their timing; it’s about focus.
I enjoyed reading this comic look at a day in the life of Gus Malzahn.
Football will always be a game I watch and enjoy in the abstract as a metaphor for the struggle of life. I like watching the game with my Dad and it forces us to “hurry-up” and get our leaves raked before game time.
I don’t know a lot about football; maybe I’m oversimplifying everything, but maybe “hurry-up” isn’t the same thing as rushing around recklessly.
Huddle that thought today.