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Two Minute Warning: The Copycats

October 16, 2008 | By Derek Jones | comment on this post

For Those About to Copy, We Salute You

Sometimes, I worry about head coaches. No, not necessarily NFL coaches, but just in general. Two weeks ago, while announcing a Division III college football game, during a critical two-point conversion try with the score 30-20, I witnessed the trailing home team trotting out the wildcat formation.

I wanted to scream. Now, the formation’s origin goes further back than a couple of weeks ago in Foxborough, Massachusetts. Yet, there is a time and place for a play like that. Certainly, trying to make the game a one possession contest midway through the fourth quarter is not the time.

The play called for the back-up tailback to line up in the direct snap position and then throw a pass into the endzone. Seriously? Your back-up tailback who hasn’t attempted a pass all season long? Folks, when these formations become popular, they pop up everywhere. For example, the Falcons already have slowly implemented it into their offense.

It’s troubling and sometimes proves that coaches are incapable of coming up with their own nifty ideas, instead solely intent on stealing and coming up with variations to call their own.

A classic example of this occurred back in 1988 when the Bengals used the no-huddle offense en route to making it to Super Bowl XXIII before falling to Joe Montana and the 49ers. To counter this unusual style of offense, defensive players began faking injuries to try to offset Boomer Esiason’s fast pace offense.

Perhaps the most vociferous opponent against the no-huddle offense was former Buffalo Bills head coach Marv Levy. Prior to playing Cincy in the AFC Title game that season, he implied that the Bengals operated outside of the realm of good sportsmanship by utilizing such an offense.

The Bills lost to the Bengals 21-10. During the ’89 playoffs, while falling behind to Cleveland, Buffalo trotted out the no-huddle offense to stage a comeback which barely fell short, 34-30.

Prior to the start of the ’90 season, Levy and offensive coordinator Ted Marchibroda decided to incorporate the no-huddle to start games. Four Super Bowl appearances later, the Bills were considered the inventors of the famed no-huddle; in reality, not so much.

When it comes to ideas in the NFL, there is no honour amongst this group of thieves.

Jersey Law Part II

As a part of last week’s TMW, we covered Jersey Laws that should be enacted to prevent people from essentially making bad life choices. After attending Game One of the National League Championship Series between the Dodgers and Phillies, I stumbled across another key law that needs to be added to the list:

No jersey should have your name or nicknames on the back.

Soon after the game started, a drunken fan fell into his seat wearing a Phillies jersey with the number three. Instead of paying tribute to deposed ex-Phils skipper and ranter extraordinaire Lee Elia, the name on the back read “JUICE.” His main contribution to the evening was yelling to Manny Ramirez in left field “GO BACK TO BOSTON!” This comment drew groans from the crowd, hoping he’d sit down and shut his trap. At least he didn’t throw any batteries.

I’d like to step into a time machine and be the quarterback of the Eagles, but you know what? It’s never going to happen. Putting your name or a nickname on the back of any sports jersey reeks of desperation and ultimately, makes you the sad 35-year-old who repeatedly talks to his boys about the glory days of when he played first base for the high school baseball team.

Ten Things We Learned in Week Six

1. Brad Johnson’s fantasy value has reached its highest point in five years: Dallas quarterback Tony Romo is set to miss four weeks with a broken pinky finger on his throwing hand. Enter the ancient Johnson, who’ll be entrusted with the Cowboy offense, which has been up and down lately. Fantasy owners have been busy claiming Johnson off waiver wires in part because of the addition of receiver Roy Williams from Detroit. Be careful, though. Since Johnson’s mobility is similar to a brick, offensive coordinator Jason Garrett should lean on Marion Barber a bit more.

2. Back-up quarterbacks are becoming the kryptonite of fantasy owners everywhere: Six of the top 10 passing offenses from last season have different quarterbacks under centre. The Patriots, Packers, Cowboys, Bengals, Seahawks and Lions are without their starters from 2007. Matt Cassel, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Charlie Frye and Dan Orlovsky have shown that they may be better suited playing flag football than starting for NFL teams. In turn, the aforementioned back-up quarterbacks murder the fantasy value of guys like Randy Moss, Chad Johnson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Calvin Johnson.

3. Peyton Manning and the Colts are back…sort of: Indianapolis is literally two plays away from being 0-4 this season. Yet, when a team has the Colts down, a stake straight through the heart is sufficient. Baltimore fell at the alter of Peyton in Indy last Sunday as Manning racked up 271 yards and three touchdowns. Does it mean the Colt offense is back for good? Not quite. Indy’s biggest problem remains a weak running game. The Colts rank last in the league on the ground, averaging just 69 yards per game. Until they get that rectified, they will not quite return to the level of previous seasons.

4. The wildcat formation runs wild again: Memo to all teams: If you see a quarterback lining up wide, it’s going to lead to him throwing a pass down the road. The Dolphins, who have used the wildcat formation in three games, lined up Chad Pennington on the outside. Houston, not ready for such an arcane concept, allowed Miami to toss to Pennington, who flicked a 53-yard touchdown pass to Patrick Cobbs.

5. Drew Brees might break Dan Marino’s single season record for passing yardage: Brees threw for 320 yards and is poised to finish as statistically, the league’s top quarterback. He’s on pace to throw for 5,313 yards, which would top Marino’s 5,084 yards in 1984.

6. The Arizona Cardinals are for real…but only in the desert: Under head coach Ken Wisenhunt, the Cardinals are 9-2 at home including their heart-stopping win over Dallas last Sunday. Their team is a bit more efficient at home than, say, on the road where they gave up 56 points and six touchdown passes to Brett Favre’s Jets.

7. JaMarcus Russell and Tom Cable are not resuscitating memories of Ken Stabler and John Madden: With or without Lane Kiffin, the Raiders are still awful. After Sunday’s loss to New Orleans, Cable’s lifetime record as a head coach (any level) is 11-36. Meanwhile, Russell cranked out a 13-of-35 effort for 159 yards and an interception. While the Raiders will look for a new coach next season, a new quarterback wouldn’t hurt either.

8. Speaking of Madden, he hates cross country trips: Let me get this straight. Madden, who spends most of his time on a bus, is getting a week off to prevent another cross country trip so he can spend more time with his family? I’m a bit skeptical here. He’s already going to have a week off next Sunday because of the World Series. I think seeing Jeff Garcia versus Charlie Frye scares him a bit more than the prospect of another cross country trip.

9. The Bronco defense is embarrassing: Denver head coach Mike Shanahan has worn out defensive coordinators in Denver, firing one after another. Bob Slowik is next on the chopping block at season’s end at this alarming rate. Denver’s defense allowed 416 yards to the Jags in a Week Six loss. The Broncos are dead last against the pass, giving up 255 yards per game.

10. For now, the Cleveland offense is alive: After falling all over themselves through their first four games, the Browns tagged the Giants for a 35-14 win. Derek Anderson hit on long throws and Braylon Edwards finally made big plays.

Fantasy Power Poll

Last week’s rankings are in parentheses

1. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints (1) – Fantasy football’s best quarterback by far in 2008.

2. Clinton Portis, Washington Redskins (NR) – Portis has been the most consistent performer at running back. He always been steady, but is emerging amongst an average group this season.

3. Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers (NR) – He would be the top back in all of fantasyland, but his offensive coordinator Mike Martz will be his statistical undoing.

4. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings (2) – He ran for over 100 yards on Sunday, but failed to score and fumbled twice against the lowly Lions.

5. Michael Turner, Atlanta Falcons (3) – Afterburner Turner has not posted two straight 100-yard games. When he rushes for over 100 yards, he scores. If he’s under 100, he doesn’t score.

6. Kurt Warner, Arizona Cardinals (5) – Steve Breaston is helping to offset the loss of Anquan Boldin.

7. Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts (NR) – He’s back for now, but they’ve got to run the ball. Otherwise, Manning is in for a beating every time he drops back to throw.

8. Reggie Bush, New Orleans Saints (8) – I know he has 41 catches and five touchdowns so far, but shouldn’t he have more than 3.1 yards per carry average?

9. Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis Colts (NR) – Despite the one week resurrection of Marvin Harrison, Wayne is still the man in Indy.

10. Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals (10) – Sorry, Larry — you’re just holding Anquan’s spot until he returns.

Link of the Week

To supplement your NBA Draft Kit, I’m providing the single greatest preview in sports history. Here is a look at the upcoming 2008-09 NBA season. Instead of the usual analysis about players, coaches and methods, this invaluable guide uses a woman to symbolize each team.

My favourite is the picture of the drunken skank representing the hopes of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Ouch.

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