Toledo's Hybrid 4-2-5
The Rockets utilize an interesting Quarters scheme to suffocate the box on early downs.
We are living in the era of Fankestein defenses. Whether a scheme is greying the area between odd and even spacing or building a defense with interchangeable parts from other schemes, defensive coordinators around the country are getting creative. The modern game is an offensive one, which puts defensive coaches at the forefront of experimentation. As my friend Doug Farrar (USA Today) eloquently puts it, there is ‘genius in desperation.’
The main objective of any defense is to constrain space. Inversely, the offense’s primary goal is to create it. This dichotomous relationship is what makes football such an engaging study. As talent differentials increase as you drop into the lower levels of football, unique ideas begin to be developed as coaches must answer massive problems with little capital.
In the NFL, most teams live on the edge of success. The whole design of the league is built around parity. Sure, there are transcendent players, but each year, about half the teams that make the playoffs don’t make it the following year. There are clearly ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ at the college level regarding winning championships.
Only six teams made the playoffs three or more times in the 10 years since the inception of the College Football Playoffs. Alabama, for instance, has only missed it twice. Only five teams have won a championship, with the ’19 LSU Tigers being the only one-and-done champion. Drop to the high school level, and the parity becomes even more stark.
I say all this as a way to shake you from the grips of survival bias. The Decision Lab states this bias occurs “when a successful subgroup is mistaken as the entire group, due to the invisibility of the failure subgroup.” In football, this can happen when we solely focus on the schemes of the top teams, forgetting that many other examples are waiting for us to observe. In short, look for teams that do more with less when looking for new ideas on how to solve age-old problems (and don’t forget to study history!). Talent is king, but how do you mitigate standard issues when you don’t have said talent?
At the highest levels of football, there are great examples of ingenuity, schematic evolution and advancement, and clinical examples of best practices. I have said for some time that if you want to see the best talent, coaching, and scheme combined, watch the Bulldogs. For example, during the COVID shutdowns of 2020, and when many coaches had ample downtime to explore and develop ideas, Alabama, for instance, created a 3-High package utilizing their Mint Front (Spider).
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