By Mike Leach
I was pleased to see the NCAA Rules Committee's recommendation Wednesday to repeal the clock rules enacted before last season, which resulted in a decrease in the number of plays and amount of scoring and excitement players and fans alike have come to expect from college football. By eliminating nearly a dozen plays from the offense per game, I calculate the rule cost Texas Tech 19 touchdowns over the course of last season. Therefore I am encouraged to see the new recommendations, almost all of which I support.
One recommendation bothered me, however, and that is the committee's pledge to "Encourage coaches, officials, game management personnel [and] media partners to manage the game in a more efficient manner." I understand the committee's concerns over game length and "efficiency," but I do wish to express some caution about the chilling effect this edict from above may have on certain styles of play.
Now, what do I know about efficiency? Nothing. I'm a football coach, not an economist. But I know football, like anything else in life, is not always "efficient." It is sometimes anarchical and messy. Even disgusting, and I like that. Once, for example, one of my receivers came off the field with a dislocated finger that was bent up like an 'L.' It was one of the coolest things I have ever seen. Our trainer Buzz said they were going to run him into the locker room for X-rays to make sure there was no further damage, then pop it back into place. I had to see that! How many times in your life will you ever have the opportunity to watch a person writhe in agony while one of his mangled joints is instantly rehabbed? How do they do that? Are they not tearing up like thousands of microscopic ligaments and finger tendons in there? What are those ligaments called? I don't even know, I should know, I will definitely have to ask Buzz and then do a little research on the finger. My favorite finger, personally, is the thumb, because it separates us from the animals and filthy beasts of the bush. Is the thumb considered a finger, officially? Who decides that? Do different fingers have different ligaments? 'Cause there has to be all kinds of crap that gets in the way, like calcium and all that kind of body stuff must go to work when the joint is out, and they say it just pops back in, just like that? No way. I bet some kind of finger juice comes squirting out from his fingernails when they force it back. That would be extremely cool. So I told Buzz I was going to follow them back and he was like, "Hell yeah, come on," until Graham Harrell came up to me and was like, "What's the play, coach?" and I was like, "What the hell are you talking about? Come with us and check out what you did to this dude's finger!" and he was like, "No, coach, we have the ball, we have to run a play, the clock is running." Eventually I had to call three time outs at the same time to stop the game long enough to check out the finger-popping action. And needless to say, it was worth every second. Now, does stopping the game for several minutes at once in the middle of a drive in the second quarter to take notes on the gruesome details of patching a minor injury fall under the NCAA's definition of "efficiency"? I'm afraid of the answer.
Strategically, clock management strategies vary from coach to coach and system to system, and I do not think it is in the NCAA's best interest to dictate a certain strategy for sake of "efficiency." I know at Oklahoma, for example, Bob Stoops always encouraged me to chart formations and play calls by down, distance, score and time remaining, and bought some software that would show the success rates of certain plays in certain sets in certain situations so I could develop a guide for when to call power runs, when to call play-action, draws and screens, when to call quick, high percenage passes that were likely to keep receivers in bounds when we head the lead, etc., you know, because he claimed that kind of thing was "efficient" and would make our two-minute and clock-killing offenses more "efficient." If Bob Stoops wishes to call plays that way, that is fine for Bob Stoops. He's been very successful using the methods that suit him and his team's style of play. But if that system is "encouraged," am I to be discouraged from using an eight-sided die to determine formations and selecting plays from a hastily-assembled origami fortune teller? I pretty much go to the bank with that. Am I not limited enough by all the arbitrary rules that already exist, like all the restrictions on motion before the snap, and a minimum of seven men on the line of scrimmage, or only being able to put 11 men on the field to begin with (why not 12? I have diagramed plays with as many as 32 players per side. Why not 40? Oh, because the NCAA says so? Or Walter Camp or whoever? Some teams around here play with seven, you know. And man, I love going to those games. They can't use diagrams from Coach and Athletic Director or "Installing the Run and Shoot for Dummies." They make that shit up themselves. With like what, three offensive linemen? Could Vince Lombardi run the power sweep with three linemen? I saw a kid named "O.G. Deuce 6" in one of those games catch a pass, put the ball down on the ground, throw a block for himself, then pick the ball back up and keep running. Talk about efficiency).
Mike Leach's playbook is built for effectiveness, not "efficiency."
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So most of that offseason with Stoops, I spent reading about pre-conquistador Incan society at Tiahuanaco and the "Gateway of the Sun" while shadowing EPA regulators during their oversight visit to the Fleet Management Division's CCG System in the City of Norman Public Works Department. Right before the season started, I went to the library to learn how to use the coaching software Stoops gave me - I mean right before the season started, like the freshman had already reported - and wound up spending the whole day Googling old episode transcripts from that show "Mama's Family." So I never learned the "efficient" way to run the offense, but I always say, "You're going to be dead in a hundred years, don't be a coward," and went out and called the plays my way and look what happened. We won twice as many games as the previous season, led the conference in scoring and I got offered a head coaching job. But, oh, wait, I'm sorry, I guess maybe the games took a couple minutes too long in the process?
Again, I applaud the Rules Committee on its flexibility, responsiveness and openness to change, but I respectfully ask its members: is calling a timeout with a five-touchdown lead in order to score again in the final minute "efficient"? Is it "efficient" to attempt more than 650 passes with at least a 2-to-1 pass/run ratio in every single game, or to finish on the negative side of time of possession by eleven and a half minutes or more in three different contests in the same season? Well then, sirs, some of us prefer not to worship at such an "efficient" altar.
Captain Head Coach Mike Leach
Texas Tech University