Study shows fewer than 15 percent of teenagers know read progression in Trips Left Yap Double China 76 Pin Smash against Nickel 1-5-5 Prowl.
NEW YORK - High school seniors en route to Division I football have a woefully inadequate knowledge of formation and strategy necessary to compete in the modern game, according to a new study released by a research group headed by former Nebraska coach Bill Callahan.
Fewer than half of players surveyed could describe the reads on a basic Right Charlie 10 Pigeon, and one in four said Bill Walsh won his first Super Bowl some time before 1940, not in 1981.
The survey results, released Tuesday, demonstrate that a significant proportion of young players live in "stunning ignorance" of history and strategy, said the Callahan Commission, which describes itself as a new research and advocacy organization that will press for more teaching of the West Coast offense in high schools.
The group says the current trend, the spread, has impoverished high school offenses by holding quarterbacks accountable for simple reads such as the playside end on running plays and the depth of the coverage over the slot receiver on passes, but in no other situations.
"I tell ya, Pete, one NFL guy to another: these kids today are for shit. Know what I'm saying?"
- - -
"Half these guys can't even take a snap from center," added Callahan, whose team allowed 41, 36 and 76 points last year to offenses whose quarterbacks rarely or never lined up under center. "It's time to really reassess not only what we're teaching kids in high schools, but how we're teaching them."
In the survey, 1,200 Division I-A verbal commitments were called in January and asked to answer 33 multiple-choice questions about history and strategy that were read aloud to them. The questions were drawn from Callahan's most recent playbook, one he called "dramatically dumbed down" from the version he originally brought from the Oakland Raiders.
About a quarter of the players were unable to correctly identify Vince Lombardi as Packers coach in Super Bowls I and II, instead identifying him as a play-by-play commenter, a trophy maker and the German kaiser.
On strategy, the teenagers fared even worse. Four in 10 could pick the name of the winning pass from Joe Montana to John Taylor in Super Bowl XXIII, "Ace Right Zip 72 Harpo Gauge," from a list of options. About half knew that in the 1992 NFC Championship game, Troy Aikman checked out of the traditional alignment for Double Bunc 77 Smash Stutter Drag into a Boss Y Terrier Smoke protection. About as many said he audibled to a Hail Mary, called timeout or wobbled off the field with a concussion prior to the snap.
About eight in ten, a higher percentage than on any other strategy question, knew that Vince Young's "Run Like Hell" led Texas to victory over USC in the 2006 Rose Bowl.
In a joint introduction to their report, Callahan and co-author Charlie Weis did not directly blame the spread option for the dismal results but said it had led schools to focus too narrowly on rote repetition and bubble screen reads, crowding time out of the limited practice session for hi-lo reads, the multiple smash concept and other fundamental subjects requiring proper footwork.
"The nation's offensive systems have become obsessed with simply putting the ball in the hands of their best athlete, and though that may serve their immediate interests, that is not healthy in the long run," Callahan and Weis wrote. "High school coaches have become more concerned with `coaching to the game' and getting results on the scoreboard than developing applicable long-term skills."
Critics of the report said high school coaches do the best they can with limited resources, but can only go as far as their players' abilities take them.
"You can be supportive of the spread option and also support strengthening the teaching of hot routes and the zone blitz," said Jerry Galbreath, a spokesman for the American Football Coaches Association. "It's good to talk about expanding the playbook, but if you can't read a playside end, you can't read anything at all."