Vince Lombardi

No Monday Morning Quarterbacks

Follow QuantCoach on Twitter

WELCOME to, the only site on the world-wide web that provides meaningful professional football coaching statistics.'s revolutionary coaching statistics are derived from a peer-reviewed and generally accepted theory of competition known as Growth Theory. Veteran coach Bill Parcells once said, "If they want you to cook the dinner, at least they ought to let you shop for some of the groceries." But Growth Theory teaches us that success "springs from better recipes, not just from more cooking." In professional football, those "recipes" are the plays that coaches design. Simply,'s coaching statistics separate the contribution of plays to pro football success from the contribution of players.

Earl "Red" Blaik

"Football may be a team sport, but it is a coach's game," Steve Sabol observed in The Games That Changed The Game: The Evolution of the NFL in Seven Sundays. "They are constantly innovating and embracing every new technology."

The coach who turned football into a technological competition between coaches was Army's Earl "Red" Blaik. He did it by emphasizing technology, particularly film study, and specialization. While Blaik did not invent either film study or specialization, his adoption of these technological concepts brought their use into the mainstream.

In 1948, Blaik hired Sid Gillman as Army's offensive line coach. Gillman was a pioneer in film study and Blaik embraced the technology. Film study enabled football design architects to verify that their abstract "X and O" designs worked.

"Game film is the great truth teller," Ron Jaworski wrote in in The Games That Changed The Game. "Every play puts responsility on the athletes on the field--eleven on offense, eleven on defense--and all must do their jobs in order for a play to be successful. The only way to accurately see and evaluate each player's performance is to watch what is referred to in the coaching profession as the 'All-22' tape. In these tapes, every player is visible, and they are filmed from sideline and end zone angles. If you study and interpret them correctly, they reveal everything."

Today, the value of film study is unquestioned. Indeed, the most successful coach in the game today, New England's Bill Belichick, is defined by his commitment to film study. Belichick's first job in the NFL came at the age of 23 when the Balitmore Colts' Ted Marchibroda hired him to break down film. Jaworski wrote:

"As head coach, Bill has to deal regularly with public relations and marketing aspects of the game, stuff he really doesn't care about. They're necessary, but a distraction from what he enjoys best. Belichick loves coaching football players and has as much respect for the game's history as anyone I know. But Bill is happiest when he once again becomes that twenty-three-year-old kid down in the basement of Memorial Stadium. When he's alone in the dark, projection clicker in hand, studying game tape, watching tiny flickering football images on a blank wall, in search of the next innovation that will someday help his team win."

While film study enabled coaches to verify the success and cure the failure of their play designs, specialization in the form of free substitution of distinct "platoons" of offensive and defensive players enabled designers to achieve increasing returns from their designs. While military governor in Japan in 1948, General Douglas MacArthur, Blaik's mentor and a die-hard Army football fan, prophetically wrote in a letter to Blaik:

"The introduction of the new substitution system opens up a wide range of ramification in the tactical handling of a football team. In effect it makes possible the more or less complete use of specialists in applying the various features of the game.

"Specialization under skillful guidance from the bench now will exercise a tremendous influence upon the final results. Heretofore, only eleven men could be on the team and each had to represent so much of a general development that specialization was really only incidental to natural ability. All of this is now changed. It gives almost unlimited selectivity to an entire squad whose members can from the very beginning be developed for special phases of attack or defense."

Football fans, however, initially did not like this new specialization. Of a 43-0 slaughter of Stanford in 1948, Blaik wrote: "Our brand of football did not please much of the crowd of 47,000 in Yankee Stadium. As the score mounted and our platoons moved in and out, the Army team, for the only time in history to my knowledge, heard itself booed continually for trying to play the game well."

But the success that resulted from the design advantage of specialization soon won over the game's customers by creating a more liberated offensive game. Long-time Los Angeles sports writer Bob Oates noted: "The two-platoon revolution, which disrupted the defense-dominate mindset that still hobbles soccer and other sports, revised football into a series of contests, between, for example, fast talented contingents of wide receivers and defensive backs--the kinds of athletes who rarely had the size to fit anywhere on a one platoon football team."

Today, as with film study, specialization is unquestioned. "In this era of specialization and rotating personnel packages, defenses are in trouble if they can't get the right people onto the field to combat what the offense is doing," Jaworski wrote in The Games That Changed The Game. "'Late in my career, it became more of a hassle matching up your personnel with opponent's,'" former Denver defensive coordinator Joe Collier told Jaworski. "'It got to be so that you had a coach up in the booth whose sole job was to spot their substitutions, then relay them back to us on the bench, so we could put people in to get a more advantageous matchup. The changes were so wholesale that it became a rat race on the sidelines. Today you need a lot more good defensive backs to compete with all the wide receivers on the field, and finding good secondary help is tough. They're a rare breed. With spread formations, it's a different game.'"

It may be a different game, but it still is a game that has its roots in Blaik's idea that the best way a coach could attain a design advantage for his players would be to provide them with options. In 1948, using the new research (film study) and development (specialization) tools, Blaik and Gillman began developing a new design of blocking known as "option blocking." (The captain of Blaik's 1948 team was Bill Yeoman, who later would invent the triple-option at the University of Houston.) In 1949, Gillman became the head coach at the University of Cincinnati and Blaik hired Vince Lombardi to replace him as the Cadets' offensive line coach. Blaik and Lombardi spent the next 5 years developing the option blocking design.

Football historian Ed Gruver observed that in the option blocking design, at the critical point of attack, the blocker was given the option of taking the defender in whichever direction offered the easiest block. For example, if the play was designed to go over the right tackle, the blocker at the point of attack normally would be expected to take the defensive tackle to the inside. But, if the defensive tackle aggressively charged or slanted to the outside, then the blocker could take the defender in that direction instead. The running back would "read" the block and adapt to the hole.

At its root, the option blocking system incorporated the opposing coach's design as part of Blaik's offensive design. Because Blaik could not be certain ahead of time what the opposing coach's defensive design would be, he gave his blockers options as a hedge against the uncertainty. By doing so, Blaik nullified the impact of the opposing coaching design.

Conceptually, Blaik's option blocking design is the foundation of modern technological football. In pro football, Lombardi would go on to design the "run to daylight" architecture for which he would become famous and Gillman would go on to design the sophisticated pass protection and pass route combinations upon which Bill Walsh built the West Coast Offense. At the college level, Yeoman would go on to design the triple-option that was the dominant college offensive design for nearly 20 years.

But Blaik has been overlooked by current historian's like Ron Jaworski and Sports Illustrated's Tim Layden.

It is a significant oversight.

West Point was the exchange where football ideas were traded on a daily basis in the post-World War II era. A little more than a decade later, pro football would follow Lombardi and Gillman in one direction while college football would follow Yeoman in a slightly different direction. But Lombardi's, Gillman's, and Yeoman's inventions all had one thing in common: They all based their innovations on the principle that the team that held options had an edge over its opponent and they all used the tools developed under Blaik (film study and specialization) to acquire those options for their players.

(2010 Archives1; 2010 Archives2; 2010Archives3; 2010Archives4; Archives Home)

© 2009 is not affiliated with the National Football League or any of its members.
The material contained on is for entertainment purposes only.