Football commentators regularly talk up the value of the bye week or a big early season game for the opportunity to add extra preparation from a coach staff. This week I dug into the data to see how much of an effect bye weeks and openers had on team performance and which coaches are the best and worst at using the bonus time to their advantage.
As usual, I looked at all FBS games from 2003-2012. If a team played an FCS opponent as an opener or after a bye week it wasn’t included but it wasn’t treated as a bye for the next week’s game, either. I compared how each teams EV+ (points better/worse than an average team would have done, opponent adjusted) was in openers and post-bye versus how they did overall for that season. I then assigned those numbers to the head coach and looked at how head coaches have done, under the assumption that any strengths or weaknesses under these conditions would be more coach than program. So Brady Hoke is evaluated from Ball State, San Diego State and Michigan.
Over nearly 1500 post bye week games evaluated, a small benefit did emerge. The average team performs 1 point better post bye week than in regular weeks. 53% of teams performed better than their expected based on full season performance. The data closely matches a normally distributed outcome with an average benefit of 1 point and a standard deviation of 11.5 points.
Distribution of points versus average for post bye week games
Openers were about a wash. The typical team performs about 0.2 points worse than expected in openers. Openers feature a lot more variables than just extra preparation time. The standard deviation for opening games is the highest of any week during the regular season (but lower than bowl games). That variance is pretty low however. Teams have the most deviation from their season average in week one (11.9 points) but the low point has a deviation within 1 point (11.0) that occurs during week one. So teams are most likely to have an outlier game in week one or for their bowl but overall, most weeks have a pretty similar level of deviation.
To see how current Big Ten coaches have done, I looked at their track records for both openers and after a bye week to see who has done the most and least in each situation. The bubbles are color coded based on the team and all of the reds are team coded because there are too many red teams in the Big Ten.
Positive numbers are good and bubble size indicates sample size
Mark Dantonio and Kirk Ferentz have both been able to start the year off strong with strong opening performances. New Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen along with small sample size guys Bill O’Brien and
Curtis Kyle Flood both have the best results after a bye week. Coach Hoke’s openers have been mildly below average but his bye weeks have been the most productive of any coach with a larger number of games. Urban Meyer has seen his results after bye weeks on the other end with his squads playing 3.6 points per game worse than they do in a normal week.
Other Notable Coaches
Openers on the x-axis and post bye week on the y-axis
Charlie Weis has seen his career reflect his seasons at Notre Dame. A first season/game that was significantly better than what happens afterwards. I guess his decided schematic advantage expires after one week. Barry Alvarez is apparently the king of the bye week as his teams turned 3 bye weeks under him into a +21 advantage, even after accounting for opponent and team strength. Joe Paterno was the opposite case. His Penn St teams played over two touchdowns worse after a bye week. Mack Brown and Jim Tressel also had teams that have found bye weeks to be counter-productive. The only entry several points worse on both standards was GERG Robinson during his tenure at Syracuse. LLoyd Carr’s openers were never great, even when The Horror is excluded but his teams where some of the best coming off of a bye week.
As always, let me know about any request for off-season material you would like to see.
Ouch. My Retinae.
You probably heard that Jason Collins came out of the closet on Monday, making him the first active athlete in one of the four major sports to do so. And as you would expect, the announcement sparked a mix of debate, encouragement, and less-than-flattering comments from all corners of the sports world.
Fortunately, after several hours of often heated discussion, the sporting world was brought back together in unison. Gay, straight, bisexual, asexual, black, white, hispanic, Asian, Native American, and any Panera you-pick-two of the above, we all spoke loudly in one voice that NO NO NO DO NOT WANT:
I’m not a smart man, and my knowledge of genetics, sociology, and biology are woefully inadequate. Debates about the origins of sexual orientation are best left to people wiser than I. But I know this: the words “Tim Brando Sex Tape” are not going to do anything for Team Heterosexuality. Every time someone tries to play the “the gays are ruining everything” card, someone will throw in a copy of Brando Does the SEC, and the conversation ends with everyone rubbing guacamole in his or her eyes to dull the pain.
Oh, but it gets worse. Dick Vitale, probably inspired by Brando’s positive body self-image, jumped in with HIS two cents about interpersonal relations vis a vis Martha Stewart. And I ain’t sayin’ he’s a gold-digger… but he ain’t messin’ with no broke domestic solutions specialists.
— Dick Vitale (@DickieV) May 1, 2013
“Oh yeah. That’s awesome baby…”
It could be worse, though. I know of at least one announcer who has lots of time on his hands these days, and may be looking for a new project:
And then Marv Albert gets involved, and then the very fabric of society tears asunder as the masses try desperately to flee. Do you see what you’ve done, Jason Collins?
BONUS: Early Jose Canseco Update
Just when you thought this whole cluster had reached its merciful conclusion, things jumped the crazy shark, which in this case might be a euphemism for some sort of random and terrifying sex act:
I don’t know if he’s serious. And neither do you. But let’s agree to NO ONE CALL HIS BLUFF.
The NCAA announced yesterday that colleges are no longer allowed to paint hashtags on the field. This is obviously a watershed moment in college sports, and one that will lead inexorably to the resolution of all the other minor problems facing college athletics like amateurism and concussions and whatnot. Asked to explain the hashtag ban, national coordinator for college football officials Rogers Redding explained that it was all about integrity:
"If they have stuff on the sidelines, or on the walls that go around the stadium, it's OK," Redding said. "The idea is just to preserve the integrity of the field and not open it up to other kinds of advertising."
Yep. You read that.
The integrity of the field.
This was said with a straight face.
Hashtags would ruin these pristine natural playing surfaces, man. As a Michigan fan, I’m totally cool with never seeing a hashtag on a field again. But why the NCAA thinks this needs to be a rule is beyond me. I mean, have you SEEN some of the football and basketball uniforms Adidas and Nike have trotted out in the last couple of years? And you think a pound sign is going to make a difference?
Also, because of some confusion, the NCAA felt the need to clarify that they are not banning the existence of hashtags as a metaphysical matter:
So good news, Twitter users. You can continue to use hashtags without the NCAA busting in, urinating on your laptop and/or smartphone, and issuing you a Notice of Allegations. But you get the feeling that they considered banning hashtags (along with gifs, blogs, and NCAA related water cooler conversation), but decided against it. They are, after all, benevolent overlords.
Not Sure if Serious, or if Terrible Evaluator of Talent
Every year when the draft winds down, fans hold onto hope that their favorite college player will be plucked in the last few picks. Some go so far as to tweet NFL teams asking them to take their favorite players, as if real teams actually use the “show of hands” method of drafting.* I suppose it’s a harmless thing to do; it’s like the audience at the Price is Right shouting that they think the Cream of Wheat is more expensive than the Ziploc bags. They’re probably wrong, but damnit that’s half the fun of being in the audience.
But when some random guy suggested that the Colts draft Robert Marve as Mr. Irrelevant last week, the Colts shouted back that, Cream of Wheat? Are you stupid or something?
It’s rare, and somewhat refreshing, to see a team react this honestly to a fan. The easiest thing in the world would have been to either ignore it, or to respond with a non-committal “we’ll see what happens, so stay tuned.” But instead, we got “Robert Marve? Seriously? The guy who has torn his ACL like twelve times? Seriously? I mean, his numbers aren’t terrible… but have you watched him play football? You want us to intentionally choose him for our professional football franchise? Hell, no one wanted Tyler Bray or Collin Klein or Matt Scott, and those guys are 50 times less terrible than Robert Marve.”
Or at least they would have said that. Damn 140 character limit.
*Some have suggested the Raiders draft by show of hands, but they technically use a Modified Show-of-Hands/Blindfolded-Lemur-Throwing-Darts-at-a-Draft-Board system. So it’s not quite the same thing.
Who is Canada’s Version of Barbara Streisand?
If you’ve ever been on the Internet (and if you’re reading this, that’s you), you’ve been accused of something horrific by an anonymous commenter on some random message board. The same goes if you have ever done anything that was discussed on the internet. In fact, if you have ever done anything that involved things and/or stuff, you have been accused of being somewhere on the spectrum of pickpocket to Serbian war criminal. I’ve personally been accused of a string of penguin molestations for which I TOTALLY HAVE AN ALIBI. But we all know two things about these rumors when we see them: that these rumors are almost certainly false (especially those that are penguin-related), and that the targets have absolutely no recourse.
Recently fired Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke, however, cares not for your rules. He is suing eighteen anonymous internet message board users for defamation. Among the named defendants are “poonerman,” “sir psycho sexy,” “KaBoomin8,” “Loob,” and “mowerman.” Burke is alleging that these guys and gals (but guys, because we’re talking Canadian hockey message board users here) spread rumors that he was fired by the Leafs because he fathered a child out of wedlock. His motivation here is pretty straight-forward:
“That’s kind of the point,” [Burke’s attorney Peter] Gall told the Star. “A lot of people think that they can with impunity say whatever outrageous things on the Internet and nobody’s ever going to be able to find them or hold them accountable. Brian is going to hold them accountable.”
Brian Burke is going to police the internet for us. Pack it up, mods, there’s a 57-year-old former hockey exec on the job.
I’m not well-versed in Canadian libel law, but this seems to me to be a ridiculous suit. For one thing, he’s gotta demonstrate damages, which he probably can’t do because he was fired BEFORE this stuff went public. In other words, he has to prove that some people out there would be like, “well, I didn’t think this guy was fired for fathering an illegitimate child, but now that LOOB has said so, I totally believe it.” He also wants an injunction prohibiting the defendants from making further defamatory statements, which… good luck with that.
The bigger problem, though, is that Brian Burke has obviously never heard of the Streisand Effect, whereby the act of trying to squash things that happen on the internet typically make them a much bigger deal than they otherwise would have been. Before the suit, this was confined to a series of 18 posts on a Wordpress blog. And now?
I’ll give you three guesses at the rumored name of the alleged mother of Burke’s love-child. Way to put the kibosh on those rumors, champ.
Additional Sloopy Sighting
A friend of mine texted me this picture from West Michigan yesterday:
Someone must know this confused soul. Find him. I wish to interview him. I know there is much we can learn from each other, if we can negotiate a truce. Can there be a peace between us?
Regularly Scheduled Canseco Update
Maybe he can parlay the Brando fame into an invite to the White House. We’ve got our fingers crossed for you, man.
MORE LIKE COME PLAY WITHDRAWN FORWARD FOR JURGEN KLINSMANN
O reader, I bring to you a topic of great significance. The blogosphere has been riven by controversy after a horse tried to play football on twitter. Should horses play football on twitter? Should horses not play football on twitter? This is the great modern give-and-take of discourse. This is the First Amendment. This is America.
The Anti-Horse Alliance is led by one Adam Jacobi, an Iowan who loathes all hooved mammals you cannot eat. I must agree that a thousand pounds of lovely-seeming meat just, like, composted or whatever is a waste and is hateful. In addition, he says the idea of horses playing football is anathema. He has many fine reasons for this take.
Horses can't understand football. Horses aren't completely stupid, and their skills at dressage lead me to believe that an end zone celebration involving a horse hot-steppingcould be PHENOMENAL, but football is a very complicated sport with rules and regulations governing virtually everything, and I just can't imagine that a horse would be able to abide by the rules of the line of scrimmage and the snap. False start penalties everywhere, even for just a twitch of the tail. "Set" means "set," horsie.
And so forth and so on.
The Coalition of the Horse Willing counts the esteemed Spencer Hall in their ranks.
Horses can qualify academically in the NCAA. Provided they get a learning disabled qualification, a horse should be able to stay eligible at several SEC schools. Auburn and Ole Miss come to mind first, but let's not single out those schools alone, but yes, mainly Auburn and Ole Miss. Horses may also succeed--neigh! even thrive!--at the C-USA, Sun Belt, and MAC level.
I fear that both these men have missed the mark on the original question so badly that they have embarrassed themselves in the manner of a 50-year-old white Christian male who demands credit for such, also on twitter. They will live down their shame in time.
That shame: by debating whether or not horses should play football they fail to ask the question "what sport should horses play?" Football is an ill fit. Basketball is preposterous, hockey promising but problematic, track and field faintly ridiculous, and horse racing completely out of the question. It's obvious, though. It's right in front of your face, and thus two or three feet below a horse's face.
Horses should play soccer.
THEY HAVE MORE FEET. More feet equals more skill. Leo Messi in fact has a foot that branches just below the ankle into ten toe-sized feet. Horses cannot match this, but with four feet they have double that of the average American, and are therefore twice as good at soccer than said average American, four times better than many World War I veterans, and eight times better than Robbie Findley.
PREHENSILE LIMBS NOT REQUIRED HERE. The McDonalds inside of which horses play soccer beautifully has a sign outside that says "NO SHIRT NO SHOES NO FINGERS NO PROBLEM."
HORSES CAN UNDERSTAND SOCCER. It's mostly a matter of booting a ball around without whistles and the like. Much simpler than football. Also, horses came from Europe! QED.
While I think a horse hockey team would be pretty good since the goalie would occupy the entire net, you'd probably have to shoot it. I digress.
TURNING HORSE ANKLES INTO A MIST OF TENDONS AND DEATH IS SANCTIONED IN SOCCER. In football, exploding someone's ankle is not a penalizable offense except in certain situations. Anyone turning a leg into a spray of horror gristle in soccer is generally shown a red card. The tendency of horse legs to fall off with little provocation is an asset to the team, if not the horse in particular. Go team.
SOCCER DEVELOPMENTAL PROGRESS GENERALLY AVOIDS THE NCAA. Horses do not have to take tests to sign with Liverpool or whatever.
POOPING ON THE FIELD IS PROBABLY STILL NOT GOOD. But they do play on actual grass. The cost savings. Think of them.
AMERICA CAN USE THEIR ATHLETES ON AMERICAN SPORTS. Horses are a great untapped resource in our race to dominate the globe's favorite sport, allowing us to both have LeBron James and LeHorse Soccer.
This is the First Amendment, that I can say that horses playing football is a terrible idea… unless it's the other football.
"Don't tread on me"
See you at the World Cup final. Bring carbonated oats, baby.
In retrospect, I bet this is false. But if it's not... A tweet claiming that the six Big Ten hockey programs will receive a two million dollar bonus from the BTN made the rounds, spurring many questions—including mine—about whether this would make a Nebraska or Iowa jump on the sport. Corn Nation has a take from Lincoln assuming that's true, but it also includes a couple facts that make me think the initial tweet is bollocks:
If this number is to be believed, it's a game changer for the rest of the schools in the Big Ten as well as the rest of college hockey. In 2010, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan were the top three schools in revenue generated by hockey with numbers ranging from $4.1 million for Michigan to $6.6 million for Minnesota. In comparison, Nebraska-Omaha ranked eighth with $2.8 million in total revenue.
Minnesota has a relatively lucrative deal with Fox Sports in which all their games are televised and is at the maximum end of college hockey TV revenues, and they're still at 6.6 total revenue. It doesn't seem realistic that the BTN is going to fork over that much to the hockey schools. That tweet has gone unconfirmed by anyone else, meanwhile.
The best argument in favor of it is that it's a sop to the pissed-off Gophers, but Minnesota's been a net drain in football for 50 years. What are they going to do, leave?
If it is true, that does help expansion quite a bit. According to Kristi Dosh, Michigan State spent 1.7 million on their hockey program in 2009-2010. If anyone's significantly above that it's probably not by much. Title IX means a hockey program has to come with an equivalent womens' sport, so a hypothetical BTN stipend doesn't quite make hockey break-even annually, but add in a reasonable amount of other revenue and it might. Startup costs are still an issue, but if that's a one-time hump to get over I could see certain athletic directors go for it.
#onlyincompetentgermans. Adidas is in hot water with various colleges for an Indonesian labor dispute that has already caused various universities to terminate their (much smaller, likely nonexclusive, not athletic apparel) contracts with the place Germans stash their dim bulbs. Mary Sue Coleman comes in to rattle a saber or two:
Not all of these schools have their athletics apparel contract with adidas. Some only have licensing agreements for merchandise sold in campus bookstores and through other retailers. However, a growing number of universities who have exclusive all-sport contracts with adidas, such as Wisconsin and Michigan, began to give ultimatums and threaten contract termination over the past month.
Not coincidentally, that’s when things took a turn for the better for the former PT Kizone workers. Last week, just days after adidas participated in a conference call with Michigan and neared the end of Michigan’s 45-day cure period, adidas announced a settlement. The agreement is confidential, but a press release from the former PT Kizone workers states, “the former workers will receive a substantial sum from adidas.”
All of this is over a little over two million dollars in severance pay, so this is both possibly unethical (Adidas claims they were clear of this factory six months before it shut) and bogglingly dumb. When Michigan's contract expires, things will be fascinating.
The straight face test. Dave Brandon was against a playoff and then he was okay with the playoff because he didn't consider it a playoff—the naming of the thing must have been a dark day on 1000SSS—and now he's making his paleo arguments again. He's hanging out with BFF Follow Ur Heart Hollis again:
"(Hollis is) right, we’re not going to end any controversy (with the new playoff format), we’re going to create more.
"It’s not going to settle anything (more) about who’s the national champion. There’s going to be a lot of judgment involved with four teams involved."
This is straight false. Taking thing to their logical extreme, the number of people who talk about NCAA tourney snubs the day after the brackets are announced is zero. That won't be the case here because of the restricted field, but abominations like giving an undefeated SEC champ no shot at a title are a thing of the past. When CRex took an extensive look at this last January, in the 14-year BCS sample he came up with "2" as the right number four time. The vast majority of the time the BCS is arbitrarily picking between equal-ish teams we have no data on. Four teams puts another layer of games between random guessing and the title, and cannot be more controversial.
Brandon does have some points about how he doesn't believe four will stick—though it will for at least a decade—and that asking college players to play more and more football is not so ethical. I've got a solution for that, mmm.
The straight face test part 2. Gerry DiNardo is putting on his tinfoil hat, and saying not smart things. I know, different day, same stuff.
"The other thing that concerns me is how much of the Ohio State-Michigan game motivated this, so they could continue to play at the end of the year, and (so) they have to be in the same division,'' DiNardo said. "Because it's possible, by way of example, this year, you'd have to say both of those are two of the favorites in their respective divisions, which means they could play back-to-back weeks (regular season, and Big Ten championship game), which isn't good for the Big Ten or college football.''
DiNardo had suggestions for other ways the Big Ten could have worked around the issues.
"You could see yourself dividing it North and South, still have a geographical boundary, and separate Ohio State and Michigan and play that game early in the year,'' DiNardo said. "As I often say, when I say play Ohio State and Michigan, I think divisional games should be played in the second or third week, when I say that, I run the risk of losing my job. There's other possibilities."
DiNardo is actively campaigning for the Big Ten to make the same mistake the ACC did with Miami and FSU, and his "solution" doesn't even work. Go ahead, divide this North-South:
Assuming M, MSU, Wisconsin, and Minnesota are in the North and that Iowa goes with the triangle of hate, your options are splitting Nebraska from its natural hate partners and putting them in a division with Rutgers, Maryland, and Penn State half a continent away, or making the "South" OSU, PSU, and hot garbage. When the team that is the biggest threat to OSU is under crippling NCAA sanctions for the next decade, your divisional alignment sucks.
I'm arguing with a guy who failed spectacularly despite being surrounded by piles of talent and is arguing against the greatest rivalry in college sports. Next up, I talk to a rock about why it shouldn't bother with gravity.
Silver lining. Michigan State is an ESPN poll's pick for biggest loser in the realignment:
Michigan State: Placing the Spartans in the East kept the Big Ten from needing a protected crossover for their annual game with Michigan, but it also greatly increases the number of obstacles between Michigan State and the Rose Bowl. The Spartans now have to deal with Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State in their own division every year, whereas the West would have presented a clearer path to Indianapolis and kept a budding rivalry with Wisconsin going.
Mwahaha. Also a candidate were the Jug and Illibuck trophies. Yes, the Jug is cool, but the series between those two teams is so lopsided losing that as annual event is no big deal. Meanwhile that is the worst road trip in the Big Ten for local M fans: either drive around the lake or suck up the exorbitant flight between Delta hubs. Rutgers is farther away as the crow flies but flights to New York are always dirt cheap. I'll take fewer games with Minnesota.
Gentlemen who missed the Kickstarter or wanted to order multiple copies but couldn't because Kickstarter doesn't let you do that, here are the answers to your issues. You can preorder HTTV on the MGoStore:
Click either one to go directly to the store page. (The basketball/hockey cover is extremely tentative, FWIW.)
Sorry this one's short, since I'm neck deep in the HTTV editorial right now. When we did the Marlin Q&A I shot him a question over email after the fact about his favorite type of defense. The answer I got back was very detailed, and mostly Greek to anyone who hasn't immersed themselves in it. I also thought it made a great snapshot answer to the question of what's the difference between college defense and pro/Alabama defense.
What's your favorite type of defense/base formation? Is there one that's more fun to play in and another that you think is the most effective, or are those one and the same?
My favorite type of defense is the 4-3 zone blitz with a mix of cov 4 and cov 2. My favorite coverage was one named Rolex, a mix of cov 4 and 2. DBs must read the number 2 receiver in order to know which cov to play, if 2 goes to the flat, outside corner comes off one and plays cov 2 while the safety pushes over the top of #1. If #2 goes vertical instead of to the flat, the safety takes #2 and the corner stays on #1 playing quarters cov.
Glossary (skip this part if you're already comfy with football terms)
4-3: The 4-3 you know: four linemen and three linebackers. Because the NFL plays with so many different fronts, specifying the base shift isn't necessary—they're going to align to what the offense shows and change it up three times before the snap to confuse the offense.
Zone blitz: Credited to the '71 Dolphins and popularized by LeBeau with the Bengals and Steelers. All it really means is dropping guys you'd expect to pass rush into coverage and blitzing from one of the guys you'd expect to be playing coverage. In a 4-3 defense it usually means a defensive end is in dropping into coverage and a linebacker or safety is blitzing. Granted your DEs are not going to be Ed Reed out there but it's effective because you screw up the OL's blocking assignments and you can get some quick picks from quarterbacks trained to throw in the direction of the extra rusher.
a typical cover-2 zone blitz
Cover 4 and Cover 2: Two basic defensive schemes for playing zone defense:
As you can see by the size and shape of the coverage zones, they have different strengths and weaknesses. Cover 2 is strong against short passing and is effective against the run because the linebackers don't have to go very far and the corners can keep that edge. It's weak to either side of the safeties, beaten by abusing the MLB deep or the spot on the sideline over the corner's head. Common routes to beat Cover 2 are seams, four-verts, and posts, which put receivers on either side of the safety's zone, or going high-low on the cornerback, making him pick between receivers running routes both under and over him.
Cover 4, also called "Quarters" is strong where Cover 2 is weak, and vice versa. You attack it by attacking the flat, for example with stop routes or making a linebacker carry a receiver/tight end to one side of his zone and having a back roll into the spot just vacated. You also can attack Cover 4 by running into it, but because the coverage just went back to normal for those safeties, and because the NFL has guys like Marlin, and Polamalu, and Ed Reed available to them, some coaches use this opportunity to line up one or two safeties in the box as supplemental run stoppers, trusting he'd have the speed to get back to a deep zone. Ohio State and Virginia Tech do a lot of this. The base quarters play is this:
The Flat: You should know this but it's the area between the hash marks and the sidelines within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage.
1 receiver, 2 receiver: Lots of coaches have different terms for the different receivers in any given formation, and defensive coaches have their own sets again for better kenning. In this terminology throw out all the stuff about slots and Y's and split ends versus flankers, and just think of the No.1 receiver as the outside guy.
Cover 2 and Cover 4 both split the field in half, so in the defensive back's mind he just needs to be watching to see what the receivers are doing on his side, hence the plural 1's and 2's.
High-Low: He didn't say that but it's what this play is trying to prevent. The cornerback on the right of this gif is getting high-low'ed:
In this case the corner plays it safe and decides to stay with the receiver running a flag to the top of the corner's zone, effectively forcing the corner to play a Cover 4 zone and abandon his Cover 2 zone, where there's now a tight end hanging out with a whole lot of nitrogen. Boom: high-low'ed.
If you look at left side of the above-gif'ed play, you can see they're running the other thing that beats Cover-2, putting the free safety in a bad choice (and requiring the cornerback to turn and carry the receiver out of his zone). If you start covering the flat and leave the #1 receiver to the safety, the offense can punish you deep and down the middle. Here the free safety was put in a bad choice between taking the tight end who's already behind the linebackers or a receiver who's behind his corner's zone. Boom: vert'ed.
But what if you could play Cover-4 when they try to verts you, and stay in your Cover-2 zone when they try to hit you in the flat?
This is Rolex
purple means it's a read
The point of this play is to take away one of the methods of beating Cover 2—going high-low on the cornerback—without opening something else up by having the safety and corner read the #2 receiver (for ease I've made this the tight end) and adjust accordingly.
In the example above, if Y goes into the flat, then the cornerback lets the receiver go and covers the flat, and the safety knows he is responsible for that receiver (who you're expecting to head out to corner). If the Y is running a vertical route the corner and safety play a Cover 4.
This Isn't Cover 4 or Cover 2
If you watch the linebackers' zones, it looks like a Cover 2, since the outside guys aren't covering the flats. From the offense's standpoint, the whole thing is playing havoc with the keys you've been drilled on since your first snap: the zone blitz means there's coverage in the direction the pressure is coming from, and though you recognize Cover 2 zones in the first few seconds of the play, when you go to throw the pass that's supposed to beat Cover 2, there's a cornerback or safety playing it super-aggressively.
How to Beat It
It's a changeup, not a complete defense. Marlin didn't say what they do if the #2 receiver goes on a slant inside or something, but I think that plays right into the teeth of the defense; just double up the #1. I am confused about how they deal with the opposite high-low method:
…since the corner's read is going to drop him into Cover 4—perfect spot to intercept a ball to #2 but who's got #1 now? My guess is he just plays quarters with the linebacker (or in this case the SDE), who has responsibility for the flat. Also the SS is playing quarters so he's got his ears back.
Best I could find after watching lots of tape (Marlin failed to mention it was an Eagles defense until after I'd watched a lot of 2007 Colts). The #2 receiver stayed in to block, and the corner reads the backfield to be sure there isn't an RB trickling out into the flat, then leaps into Cover 4. The LBs are playing Cover 2. Another from that same guy.
Can we try this?
Mattison certainly played with this kinda stuff with the Ravens. But this year we're going to have at least one untrained safety, and the corners have about a year and a half of experience between the two starters. The thing about this play is it requires several defenders all to make the correct read and react to it quickly. It's the kind of advanced stuff that an NFL defense can install and practice until it's second-nature, but seems like a hard thing to get a young secondary to do. In the future, projecting that a handful of the defensive back recruits do work out, yeah I absolutely see Michigan trying stuff like this. Mattison loves his zone blitzes, and you could see in 2011 and last year that he wanted to put some more quarters and mixed coverage stuff in.