SOMEBODY asked a question yesterday about how opponents could alter Nick Foles level of success by studying game tape. The question itself was sarcastic in tone, and I thought (initially) that it was a joke. However after reading through the responses, I was amazed to see it was a REAL question. This was an actual football fan who did not understand the significance of game tape!
Understand I’m not pointing this guy out to make fun of him. Quite the opposite in fact. I think rather highly of his willingness to admit when he didn’t understand something and actually ASK ABOUT IT. There is nothing smart about being lost and staying lost just because you’re too dumb to ask directions.
Here’s why game tape will make 2014 harder for Foles.
1) As some responders to the question already pointed out, GOOD teams will be looking for tendencies. (This is true of any player, at any position, in any sport.) They’ll look for things that Foles does whether things are going well or breaking down.
Like how he sets his feet pre-snap. If say, his right foot is a little farther back than his left on passes, as opposed to them being even on plays where he hands-off. The MLB can read that and call the right signals during games.
Or if he “tips” plays. One problem with the No Huddle, is everything is done on the fly and across distance. If right after plays, he has a tendency to signal longer to his first read, it could signal a defense where to lean the coverage. Think of it like a bad Poker tell. It’s hard to change a tell, because it’s usually wired into who you are.
2) What does he not like to do? People used to marvel over Michael Jordan‘s defensive skills, and one day someone asked how he managed to be so good. Jordan said he just found out what a player liked to do, defended that, and made them to do the opposite. If the opponent likes to go to his right, only give him the left as an option. That’s really the best way to shake anyone’s tree.
Does Foles prefer to run it or throw it? Does he throw while he’s running? Does he only throw in the direction he’s running or is he comfortable throwing cross-body? Can he go deep doing it? Is he any good at it?
Raw stats can give you this information, but raw stat’s don’t tell you that the 4 times he threw cross-body while running right was because in every one of those situations there was no deep defender in the middle of the field. Nor will raw stats tell you that of the 5 times he pulled it down and ran with it, 4 times he was facing a Tampa Two, and once his receiver fell down. Tape will tell you that.
3) The most important thing tape will tell you isn’t specifically about the player. It’s actually more about the coach.
Since he was hired, Chip Kelly has constantly used the word ‘adapt’. He was going to adapt the 4-3 personnel to fit the 3-4 system. He was going to adapt his college style offense to fit the guidelines of the NFL’s rules. He was going to adapt each players skill set to the offense.
We’ve seen Michael Vick, Foles, and Matt Barkley all run this system in games that counted. Each of them however brought/brings a different skill-set to the table, and so of course it’s Kelly’s job to adapt those skills-sets. However each man has things in his game that makes him less than perfect, so it’s equally Kelly’s job to minimize those faults. The best way to do that is to limit how often you put a player in a situation that doesn’t “pimp him out”.
So in this case what you want to see, are the situations Kelly is trying to protect Foles from. For example:
Does Foles get nervous and intentionally ground the ball when he knows there’s a backside blitz coming? Then Kelly would run a lot of 4-wide formations to discourage that blitz.
Do his passes lose significant velocity or “float” when he has to move his feet? In that case you don’t line him up under Center.
Does he have issues with deep passes down the middle into any sort of traffic? Then you keep most of his middle passes under 10 yards in the air, by calling for those sorts of routes.
Tape doesn’t allow you to hide flaws that get glazed over when you’re running 3 plays per minute. In fact when operating at that speed, tape allows teams to set traps that you may not see coming, because you’re doing things so fast.
Chip Kelly had massive success at a level where coaches are limited to 40 hours a week of coaching. At this level many coaches sleep in their offices, and rarely go home once the season starts. (Andy Reid sometimes didn’t see his home for months at a time, and he lived up in Conshohocken, just minutes away up 76).
Kelly is liable to find that he has to invent new wrinkles faster than he used to just to keep pace, because the tape will put all of his secrets right out there. Catching up to Foles will be a by-product of catching up to Kelly, as Foles is a piston in an internal combustion engine. Once you figure out how the the engine works you automatically understand that piston.
If you study what’s on the tape, you’ll get to see what’s what.