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Fitz on Raiders trading Khalil Mack, plus other Week 1 observations

We’ve made it through the first full weekend of football. Here are a few of my observations (both college and pro) with the full slate of games officially wrapped up:

To pay, or not to pay

Mentioned only briefly in the Khalil Mack trade is the reality that you can’t pay a top defensive player AND a quarterback. The salary cap is $177 million for 53 guys. A team can’t pay two of those players over $50 million, basically one third of the cap. The Bears have Mitch Trubisky on a rookie deal. The Raiders have already paid Derek Carr. This was a huge consideration in trading Khalil Mack.

Speed it up

College games are just ridiculously long. Stopping the game after every first down is a complete joke. Some games have 200 plays. When you are talking about player safety that number of plays is more than absurd. Throw in the 20 minute halftime and we are going to get a 6-hour game at some point.

Nick Saban: The Larry Holmes of scheduling

Speaking of which, Division I teams playing Division II teams should be forbidden (I know they call them FBS and FCS but I will never do that). Alabama has been the premier program in college football as of late. The Crimson Tide have Arkansas State, Louisiana-Lafayette and The Citadel (Division II team) on their schedule. Next year its Duke, New Mexico State, Southern Miss and Western Carolina (Division II team). Nine real games and a bye each year, never a non conference road game. Nick Saban is the Larry Holmes of scheduling.

Alabama is really good AND they have gamed the system. A year ago they didn’t win their conference or even play in their conference championship game, played only 3 ranked teams (went 2-1) and STILL qualified for the playoffs. Of course you will never hear word one about Alabama’s weeny scheduling on ESPN. The network has partnered with the SEC and facts are complicated and confusing to that fan base.

Punt the punt return

Who will be the first coach – college or pro – to realize that using a punt returner in most situations is incredibly poor strategy? In a tie game or when leading, you should NEVER put a return man back. Here is why:

  1. By leaving the defense on the field, you will never be beaten by a fake punt
  2. You don’t rush so you won’t rough or run into the kicker
  3. With no return you won’t be called for holding
  4. With no return you won’t be called for an illegal block in the back
  5. With no return you will never fumble a punt
  6. With no return you will never have a ball bounce against a returner’s leg and lose possession of the ball
  7. With no return your punt returner will never run backwards or stupidly catch a ball inside the 10 yard line
  8. With no return you are GUARANTEED to get possession of the ball, the most valuable commodity in all of football

With no return you risk that the ball will bounce forward and you will lose some yardage. Wow, a 10 yard bounce of the ball is worth risking all of the above? Not a chance. Of course many punts bounce backwards towards the kicking team too. The punt return is an antiquated and poor strategy still practiced far too often. By the way, a vast majority of punts are fair caught and the incredible Tyreek Hill averaged 9 yards a punt return and had all of 29 punt returns all season. Which coach, college or pro will figure this out first? Maybe someone should ask Jim Harbaugh or Kyle Williams.

Speed it up, Pt. 2

The latest innovation in football is “tempo” or running the hurry up offense on a regular basis. This prevents the defense from substitutions according to down and distance. It also physically wears them out. Most teams run short quick passes that don’t allow for a pass rush as the ball is out of the quarterback’s hands very quickly. It can neutralize really good defensive players.

Yet defenses continue to play “off” or allow big cushions in these situations. The second half of the Bears/Packers game was a great example. You can’t allow short pitch and catch throws for quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers,Tom Brady, Drew Brees, etc. If a team is in the hurry up and running three-step drop short passes a defense MUST play press coverage. You are allowed to smash a receiver in the first 5 yards. This disrupts receiver timing and allows for pass rushers to pressure the quarterback. Yet few college or pro teams ever play this defense.

With the Packers at the Bears 11 yard line, the Bears corner Prince Amukamara was standing at his own 1 yard line allowing a free 10 yard completion to Davonte Adams who ran the extra yard for a TD. This is insanity and practiced by far too many defensive coordinators. In the red zone, press up, blitz the QB and dare him to throw over the top of your defense. The back of the end zone and the sidelines act as extra defenders. With only 20 yards to defend, playing “off” and backing up has become a joke. The hilarious part of the Bear defense in the second half is they gave up everything underneath and in front of them AND got beat on deep plays. That is a very poor combo to say the least.

Remember in week 1, nothing certain can be learned about your team. The 2003 Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots went a league best 14-2. In week one? They lost to the Buffalo Bills 31-0.


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