As I mentioned on this week’s episode of HLS TV, I hate Stanford. Well, perhaps I should back up a bit, if I’m being honest with myself, saying that I hate Stanford is probably a bit much. No, the more accurate description is that I hate this lofty pedestal some Notre Dame fans have placed them on.
Recently, Stanford somehow became the embodiment of the “right” way to run a football program and that Notre Dame should copy it. Their “old school, physical style” is somehow the panacea for all football ails.
After all, both Stanford and Notre Dame have high academic standards. Stanford found some success here with four straight BCS appearances, two of which resulted in wins. So therefore, success! Why does ND waste time with the spread when they could be doing this?!
As you can probably tell from my tone, I don’t fully buy into that line of thought. And yes, I do realize I’m over-simplifying a bit, but it’s for the sake of brevity. Regardless, because of this line of thinking, Stanford has become a representation of this desire to force-fit a certain style of play onto the Irish. Because Stanford has seen recent success, I feel as if it pushes people towards a close-minded thought that there is a “right” way to play football.
I hate Stanford for that. Yes, that’s right, I have transferred anger from an argument that drives me up the wall to an opposing team. Some might define this as irrational behavior, but in the world of college football, this makes perfect sense and it isn’t the strangest thing you’ve read about the sport this week.
My objection to this mindset has very little to do with the kind of offense Stanford runs or the physical nature of the way they play. Want to know what my favorite kind of offense is? The triple option–not the modified versions you see today, but the old-school wishbone that uses three backs in the backfield. It’s a thing of beauty when it’s run well and I love watching a simplistic offense drive people mad.
Despite my triple option love, you know what else I like to watch? The Air Raid. Watching Mike Leach call four verts or, as he said he called it in Swing Your Sword, “six” which I assume is the result he expected on the scoreboard every time he called it.
I like watching spread offenses, spread option offenses, high-tempo-no-huddle offenses, pro-style offenses, and yes, I don’t mind watching a Stanford-style run it down your throat offense. I like watching the 3-4, the 4-3, and 4-4 defenses.
I enjoy everything that I listed above because football is a wonderful, ever-evolving chess match. I love seeing new offensive ideas and philosophies developed and the arms race involved in finding the defensive counter-measure. I simply can’t understand people that claim a team like Stanford somehow magically removed themselves from this reality and found a solution.
Please don’t misunderstand me here. I recognize that Stanford has indeed found success and rebuilt their program from a laughing stock to one of the top programs in the nation. Their physical style isn’t the reason though. Stanford made a smart hire in Jim Harbaugh and there is a reason he’s coaching a consistent playoff contender in the NFL right now. Harbaugh had a vision, stuck to it, and executed. David Shaw is simply a successor in that line.
Brian Kelly has done the same for Notre Dame. His philosophy may not be anywhere in the same neighborhood as Stanford, but he has stuck to his vision of what he wants Notre Dame to become. Even when bumps in the road occur en route to that vision becoming reality like Dayne Crist injuries and an Everett Golson suspension, he’s adapted. The big picture has always been in focus, even if the immediate results were less than optimal–just take a look at Harbaugh’s record for first three seasons at Stanford for another example of this.
But that’s the more logical side to this debate. I can’t shake the more irrational side that if Stanford would just fall flat on their face that people might be able to open up a bit more to what Kelly has been doing in South Bend.
Argument proven via failure of the enemy. I’m not beyond that in the least.
Go Irish, throw Stanford into the damn wood-chipper made of 60+ yard TD bombs.
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