I am currently reading a book that I am really enjoying by Sports Illustrated's Tim Layden. The book is called, "Blood, Sweat, and Chalk: The Ultimate Football Playbook: How the Great Coaches Built Today's Game".
It really breaks down the evolution of football in so many ways. It explains how different offensive and defensive system came to pass, and how in the way football works, it was then "stolen" and changed and tinkered with to then generate the next stage of the evolution. To credit Bill Walsh for the "West Coast Offense" is to ignore Paul Brown. To credit Norv Turner for what the Cowboys did in their dynasty years is to not understand Ernie Zampese and Don Coryell before him. To credit Barry Switzer for the wishbone is to not understand he asked Darrell Royal in Austin for assistance in developing how Oklahoma was going to run the wishbone themselves.
Football is always changing. And this book scratches my itch to understand how things have developed over the years. I highly recommend it.
Anyway, I bring all of that up because I have just finished a chapter called, "Bang 8". It is basically the play, according to the author, that was most unstoppable and most associated with the Cowboys of the early to mid-1990's. If you were to close your eyes and think of one particular thing that those Cowboys did best, the author argues that it was the Bang 8 or the Skinny Post.
The best example of the Bang 8 was this play from Super Bowl 27.
And then, because he is kind enough to respond to my inquiry, I visited about this play with Troy Aikman on Monday. I wanted to ask him a few questions about the play and the concept, but instead he gave me a clinic on how it works. I want you to see what he had to say over the next few days. I found it absolutely riveting. He obviously knows more as much about this play and this football concept as anyone.
Part 1: Aikman on the "Bang 8"
Aikman: I’m glad you sent a link because I’ve seen the throw a million times, but I’ve not seen the whole play as far as which play it was. Because when you asked about it, we ran the Bang 8 off of a lot of different plays.
When I travel around the country talking doing games, you’d be shocked how many times coaches want to come up to me and have me walk them through the Bang 8 and what our thinking was on it all.
Sturm: When you talk about ‘different,’ like different personnel groupings? Or different formations? Or what?
Aikman: It actually kind of pertains to the game we’ve got this week with Chicago. There’s this play called 525 F Post, and we ran it a lot, and the guy who ran the F post could’ve been Darrell Johnston, could’ve been Jay Novacek, typically it was one of those two guys, but sometimes it could’ve been Kelvin Martin, who was the third receiver. And it was one of my favorite plays that we ran, and we could do it out of all different formations and personnel packages. But I wouldn’t have said the offense is built around that route. When I was talking with Jay Cutler this year with Martz and I was talking about how he liked the offense, and he said it was great, and I mentioned 525 F Post, he said that for them, the whole offense kind of comes off that play.
Anyway, the evolution of the 8 route as to when it began, I don’t know, but I do know that I watched a lot of film with Dan Fouts throwing it and a lot of film of Jim Everrett throwing it. The way that Fouts threw it with San Diego was more like the way I threw it in Dallas ,and that’s primarily because of the receivers we had. Evertett, because he had Henry Ellard and Flipper Anderson, those guys were more speed guys, so they typically completed a lot of their 8 routes 23, 25 yards downfield. Which is pretty good. For us with Michael and Alvin not being so much speed guys but being more big-body guys, a lot of the times I threw it was just put it on him and let Michael or Alvin use his body.
On that particular throw that you sent me the clip on in the Super Bowl, that play was called Queen-Right Motion, Scat-Right 838 F Flat. Novacek was at tight end to the right. Moose was to the left, and he motions across. Novacek was on a pivot route, so he starts to the middle and had the ball not been thrown, he would have pivoted back out of that route. Michael then is on the 8 route, and on that particular play, Alvin ran the 8 route as well. Truth be told, based on where the corners were I should have thrown it to Alvin. Alvin was a wider throw, we’re short side of the field with Michael. The corner on Michael was Nate Odomes. Everyone in the league knew that if Michael was single-covered and there was a safety in the middle of the field, there was a real good chance we were going to throw the Bang 8 or a comeback to Michael, but they knew the ball was coming to Michael. In order to stop that route, the corner has to get inside position. The receiver has to cross that guy’s face. He has to. I’m can’t even tell you how many times we would talk to the receivers, ‘I don’t care if that corner is 10 yards inside of you, if you have to square it off and run back the to quarterback, that’s what you do. But do not run behind the corner.’ Some people run routes and they run moves, and they’ll angle a route at a guy. Let’s say for instance that you’ve got a comeback—not to get away from the 8 route—but if we were running a comeback and the corner lined up three yards outside the receiver, what some people would coach is they would want you to release off the ball and angle at that corner’s outside shoulder so that when you get to the top of the route, at 18 yards or whatever you’re running it, that you would then have outside leverage on the corner. That’s not how we ever taught it with Norv and Ernie. What we taught them was that speed will ultimately beat the corner. You would come off the ball straight ahead, making that corner think you’re going to run by him. Then when he turns to defend that and you run you’re comeback, you’ll have outside leverage on him.
The point in saying that is, if you back and look at that clip, their second shot that NBC showed was really pretty good, the one from the end zone angle. What it showed is that Nate was expecting the 8 route. He was playing the 8 route. He had jumped inside and had perfect leverage. I didn’t realize he had jumped as heavy inside because I wasn’t going to stare him down, so I was looking down the field trying to at least hold the corner even though he wasn’t looking at me. When I turned to throw it, I just threw it to knowing where Michael was supposed to be, and I had no idea the corner had actually jumped so far inside. Nate had jumped inside so he’s actually in good position, but Michael runs his route up the field not worrying about trying to get inside leverage knowing that speed will turn Nate around, and that’s exactly what he did. That’s a textbook route by Michael. The play is successful more because of Michael’s route than anything that I did.
Sturm: So Odomes gets turned around because he is…
Aikman: He gets turned around because he thinks that because Michael’s not running at him and is instead running vertically up the field, he then thinks that Michael may be on a fade route, so he starts to then play that. And if he takes one step up to play the fade route, then Michael comes across, now he’s all turned around. Now he’s gotta turn his back to the ball to even get re-positioned.
Tomorrow, our conversation will continue with Troy tying in another famous play or two off this same concept.