Bleacher Report lead NFL scout Doug Farrar posted a tweet from his forthcoming book, “The Genius of Desperation”, that piqued my interest. The tweet contained a photo of how New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick deployed the four men on his defensive line.
He didn’t run a one-gap scheme. He didn’t run a two-gap scheme. He ran both—at the same time.
I asked Farrar if he’d be willing to talk with me about why and how Belichick came up with this idea. He was, and provided me with this simple answer: Belichick tailors his personnel to his scheme.
With that in mind, I asked Farrar if he’d be willing to watch tape of the Oklahoma Sooners’ 2017 defense and evaluate the scheme. His findings were what a lot of Oklahoma fans, myself included, have thought for years.
“What I see is a lot of people getting pushed around,” Farrar told me. “That seems to happen a lot.”
Oklahoma fans saw that in the Rose Bowl, sure. But we also saw it when West Virginia wideout/weapon Tavon Austin toasted Mike Stoops’ defense in 2012.
And again that year in the Cotton Bowl when Johnny Manziel turn Stoops’ defense into a pin cushion.
And again during the 2014 disaster against Baylor. And again in 2016 when Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes passed for 734 yards against Stoops’ defense.
In 2017, Oklahoma ranked No. 87 in total defense and look worse when advanced statistics used to make up the S&P+ ratings are applied. S&P+ ratings were developed by SB Nation’s Bill Connelly at Football Outsiders to “take into account efficiency (Success Rates), explosiveness (IsoPPP), and factors related to field position and finishing drives. It is now presented in two forms: the first is a percentile, and the second is an adjusted scoring margin specific for this specific season’s scoring curve.”
Oklahoma’s defense ranked 101st in S&P+ ratings last season—just above Memphis and just behind North Texas. Big 12 teams Texas Christian and Texas ranked No. 16 and No. 21, respectively, in the S&P+ ratings. Even Oklahoma State managed to earn the No. 70 spot.
Farrar noted one reason for this could be the sheer volume of schemes Stoops puts on the field. He called Stoops’ scheme more multiple than he’s used to seeing in the college game.
However, for Farrar, it doesn’t matter what your scheme is if your strategy is being consistently beaten.
“If you’re constantly getting out-gamed, it doesn’t matter what your coach’s name is,” he said. “You gotta fix it. And I’m not saying Stoops is a bad coach. I don’t know enough to make that assertion. I know what I saw on tape, and what I saw on tape from that defense last year based on our conversation and the tape I watched, it’s problematic.”
And the way to fix a defense isn’t by creating more schemes or more looks. The way to fix a defense is to scheme to the players you have.
“This podcast could just as easily be me saying ‘tailor your personnel to your scheme over and over like Bart Simpson writing that on the blackboard for 45 minutes’”, he said. “If you’re not doing that, you’re not winning.”
LISTEN TO RJ’S FULL INTERVIEW WITH FARRAR HERE: