Sunday, January 15, 2012

Swing Your Sword

During his time at Texas Tech, I really grew to love Mike Leach and his "Air Raid" offense. Having grown accustomed to Ohio State eking out cardiac-arresting wins with its conservative Tresselball offense, Texas Tech's aggressive spread attack was quite the antithesis. And as college football offenses evolved in more creative, wide-open ways in the mid-2000s, I only grew to appreciate it more.

I've always been envious that Ohio State hasn't had an offensively minded coach like Leach who could strategically create mismatches and make teams pay. Too many times throughout Tressel's tenure, OSU either lost close, winnable games, or won games that shouldn't have been so tight by allowing lesser teams to hang around. Either way, the conservative approach has handicapped Ohio State for years, with the players having to rely on their athletic ability to compensate for the poor position the coaches put them in. With an offensive philosophy like Leach's, there would have been higher scores, more wins, and much fewer palpitations.

Leach has had success everywhere he's coached. The before-and-after statistics at Iowa Wesleyan, Valdosta State, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Texas Tech are dramatic. He's developed ordinary players into stars, whether it's once walk-on Wes Welker or quarterbacks Josh Heupel and Tim Couch, both Heisman Trophy finalists. And even though his oddly named quarterbacks at Texas Tech have earned reputations as system QBs, you can't ignore their success, throwing anywhere from 3,000 to over 6,000 yards a season. If those are system QBs, those are QBs I want in my system.

Leach's recently published biography, Swing Your Sword: Leading the Charge in Football and Life, gives great insight into his coaching philosophies. I've never played organized football, but if I coached it, the armchair quarterback in me would adopt many of them. What follows are the excerpts from Leach's book that I identified with the most.