Making It Simpler

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=WOxrcJbmHT8 My last football related post was about the need to "beat the blitz." This one is about how to beat the blitz.

The San Francisco 49ers are a good football team this year. But, by NFL standards, they have a bad quarterback. Alex Smith has traditionally been about the 25th best QB in the world. Since there are only 30 NFL starting QBs, this means he is "bad." If he is bad, how can the Niners be good?

This year, he's not bad anymore. Why?

Let's ask our favorite football writer, Chris Brown.

That's because (Coach) Harbaugh eliminated "sight adjustments" from the 49ers playbook. Indeed, this change has been so successful that, according to Pro Football Focus, Smith's completion percentage, quarterback rating, average yards per attempt, and touchdown-to-interception ratio against blitzes have all been much better than Smith's historical averages, but also better than his performance on all other downs.

What the heck is a sight adjustment?

A "sight adjustment" by a receiver refers to the concept that, if a defense blitzes, the quarterback and receiver must both — on the fly and after the snap — recognize it and adjust routes accordingly.

For example, if the receiver's original assignment was to run, say, 12 yards upfield before breaking outside, when he saw a blitz he might instead run five yards upfield and then break inside on a quick slant, presumably away from a man-to-man defender or to a spot left open by the blitzers.

So why eliminate them?

Here's the problem: Players have to make sight adjustments after the snap, in the cognitive mist of a few seconds of action. The quarterback is in a decent spot to read the defense's intentions — to the extent that he can identify the likely blitzers and potential coverage. Receivers, on the other hand, are aligned to the perimeter and can't see more than a few players in front of them. They also happen to be sprinting once the ball is put in play. This is not to say that sight adjustments can't work, but they're certainly difficult to execute, and when they go wrong terrible things happen...

Now map all this to rookie teachers. Cognitive mist? Check. Can only "see a few" kids in front of them (because they haven't developed the extra-sensory powers of skilled veteran teachers)? Check. Lots of decisions which need to be made in a few seconds? Check.

Our little teacher prep program channels Coach Harbaugh a bit. The idea? Let's at least find a few teacher tasks that, in the hands of a skilled veteran, are wonderful (Tom Brady lives off sight reads), but in the hands of a rookie, are so difficult to execute they are unlikely to work. Let's simplify for rookies, with the idea that more complex teaching can come later.