The winning piece in the trenches
What's the most important position on offense? The one that gives you an edge in the brutal trench warfare of football.
One of my favorite articles to write on the old blog was this piece, comparing the nature of football to WWI trench warfare.
Traditionally football was about lining up, smashing into each other, and then the bigger/stronger team or the unit who was cleverest about arriving to the point of attack “firstest with the mostest” would win. “Three yards and a cloud of dust” and whatnot, biggest and toughest team wins.
It’s ironic how the trench warfare comparison comes up in football. Some still praise teams built from the trenches who try to win with physicality, but trench warfare was a total disaster and the subsequent horrors initiated the end of the modern era of Western civilization and initiated the doubt-filled post-modernism we know today.
Speaking of post-modern civilization, as a University of Texas graduate who grew up (mostly) in Austin and more recently has spent nearly a decade living in southeast Michigan, I’ve had a chance to absorb a fair amount of lore from two of college football’s most storied traditions. The University of Texas has been at the game of football for a long time with far and away their best run occurring in the 60’s and early 70s under the direction of legendary head coach Darrel K Royal.
Similarly, the University of Michigan leads the nation in all-time wins as a college program, although a fair number of those wins and 10 of their 11 National Championships took place before 1950. Michigan’s most storied run took place from 1969 to 1989 under their own legendary head coach Bo Schembechler.
Schembechler’s Wolverines never won a National Championship, while DKR’s Longhorns claimed three, but he finished with a winning record over Ohio State and won 13 Big 10 Championships.
Both schools had breakthrough seasons under those coaches in the same year, 1969. In that season, both teams managed a bit of a strategic breakthrough to the classic “three yards and a cloud of dust” strategies of trench warfare. In those breakthroughs you can see the seeds of modern football, wherein top defenses now routinely invite offenses to run the ball and hope to withstand those runs with as few defenders as possible.