Monday, August 20, 2007

O and D Development Timeline

I was on vacation last week. Thanks to those folks that stopped by the blog anyway....

On Micah Flynn's recommendation, I just finished Michael Lewis' "The Blind Side". Very interesting book that primarily deals with the story of Michael Oher's (now a sophomore at Ole Miss) rise from the ashes of Memphis' poorest slums. There are some very interesting subplots, however, like Bill Walsh's development of the "horizontal" version of the passing attack known, of course, as the West Coast O (Walsh's version, developed in Cincinnati, differs from Coryell's (whom Walsh worked with) in that the Charger's O was primarily vertical in nature). A subplot of this subplot is the rise of the left tackle(Oher's position and the protector of the QB's blind side) as one of the most important (and highest paid) positions on the field. This is due to Walsh needing the tight end to participate in the passing game, BUT having to have an answer for Lawerence Taylor's speed. The answer was basically the need for a "Freak of Nature" in the left tackle position. 6'5", 325 pounds of low body fat, and the ability to move this body across 40 yds in less than 5 seconds (in high school, Ohr was faster in 10 yards than anyone of the field...and he weighed over 330 pounds). Pretty much less than 1% of the population fits this body type. In any case, I found the tactical history of the West Coast O interesting and it made me curious about a discussion that arose a few weeks ago out of one of my NUTC posts; that is, when did certain strategies arise in Ultimate? So this post will put out the little that I know and is essentially a variation on Loring Holden's "Ultimate Timeline", which he posted to RSD in 93. I hope that folks can add what they know. Perhaps it will be informative.

I will start with the D and what is easy:

Mid-1970's: Zone- Pretty well documented that Rutgers U invented the zone and was using it by 1976. Eric Simon is quoted on the Rutgers U web site, and he describes the tactical decision for Rutgers to move away from zone in the championship game of April 1976. It is also documented that Irv Kalb brought the Rutgers zone out to California around this same time. The questions I have:

-what zone was this(by 1982, the only zone I recall was a cup zone)?
-how much did the Glassboro zone of 1979 differ from the Rutgers zone?

Mid-1980's: The Force- The force was discussed in my NUTC post. Jim P brought up that Kennedy and Kalb's book, published in 82, does not mention the force or the stack. I would love to get a sense of when this began and where it originated.

Late 80's-early 90's: The Clam- The history of the clam was discussed ad nauseum on RSD back in the 90's. Seems like Earth Atomizer was the first "big name team" to codify the Clam as a full-field/point D around 90-92. Dan Powers wrote in RSD that Bob Carroll from Florida invented the Clam. I actually played pick-up in Florida about 4 years ago and ran into this guy named Bob who claimed to have invented the Clam and then taught it to Lenny.....I was skeptical. Paul Sackley disagrees with Powers and attributes the Clam to the Mighty Popes in 86 and also states that his team, Mighty Tired, used it before Earth. One thing that is interesting is the amount of discussion about the Clam. Seems like it was a pretty big deal and changed the game for a while. Mooney asserted that the Clam "could only be used off a stopped disc" so it seems the Clam really benefitted from the 9th edition pull rules and has become less utilized since the 10th.

Early 90's: 1-3-3- First mention I recall is Mooney's Conceptual Ultimate from 94. The first mention I come across in RSD is 95. So is this a Boston/DoG invention?

Around this same time, the idea of zone to man transitions pops up. Again, Mooney covers this in Conceptual Ultimate.

Interesting that there is a thread on RSD about a new hybrid zone that Buzz Bullets and MUD are using.

Anything else for the D?

Onto the O:

Mid-70's: The Forehand- I watched a bit of the '75 game at the Rose Bowl on DVD and no one was throwing forehands. I imagine that the forehand was integrated shortly after this. I recall needing to know the forehand in 79-80 or so.

Early to mid 80's??:"4-person play"-big discussion on this in 99 on RSD with KD. In general, no one says that NYNY invented this, just that they popularized it and were unstoppable using it. Someone suggested that the Clam was an attempt to deal with this. I don't recall using this play in 80-82, but Coffin asked in this RSD discussion if this idea came from Cornell. if it did, it was after 82......

Mid-80's: The Stack??- As above, no mention in K&K's book from '82.

1987??: Horizontal Stack- There is reference on RSD to NY (at a tournament in Phoenix) using the "1987 Swedish" 3-4 offense. This seems pretty specific and Sweden was winning the Euro Champs every year around this. No Worlds in 1987......

Early 90's??: Spread O- There is a discussion in 91 on RSD about a new offense used by Santa Barbara. The O looked like the "dots of a 5 on dice, but with a few more spots". There is mention that this O used the "center of the field". I don't know if this O has anything to do with the spread O that we know of today.

1996-German- Pretty clear that Germany, at Worlds, brought out a thrower driven 4-1-2 to beat the Clam. I have seen the 3-1-3 variant used in Mixed with some success, but in general, it doesn't seem that "thrower driven" offenses have really taken hold.

No clue:

Anything else?
Note: This list is an acknowledged subjective listing in the sense that it discusses strategies that have been "mainstreamed". I haven't included things like "Plinko" or Frank's "Motion O".

It seems pretty clear that most tactical developments come as a response. The "new" (and higher paid) left tackle as a response to the quicker blind side rushes of LT or the nickle defense as a response to Lombardi's O innovations of the 50's. Somewhat similar to Ultimate. Perhaps we are in a period in which we are waiting for a D response to the spread/ho stack.

I did go back and look at some of the posts on RSD in the '91-'93 period. There was, probably not surprisingly, much more discussion about the basics of strategy than there is today.


micah said...

Glad you liked the book, although I had a feeling you would given our (numerous) conversations about strategy development in our sport. "Moneyball" is his other famous book and is similar, but deals more with innovation in financial and contract strategies in Baseball.

parinella said...

Michael Lewis: terrific storyteller, but I'm never sure whether the drama in his books is real or if he creates it. He also had some funny articles on Slate about being a new dad.

1-3-3: Cojones played this zone against us at Philly in mid-September of 1994. It gave us enough trouble that we were worried about it and so had our defense practice it against our O so we would be ready for it. Cojones never played it again, while we used it a lot that year at Nationals and ever since.

The "Stanford O" should be mentioned.

The German didn't originate to beat the Clam, but rather because their receivers weren't that athletic. I've seen a written history somewhere.

Dump: I remember hearing that Cornell in early '80s had a dump, and I remember O'Dowd standing back behind the disc with Windy City. Earth Atomizer and then Big Brother began using it more systematically.

Joaquin said...

What about the typical endzone iso, with three across the back of the endzone and three hands?

gcooke said...


I actually have no idea what the Stanford O is.....



Good thought. I didn't get to that level of detail. I tried to focus more on "systems".

What about the Godiva O? Interesting in that it was so defined and successful, but didn't really become mainstream in the sense that everyone uses it.


Flo said...

about the German, I wrote up most I know about it, including its history in the ATL blog a while back:


parinella said...

Godiva O _is_ the Stanford O. It was an organized system of handler cuts to middle cuts. Most teams stopped playing it in the late '80s/early '90s. There are a couple articles out there. Roger Shepard (sp) I think invented it. I am fairly certain it's in the Ultimate History Book.

gcooke said...


Thanks for that clarification.

I will check it out.


Thanks....I checked out that post.