Stumbling around the internet tubes (I love you popurls) brought me to a Scientific American article about the Piedmont High School football team in California. I won't pretend to know the in's and out's of football (I'm still learning the nickel and dime defensive concepts) but the point of the article is because the high school is pretty small and couldn't round out their team with the same talent as their opponents, their coach rolled out a strategy called the new A-11 offense.
From the article:
A-11 puts the quarterback in the shotgun formation—seven yards behind the line of scrimmage—and replaces linemen with receivers. What does all this mean? Essentially, the scheme makes all 11 members of the team potential, eligible receivers.
Using a standard formation, a team can throw to five out of six players—wide receivers, tight ends, running backs and the quarterback. A-11 changes the odds of a play going to a particular team member from five out of six to five out of 11. The strategy even allows for two, three or four quarterbacks on the field.
In a standard formation with five fixed linemen, a play can unfold with 36 different scenarios for who receives the snap and who ends up with the ball—including a quarterback sneak. In the A-11 offense, because the receivers and linemen (and even quarterbacks) are interchangeable, the number of different possibilities for what can happen on a given play skyrockets to 16,632.
I find this fascinating for two reasons: one, I've always wondered why everyone on the offensive side of the ball in football didn't try this. Not because of the mathematical superiority but because I imagine this would confuse everyone on defense, far more then some other drastic plays you occasionally see. Also, watching genetically freaky humans run the ball 66 yards is an entertainment blessing whether you like the sport or not.
Secondly, my mind obviously jumps back to hockey and, chiefly, could Vancouver (re: Vigneault) roll out a similar concept to help the Canucks overcome their, um, "talent" issues? Probably not, but let's run the scenarios anyway:
> Ice an entire line of goalies? - Right, this won't work. Having more then two goalies is sort of against the rules, but I suppose a bunch of goalies could masquerade as forwards and defenders. The advantage here would be absolutely nada short of a complete dominance in shot blocks.
> Ice an entire line of defenders? - Likely the only way Vancouver could crank out their own A-11 but I'm struggling to see the benefit. Unless we can genetically reproduce five Mattias Ohlunds...but if we're going down that route we should just clone the Sedins and we wouldn't have the problems we have in the first place.
> Ice an entire line of forwards? - Nothing new here, especially considering the power play and the overtime frame. And the Canucks don't have the strength to pull this off; in fact, thinking about this one makes the all-goalie line seem like a more sound idea.
> Ice an entire line of 4th line thugs? - Definitely not new; this is known as the last three minutes of a Vancouver/Edmonton game.
So the A-11 won't work; football just has the variety of positions to allow more flexibility in creating plays of this confusing, sneaky magnitude. Instead Vancouver may need to try something more drastic, like creating a phalanx around the player and protecting him as best they can.
(Yes I just tabled murder as a strategy. And I checked the rulebook again, murder is not in there under gross misconduct...assuming they do it on the ice and not in the stands. And the jersey's can't pop off either, keep 'em tied down boys.)
But thank you Piedmont High for providing an example that winning for the little guy often means finding that sweet zone between motivation and sheer insanity.