In the world of contact sports, big and fast is usually the bet to make when the other choices are small and fast, or big and slow.
Size matters on the football field where coaches at the top college and professional teams count on their big fast guys to win games.
Somehow bigger, faster, stronger got a bad name. Bigger and stronger still rules, but faster has a problem.
Fast times in the forty yard dash aren't in question. Every team needs a bolt of lightning running back capable of breaking a long gain every time they touch the ball.
Fast players train to get faster. It's the offense, specifically the up-tempo ones, that need to hit the brakes.
At least that's what University of Alabama coach Nick Saban thinks. For the sake of player safety, slow the game down.
And he's serious.
Player safety is one of the biggest issues football faces in the coming years. No one wants to see grown men in the NFL take so many head shots that they can't remember which team they play for, the same as college players need protection from running too much?
One is a safety issue, the other isn't. If concussions keep happening at the current rate in the NFL, how many moms and dads will feel good about signing their kids up for Pop Warner teams? That player list is shrinking. Fewer kids starting out means fewer high school players, less for colleges to choose, and a diminished NFL.
Aside from the knocks football delivers to players in the course of a game, the inadvertent knee to the head, the accidental headfirst driving tackle to the turf, using the helmet as a weapon seems to be going away. And none too soon.
Hurry-up offenses might be a way to avoid head to head hits. The slow game, the ground and pound between the tackles, features too many opportunities for butting heads. A defense that isn't set isn't taking aim on their opponents. It becomes more a track meet than a battle of attrition to see which team ends up with enough players left on the field.
Just for emphasis, how many concussions do you hear about in track and field?
If the argument against Chip Kelly inspired offenses is safety related, what injuries are they trying to prevent? To help clear it up, the great Vince Lombardi once said, "Fatigue makes cowards of us all." Fast offenses make defenses tired, therefore…? Vince would never complain like Coach Saban. Here's why.
Nick Saban and his slow-the-game-down supporters are worried about their players’ physical safety, or their self-esteem? A player with their pride injured because he can't keep up with his peers is different than a player with a treatable sprain, strain, or broken bone. You can't rub some dirt on pride to make it better.
Through all the denials, Oregon fans saw how other teams slowed the Ducks down. Their designated player scans the sideline for the signal, then drops to the ground like a Euro-league soccer player, or NBA flopper.
While the soccer player looks like he's in more agony than a victim of the Spanish Inquisition, they soon recover from their mortal wounds and return to the game. The basketball flopper doesn't leave the floor, but the mime act they do for the referees make them look like they've been hit by a courtside sniper.
College football is better than that. The SEC is better than that.
Where's the shame when one of the games greatest coaches from one of the most storied institutions in the leading conference in America spins a story about getting on and off the field into player safety. This is the mighty Alabama Crimson Tide. And Arkansas. It's Roll Tide, not roll over. They play Big-Boy football in the Southeastern Conference, the SEC, where more student-athletes make it to the next level than anywhere else.
The good teams have dozens of players. Even Vanderbilt has nine. Alert sports fans know where to find the next rising star, regardless of Trent Richardson's stats.
Johnny Manziel might be that guy, the shifty Johnny Football from up-tempo Texas A&M who beat 'Bama two years ago and gave them fits last year. Nick Saban needs to learn the Texas Two-Step instead of dragging the rest of college football down with his ballroom dancing idea.
Step up, step out, and lead the way Nick. That's what we expect from you, from the great state of Alabama, and from the feared SEC. It's all about the leadership.
If you have any doubts, look at Missouri and Michael Sam. If he made his announcement as a second stringer from Duke the story would have been over the day after it broke. But Michael Sam is the 2013 SEC Defensive Player of the Year. He joins players like Jarvis Jones from 2012, Morris Claiborne in 2011, and Patrick Peterson in 2010. The list is a who's who of badass football players who wouldn't leave the field unless you drug them off.
The list includes Rolando McClain (2009) and DeMeco Ryans (2005) from Alabama. How do they feel about Coach Saban's safety call?