JOHN L. PITTS: Fast pace can’t erase the basics




Watching Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M move up and down the field against top-ranked Alabama, I had a flash of insight.

This must be how sports writers in the leather-helmet days felt after that new-fangled forward pass was introduced: “Well, eventually somebody will figure out a way to stop that. … Right?”

For now, though, it seems like most everybody wants to be Oregon, running 100 plays a game and threatening scoreboard operators with heat exhaustion.

One of the architects of Oregon’s success, Chip Kelly, is now coaching in the NFL. His Philadelphia Eagles were hailed as the Next Big Thing after winning their season opener but ran just 58 plays and lost at home on Sunday.

Sometimes, a fast-break offense can lead to more punts and turnovers, not more touchdowns.

I think Sam had it right in that movie: “The fundamental things apply, as time goes by.”

The rise of the fast-break football offense has arrived as more and more teams seem incapable of teaching football’s fundamentals. Zone-read running plays often rely on opposing defenders making the wrong choices, then taking advantage.

Rules that had tipped to the offense are complicated by our current mania for preventing “dangerous” hits, as if even the most routine play wasn’t fraught with danger.

One good thing that could come from this trend would be an end to the ever-heavier player. There’s no need for linemen to pack on 400 pounds, and the health risks are readily evident.

The Alabama game did underscore one fundamental about football that will never change: The best offensive player in the universe can’t hurt you if he’s standing on the sidelines, helplessly watching you chew up the clock.

Random thoughts

• I drove a Fusion for a couple of days. I was disappointed that it ran on gas, not old coffee grounds and banana peels.

• Doesn’t “Texas A&M Commerce,” which beat Delta State last week, sound like the school where Johnny Manziel should be playing?

• You know what would help pro boxing? Holding the best fights before most folks have gone to bed.

John L. Pitts ( is sports editor of the Journal.