Something has gone wrong in the mind of the football men. For years, the conventional wisdom was that the best way to protect a lead on the final play of a game was to drop into a prevent defense, and do everything possible to keep the opponent out of the end zone. And then a few quarterbacks, with all the time in the world to pick out their target, completed a few Hail Mary passes and coaches started to think that maybe it would actually be a good idea to get some pressure on the quarterback in those situations. That’s a fine thought to have, but it has led us to a very dark place.
The latest example of this devolution of football knowledge comes to us courtesy of the Florida State Seminoles and head coach Mike Norvell. FSU lost to Jacksonville State yesterday, marking the first time in history that the ‘Noles have lost to an FCS school. This is how they lost:
I guess you could technically call this a successful Hail Mary, except that’s not at all how a Hail Mary is supposed to look. Aren’t there supposed to be like 10 guys all standing in the end zone together? Where’s the quarterback blindly heaving the ball into that scrum? Where’s the receiver just jumping as high as he can and sticking his hands in the air and getting lucky?
We didn’t get to see any of those things because Norvell decided—with his team up by three, with six seconds left to play, and with his opponents at their own 40—to just call a normal-ass defense. He called a standard two-deep coverage and only rushed four players. Why?!
The most charitable reading of that quote is that Norvell was afraid Jacksonville State would be able to 1) complete a pass that would get them into field goal range 2) conclude the play and call a timeout in less than six seconds and 3) kick a game-tying field goal. Why he believed any of that happening was more likely than a standard defense getting beat over the top is hard to figure out.
Yes, some coaches have been failed by the prevent defense in the past, but those failures almost always come down to a receiver and a quarterback just catching a lucky break. And it’s not like we haven’t seen non-prevent defenses fail in those situations before. Hell, one of the most infamous calls in football history, which saw Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams giving up a game-winning touchdown by calling an all-out blitz on the last play of the game, happened just last year. Norvell surely saw that happen, and still somehow came to the conclusion that a prevent defense was not the way to go. Williams got himself canned after making that call, but the Jets were 0-12 at that point, and firing Norvell after an 0-2 start might be a little harsh.
On second thought, fire this man.