Yesterday’s New York Times carried the front page headline, “Fast Offenses are Sacking the Huddle, Long a Part of N.F.L. Lore” by Bill Pennington. It seems that the prevailing trend of the “no huddle offense” tries to catch the defense off-guard and it’s all about the outcome of the play.
I’ve followed football for a long time. My great-great aunt was a Buffalo Bills fan with season tickets well into her 80’s and I understand what a culture College Football is during my time at the University of Oklahoma in the 70’s and 80’s.
I’d grown up learning sports from my Dad so I knew a lot about golf, bowling and baseball, but not as much about football since he had never played. I was an average spectator being well schooled in the player positions, how a team scored and even a little about strategy.
I didn’t know much about the Huddle except I thought that it was just an opportunity for the player who ran onto the field to communicate the coach’s next play. Things have changed since the 1970’s as I see both teams rush into the next play without a huddle, communicating with complex hand signals or shouts at the line of scrimmage.
I realized that I didn’t really understand the huddle at all when read a quote from Roger Staubach in the New York Times article. Roger quarterbacked the 1970’s Dallas Cowboys and was a Heisman trophy winner. Roger said, “The huddle was the best time to take the pulse of the team. As players in the huddle, you’re all alone in the middle of the field but together at the same time. You see who is hurt, who’s tired or who’s spitting mad. You can take that all in, which can be powerful.”
I had no idea that the best quarterbacks, the best leaders were reading their teammates in that few minutes, deciding which play fit not only the momentum of the game, but the capabilities and emotional mindset of the players at that moment in time. Calling a run play with an exhausted running back wouldn’t get you many yards. Sometimes when emotions run high, so does the adrenalin and a sky high pass out of the reach of a defender may be an easy grab for a tight end that is pumped up. How would the quarterback know unless they had come together as a group?
When reading that, it sounded a lot like church. As we may feel all alone in the world, we are together on each Sunday morning. If I didn’t go to church, I wouldn’t know that a friend had surgery last week unless I could see her bandaged foot. Another had grandchildren in tow for Fall break; she was beaming with pride as she held their hands tightly. Another had returned from a vacation with stories to share.
I would have never known their joy or their sorrow if I didn’t have the opportunity to “huddle”.
I say we should bring back the huddle, both in our sports and in our world.