Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Gir's Weekly Column: Volume 57

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Gir's Weekly Column: Volume 57

By Gir Todafunk
Special to the Daily Magi
August 27, 2055


Hello, readers of the Daily Magi and Magi Football Blog! I am Gir Todafunk, back with another weekly column for your guys to check out. Tomorrow, we start the college football season against Notre Dame. We're staying at the Inn at Saint Mary's Hotel and Suites. Yes, we're essentially staying at a women's college this week, what of it? We don't mind, we're progressive, we love women and some of us are married to women, we're chauvinistic feminists, we don't care; we ought to make this a habit every time we get the chance!

I want to talk about a couple of things this week. In gridiron football, a palpably unfair act is a case of any illegal action that the officials of a sports game deem has clearly and indisputably deprived a team of a score. It is one of the rarest penalties in the sport. The definition of a palpably unfair act is deliberately vague and leaves great latitude to the officials in determining what constitutes such an act. It also gives great latitude to the officials in regard to punishment; the National Federation of State High School Associations, for instance, allows for any punishment, up to and including forfeiture of the game. However, the same rulebook also indicates a general principle that all acts are legal unless otherwise prohibited by a specific rule. Thus, the palpably unfair act rule is generally only enforced when the penalty for a particular rule violation is insufficient to offset the effect of the act on the play.

The following situations can draw a palpably unfair act call:
  • A member of the defensive team coming off the sidelines and interfering with a member of the offensive team in an attempt to score a touchdown (as infamously happened in the 1954 Cotton Bowl Classic)
  • A member of the defense continually charging at the center prior to the snap in order to prevent the offense from snapping the ball
  • Continually calling defensive signals in a manner designed to draw the offense offside
  • The defense commits repeated intentional infractions very close to its own goal line (the half-the-distance rule making the consequence of such infractions otherwise infinitesimal).

Now I want to talk about utility players. In gridiron football, the utility player is often capable of playing multiple positions, and often they may play both offense and defense. The concept was far more common in the early days of football, when pro teams used their best athletes as many ways as possible, and substitutions were far more restricted, meaning players had to stay on the field for offense, defense and "special teams". This was known as the one-platoon system.

The triple threat man, who could run, pass and kick, was particularly popular during the early days of football from the time the forward pass was invented to the World War II era (see, for instance, Bradbury Robinson, Tommy Hughitt, Sammy Baugh and, during his college years, Johnny Unitas). Most levels of football lifted the substitution restrictions during the post-World War II era in the late 1940s, beginning with "platooning" (use of different offensive and defensive units) and eventually transitioning to complete free substitution. Chuck Bednarik, a center and linebacker, was the last full-time two way player in the NFL, having retired in 1962. Despite this, the American Football League of the 1960s frequently used players at multiple positions, particularly kickers and punters (e.g. George Blanda, Paul Maguire, Cookie Gilchrist, Gino Cappelletti, and Gene Mingo, a running back who became the first black placekicker in modern professional football, among others). Because of increased injury risk awareness, since the AFL-NFL merger these types of players are increasingly rare, and true utility players usually end up specializing in one position (for example, Lane Johnson played quarterback, tight end, defensive end and offensive tackle through college but was tagged specifically at offensive tackle when drafted into the NFL). Those that do play multiple positions for any extended period of time are mostly backups (e.g. Guido Merkens, Brad Smith) or career minor-league players (e.g. Don Jonas, Eric Crouch). It is still very common in smaller high schools to see top players play two or even three ways (offense, defense and special teams), in multiple positions, but in college and pro ball, where rosters are larger and the talent pool is more elite, the injury risk outweighs potential benefits.

Currently, in the National Football League, Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots uses the utility player frequently. For instance, Doug Flutie, as a former member of the Patriots, famously switched from quarterback to kicker for one extra-point play in 2006, to deliver the first drop kick in the NFL in sixty years. Belichick has also used his linebackers, including Bryan Cox and Mike Vrabel, as H-backs on offense, and doubled his wide receivers (e.g. Troy Brown and Randy Moss) as cornerbacks and safeties.

The tackle eligible is a special form of utility player; examples of those who used this play notably include Jason Peters, Warren Sapp, Jumbo Elliott, William "The Refrigerator" Perry, Mitch Frerotte and Anthony Muñoz. Another example of a type of utility player is the halfback option play, in which a running back performs the passing duties of a quarterback; Walter Payton, LaDanian Tomlinson and most recently Ronnie Brown have used this play multiple times, and this type of play has spawned an entire offensive scheme. Note that generally, a player who plays one regular position as well as special teams is usually not considered a utility player, nor are hybrid running back/wide receivers such as Reggie Bush; only those who play two distinct offensive and/or defensive positions are considered such, as are those who play an offensive or defensive position and in addition kick or punt.

The "offense/offensive weapon" (also known as OW) is an offensive player that can play multiple different positions. The OW role contains, but is not limited too, players that can play quarterback, running back, tight end, and wide receiver. Kordell Stewart was the first player to use this role back in the 1990s, but it became popular in the early 2010s. Back when Stewart played this role, it was known as the "Slash" role. The Jacksonville Jaguars' OW Denard Robinson was the first to be officially an OW but other current examples of the OW position is the Minnesota Vikings' WR, Joe Webb (has started at QB in the NFL), and the Cleveland Browns' H-back, MarQueis Gray (who started at QB and WR at the University of Minnesota).

Next week, I'll talk about what went down in the Golden Dome against Notre Dame, and our plans to ransack Minnesota and Minneapolis, the home of the late Prince Rogers Nelson. We're gonna party like it's twenty-fifty-five, because it is! I'm Gir Todafunk, Mr. Wonderful, signing off. You are not alone.

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