With more former Georgia Tech football players in this year's Super Bowl than from any other college it is clear that Tech students not only excel in the board room upon leaving the flats, they also wrack up on the gridiron. In spite of this we continue to hear a disparaging undercurrent directed at former Tech athletes and Coach Johnson's unique offense which some in the professional ranks refer to as "goofy."
A little web surfing plus a few select phone calls reveals a seamy underbelly of NFL trash talk and rumor-mongering when it comes to the young men who have given their all on the field and in the classroom for Georgia Tech. One well known NFL coach speaking on condition of anonymity said this when asked why Jonathan Dwyer was not taken until the 6th round of last year's draft. "We looked at him and were intrigued, he was that fullback or B-back or whatever they call it in that wacky offense, but frankly we did not know how to compare him. He was running over people but we weren't sure we wanted that, maybe he could have not run so hard and saved some gas for down the field, I don't know. Frankly, we wanted him to be either a lot heavier or a lot faster or somewhere in between."
Another assistant coach when asked to describe what put them off about recent Tech grad Anthony Allen seemed to fumble for words, "It's that skittering motion like a crab, We don't like them to run all hunched over like that."
When asked to further clarify he referred us to Otto Steinerblitzien, the lead physiologist for the Toronto Argonauts and a top drawer consultant for as many as nine NFL teams. On U-tube one can find Otto speaking in a heavy accent. The following is a direct quote from one video. "The alien nature of that multiplicity (sic) offense puts pressure on a young man's growth plates. We find an actual turning inward of the legs apparently due to running so close to the line of scrimmage thus not allowing room to stretch the legs. This can lead to a permanent condition we refer to as hyper-micro-ambulation."
Concern for the health of athletes is not confined simply to former Tech players however. Listen to what this anonymous NFL scout said at the time about Damarious Thomas. "Obviously he was putting up big numbers in college but we suspected they were inflated by the fact that he was often running against single coverage. It is true that in definite passing situations he was still successful against double and triple coverage but we attribute that in part to the fact that defensive backs were never sure if he was going to catch a pass or throw a devastating block on them. The thing about that crazy offense they run at Tech is that it teaches your wide-outs to be real head-hunters. We polled our defensive backs before the draft and they were all afraid to have to practice against him. We decided we just couldn't take that risk with our defensive backs."
The subject of former Tech linemen who are trained in the flex-bone offense also came up with Manie Grossman, line coach for Baltimore. His analysis was that linemen who excel in Tech's offensive scheme are either too muscular or suffer from an inefficient body-mass-index. He recommended that Tech linemen who want to go to the NFL should lighten up on the deep squats and put on a little more paunch. "We would rather have them play like an NFL lineman and die of cardiovascular disease at age 50 than to walk around like some Adonis."
Jefferson Whiffer, lead scout for the Washington Redskins, sees a more ominous problem if Tech skill players are allowed into the NFL. "Given that Tech runs that exotic offense running backs in particular learn to be shifty in ways that don't occur naturally in most of the football playing world. Often times a defensive back is reduced to arm tackling. This 'noodle-arming' as we call it quickly digresses into face-masking calls. I could see referees eventually calling penalties on the offense for intentionally luring the defense into face-masking. If this continued then they might have to rewrite the rule book and then where would we be?"
Surprisingly, the NFL's concern over Tech's scheme transfers over to former defensive players. Tech's Jerrard Tarrant will face special scrutiny as he awaits this year's draft simply because he is used to practicing against Tech's offense. A little known fact in the NFL is that many defensive backs and wide receivers become friends with each other and form a kind of mutual non-aggression pact. Defensive backs agree to not hit receivers too hard if receivers agree not to be too aggressive in their blocking schemes. In a kind of unwritten rule they allow each other up to five hard hits a game but no more. The problem facing Tarrant is that he plays hard on every down, something he will have to unlearn if he wants to join the NFL fraternity.
Years ago many teams in the NFL actually experimented with installing the triple option. Spring training revealed that the system worked well but concern over losing a million dollar quarterback to injury caused them to chunk the idea. We asked Huey Rumpert who was then the Assistant NFL commissioner about this and he had the following to say: "I won't say that the NFL is like a religion, it's not like we have a Pope or anything, but it is kind of like going up against the Pope. You better have a very good reason for doing it if you are going to do it. There is an orthodoxy to what we do on the field that is tried and true and we have the advertising revenue to prove it works."