Personal Experiences with Conservatism and Liberalism in Football

Chip Kelly a liberal offensive coordinator, via Wikimedia

Much of my high school years were defined by football.  I played three years of varsity football for Junipero Serra High School in San Mateo, California, alma mater of Super Bowl MVPs such as Tom Brady and Lynn Swann.  In addition, to attending such a crazed and historic football school we also competed in the WCAL (Western Catholic Athletic League), which many people consider the SEC of California high school football.  Needless to say the game was taken very seriously from the hiring and firing of coaches and coordinators to the seemingly endless practices in the summer.  I enjoyed my time playing and gained many valuable experiences and life lessons I would not trade for the world.  However, one thing that had never struck me until we talked about conservatism vs liberalism n lecture was how coaches more specifically my offensive coordinators were either conservative or liberal.

I played offensive line in high school and was lucky enough to start most of the snaps in my junior and senior year.  In this span we had two different offensive coordinators.  My junior year we had a coach who I would consider more conservative and my senior year we had a coordinator I would consider more liberal.

The offensive coordinator my junior year was an old coach who had coached at Junipero Serra for about 40-30 years with great success and achievements.  However, his offense at the time was very outdated and traditional.  He ran the “double wing”offense.  For those of you who do not know what the double wing is, it is similar to what Army and Navy run on offense.  In principle, you pack the offensive line with as many people as you can and run the football, mostly up the middle, at least 90% of the time in order to wear out the defense both physically and mentally.  While it may have worked some of the time he was unwilling to bend out of his comfort zone and incorporate more passes, even when the other team started adding to many people to defend the run and we could not logistically block them all.  I remember specifically our playoff loss in which, if we had just run a play-action pass on the last play we would have had a wide open touchdown and won the game.  Instead our offensive coordinator called a run right up the middle and we were stuffed on the goal line.  The reason he gave for our loss was that we were not tough enough to run the ball

Army and Navy two teams who still run the double wing, via Wikimedi

I would consider him conservative in his philosophy because of his steadfast belief in his traditional offense.  His epistemology is similar to that of Burke in that both of them believe that the best source of knowledge is tradition.  Why try to implement a newer style of offense when his double wing offense had won so many championships in the past.  In addition, they both believe in the idea of “All pleasing illusions“, an idea that people believe even though it is factually incorrect.  For example, our offensive coordinator believed we lost the game because we were not tough enough and could not run the ball, when in fact it was obvious that if we had thrown a couple of passes we would have been able to win handedly.

Oregon, one of the teams known for first implementing spread offense, via Flickr

After our old offensive coordinator decided to step down after my junior season we got a new, young, and I believe more liberal offensive coordinator.  Instead of running the tried and true double wing offense he brought in a new offense, the spread.  The spread offense is used by many colleges, such as Ohio State and Oregon, and it involves running passing plays a majority of the time as well as playing with no huddle and pushing the tempo.  Not many high schools had dared to try it because it is seen as more complicated and risky than more traditional high school offenses.  Nevertheless, we ran it anyway and the outcome was very successful.  We set new league and school records for yards gained, won our league and section championship, and even made it to the state championship game.  Because we passed it so much and tired out the other team with our pace it was almost impossible for them to stop us.  In my opinion it was a thing of beauty and was the main reason we had such a successful season.

I would consider this new coordinator to be liberal in his philosophy in that he seemed to identify with what Mill points out to be the best example of liberalism “Pericles“.  Mill defines the textbook liberal to be both non-conformist and self-disciplined.  This is similar to my junior year offensive coordinator because he had both of these characteristics.  He was a non conformist in that he did not stick with a traditional offense but chose to use an offense many people said would not work.  Conversely he was also self disciplined in that he did not just tell us to throw to whoever or block whoever.  We worked tirelessly so that we had all the techniques down pat, so that we could execute them in the game  In summary, I believe that it was a combination of this non-conformist offense and the discipline he enforced in running it that lead to our success.

While I cannot thoroughly say whether a conservative style of offense is better than a more liberal style offense, maybe in the middle ground of the two lays the ideal offense.  Perhaps, it is just waiting for the right offensive coordinator to grab it.