Monday, November 09, 2009

Thoughts from the Championships (mostly Open finals)

I'm a little late to the game here with post-Nationals thoughts, but if you haven't yet you should check out the articles at U Catch, '87 til Infinity, and Match's blog. All of them have some interesting comments.

- I may need to rewatch Mike Payne's interview that was shown at halftime, but my impression of what Mike said was different than what I've been reading in other places. Match said that Mike indicated that they were going to sub deeply in the finals. I came away from the interview thinking that Mike had said that Revolver had been subbing deeply all tournament long so that their studs had the legs to run a bunch of points in the finals. I don't think this is crazy - with one game on one day I don't think going only 14 deep is necessarily bad strategy.

- What I do think is questionable was the length of Revolver's warm-up. Revolver was cleating up about two hours prior to game time. By the time Andrew and I interviewed Mike, they were already well into their warm-up. We then walked over to Chain and found only about half the guys lounging in the shade putting on their cleats. We were looking for AJ and he wasn't there so spent another few minutes looking for them and found another group of Chain guys lounging around behind the tournament HQ looking like they were in no hurry to get going. I'm guessing Chain's warm-up was about 45 minutes.

- Back to the interview with Mike Payne. I walked away from that interview dumbfounded that Revolver actually believed they could go toe-to-toe with Chain's athleticism but also excited to see what would happen with two teams that thought that they could win on athleticism.

- My question to AJ about Chain's offense was a bit tongue and cheek: "a common criticism of the Chain offense is that you just put it up to your athletic receivers. Is there anything more to your offense than that?" This has been a bit of an ongoing discussion between us. But I have to say, I loved his initial answer "that's a criticism?"

- On that note, I have to say I was wrong about Chain's style. I've been a vocal critic of Chain's offense since I left the team in '07. I loved saying that Chain only has one way to win and if that one way is shut down they don't know how to create other options (i.e. reverse the field and threaten the break side). But here's the thing, Chain's style works for the players that they have. (I'm going to mix in a little of AJs thoughts from another discussion this past Saturday night, so if you like anything about what I say here, credit goes to AJ). The goal of the game is to get the disc in the endzone. I love to talk about using the "width" of the field. A lot of that has to do with the fact that it's where I feel I'm valuable as a player. But "using the width" is a method to achieve a goal. Ultimately what a team wants to do is eat-up as many vertical yards on uncontested throws as possible - throwing to someone who has steps, ideally on the open side. The more margin for error the thrower has the higher the chance that you retain possession. Teams break the mark to set up the easy yardage gaining throws on the break side and to reduce the amount that downfield defenders can sit on the open side of their cutters. But break mark throws themselves are lower percentage and are typically not yardage gaining.
What Chain does well is open up huge, yardage gaining under cuts by threatening deep so well. In doing that they force teams to mark flatter opening up the width of the field if they choose to attack that way as well. Chain spaces well downfield - a lot of their deep cuts come from the middle of the field allowing the thrower to decide which side of the field to throw to.

Let me be clear, for a team that is significantly inferior athletically, there is no hope that the Chain style of offense will help them. But for teams with superior or similar levels of athleticism to their opponent the Chain offense works.

- This is the essence of what broke Revolver. Revolver thought they could play a Chain style game but beyond Beau (who Chain had good match-ups for) Revolver's O gave up athleticism on every single match-up. I see a lot of opining that it was the subbing that got Revolver. To me it was that their offense in the first half focused too much on the open side and not enough on breaking the mark. Had Revolver broken the mark more in the first half Chain's downfield would have had to respect that and given up more on the open side. As it was, Chain's athletic defenders were able to sit on the open side and generate turns.

- Ok, I'm not putting too much weight on the subbing, but do we have any points played stats here? I think Joel Wooten played all but one D point (13 points) while Beau played all but 5 or 6 total points (let's call it 20 points). Beau's D points were against Dylan who played every O point and maybe 3 or 4 D points (14 points). I'd guess the points played for Cahill and Mac are similar with Wiseman being a little less for Revolver. I don't think Revolver played too many points.

- Now, I do think that subbing might have led to a chemistry issue for Revolver. Unfortunately I didn't see enough of Revolver early in the tournament but since we know Revolver subbed deeper the rest of the tournament, it's a safe assumption that Revolver's D had very different personnel the rest of the weekend. Considering that Revolver's defensive offense was only 2 of 6 - that could have easily been a result of chemistry problems from their D line as much as Chain's o-line's d pressure.

- I hope that Chain's D-line gets the recognition they deserve. It's easy to talk about Zip, Dylan, Swanson (who had a great tourney), AJ (who seemed to get the disc at will), Asa, Jay, Cricket, and Paul V. As a commentator you often notice the O line guys since they touch the disc, throw and score goals. But Chain's d-line was off the hook. So on that note:

- Joel Wooten played Beau as well as anyone I've seen. He fronted him but was ready to go deep with him whenever the disc moved. Getting that early block seemed to immediately affect Revolver's confidence. Wooten and Colin Mahoney are the only two players in the game that can contain Beau.

- Mark Poole, Robert White, Robert Runner, and Peter Dempsey should be players that aspiring defenders look up to. Dempsey played tremendous dump defense in the second half. Pool and White were played great coverage D all game. And Runner was great on defense as well as anchoring the d-line's offense.

- Also, Josh Markette and Jason Simpson have been playing with Chain every season since the fall of 1998. At the time they weren't even getting out of the region. So, there's every reason to hold out hope if you are on the third or fourth best team out of a not so great region.

- Finally, I wasn't terribly excited initially about covering the Masters division in Sarasota. But I really enjoyed the play of all of the semifinalists and have to say that it was a treat watching DoG beat OLD SAG in the quarters on Friday afternoon. DoGs offense had two turnovers in that game and it was great to see the Count, Jim, Coop, Bim, and Simon among others working that classic DoG style offense. I realized while doing the voice over for the semis that it may be the last time that this core of guys would play in Sarasota together. So, thank you to them for so many great years of Ultimate.

- Oh, one last thing, Matt Kromer (coach of Brute Squad) texted me after the women's finals and said "Can we retape my interview? I meant to say that we are going to spot them 11 points, get their confidence up, and then see how things shake out." I'm not sure if there is anything you can do after a game like that but shake your head and chuckle. But congratulations to the Brute Squad women for making it that far and keeping Canada out of the finals. And congrats to Fury for winning - I love programs that can bottle championship magic.