Normally, when you hear somebody call themselves a “blitz fanatic,” you’d assume they’re fanatical about blitzing.
(Actually, I’m not sure I’ve ever heard anyone call themselves a “blitz fanatic” before, so maybe there’s no normal here.)
(And really, to be fanatical about much of anything other than artisanal foodstuffs and Hint-of-Lime flavoring isn’t my thing.)
Anyhow, when Jay Gruden calls himself a “blitz fanatic,” the Redskins coach means he’s fanatical about stopping blitzes.
“I am a blitz fanatic,” Gruden told ESPN 980’s Chris Cooley last week, when asked about protecting his quarterbacks. “I’ve seen every blitz known to man. We had Andy Dalton last year, he wasn’t quite the most mobile quarterback, so teams liked to tee off on us, so to speak. So I think you have to have a great variety of protections. You can’t just be a seven-man protection, eight-man. Then teams will drop eight and you’ll have nobody open ever. Your quarterback will be back there, and there’ll be eight guys covering three. You have no chance.
“You have to be able to get five guys out on a route sometimes,” Gruden went on. “You have to get four guys out on a route. Sometimes you have to max protect. You have to change it up. Change the launching spot for the quarterback, very important: three-step drop, five-step drop, seven-step drop, naked bootlegs, play-actions. And try to keep the [other] team off-balance. Because if you become one-dimensional in this league, you’ll get killed.”
Cooley also talked offensive terminology with Gruden, as part of the former tight end’s longstanding desire for Washington to adopt a small furry mammal-based offensive language. Specifically, Cooley asked the head coach about using words to describe his pass routes instead of numbers.
“I grew up in [older brother] Jon’s system in Tampa Bay and it’s something I’m familiar with,” Jay Gruden said. “We use words moreso than numbers; we’re not a numbering-system team. We use numbers for protections and the running game, obviously, but in the passing game we use words, and words mean different things to different people.
“Like, ‘Drive,’ is a concept,” Gruden went on. “And we have concepts that we teach, where instead of saying 1-9-4 Halfback Burst, or whatever, we’ll say Zebra Drive Halfback Burst. And Drive tells the flanker what to do, it tells the tight end what to do, it tells the X receiver what to do, it tells the halfback what to do. And then we have a number of concepts like that where you come up with words that mean different things for different people. And once they learn those words and what those routes mean, then it’ll be easy for them, and you can change the formations accordingly.”
Gruden did say that “We are looking for words for some of these concepts, because we have quite a few.” And Cooley — like I said, a longtime proponent of key words like muskrat, beaver and skunk — volunteered to help Gruden decide on his new words. I think his point is that, all things being equal, Muskrat Drive Halfback Burst sounds a lot cooler than anything with a zebra.