In 2012, I had the honor of watching the football season with about 50 US Military Veterans. As the calendar flipped from August to September, the ratio of fans in that little group was about ten-to-one in favor of NFL ball over college. These were simply not college football fans, and to them, college was just not as much fun to watch as the more polished NFL.
By the end of the season, the ratio was just about even between the NFL and college.
By hook or by crook, I got that group to watch college football, more specifically, the brand of football that the Oregon Ducks play. The vets became excited about this new style of football. At least, it was new to them. This brand of football wasn’t just exciting – it was fast-paced, successful and, probably the most telling adjective, fun.
“What is this thing you call football?” I remember one asking me. It wasn’t the drudgery of a running back crashing between the tackles again and again and again. It wasn’t the semi-fast wishbone or your typical I- or T-formation. This wasn’t even the more enjoyable West Coast Offense. No, this was a new spin on something that wasn’t new at all – the spread offense. Oregon had put its own twists and turns into the spread to make it seem as though it was something entirely new.
It was the ‘Oregon Offense.’ It was the ‘blur offense.‘
Take a look at these two screen shots:
Notice anything different between the two? There isn’t much difference. In both shots, the running back lines up either dead even or just a hair behind the quarterback, on the weak side. In the top shot, DAT (De’Anthony Thomas) took the ball and ran around the strong side for a nice first down. In the second shot, Josh Huff, the closest receiver to the line on the strong side, almost pulled in a long ball in the end zone.
Toward the middle of the season, purist NFL guys were coming to me and saying they were seeing some of the Ducks’ plays showing up in the NFL. Teams such as the Seahawks, the 49ers, the Steelers and, perhaps most of all, the Patriots were taking pages from Oregon’s playbook and were having success! I was beginning to see a shift in the mindset of these knowledgeable football fans.
The voting for the Heisman consists of ranking players as No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3, thus a player who gets fewer No. 1 votes, but cleans up on No. 2 votes — can, and has won the Heisman before. Charles Fischer (FishDuck himself) told me he receives emails from across the country by fans that are die-hard Longhorns, or Buckeyes or Hurricanes – but Oregon is their second-favorite team. They tell him how they love to watch Oregon, and they came to FishDuck.com to learn a little more about the team! If we were to apply Heisman-type voting to a contest for most beloved college football program — could Oregon end up being America’s Favorite Team?
Then there were those flashy uniforms that other colleges were starting to emulate. There were the wild helmets that fans old and new were coming to like. There was this blur, this blink-and-it’s-gone, this go-get- your-coffee-and-you-miss-it feeling to what the Ducks were bringing to the football world. These avid old-school football fans were being turned to the offensive side of the ball and away from the defensive side.
By the time the Fiesta Bowl rolled around, it was our little group’s most anticipated post-season game. When Thomas took the opening kickoff to the house, the place was in an uproar. Somewhere I heard someone exclaim, “Now this is football!”
Yes, it is football. It’s Oregon’s brand of football and it is also the variety that fans of OSU, ‘Bama, the Seahawks, 49ers and Patriots are telling me is their favorite. Those same fans have dubbed the Ducks their “second favorite” team in the country.
Welcome to football – Oregon style – a brand that is changing the way the game is played, from the lowest to the highest levels of football. Welcome to 21st-century-style football, and Go Ducks!!!