Duck -- because the pendulum is swinging, from offense back toward defense.
Seattle's decisive rout of Denver in the Super Bowl wasn't just a nice win for the Emerald City. The outcome will have long-term impact across professional football, and perhaps in the college and prep ranks as well. For a decade, all attention has been on offense -- best athletes on offense, new high-tech tactics, crazy pace, pass-wacky. It has been offense, offense, offense. Even Bill Belichick, who got his start as a defensive coordinator, has converted to high-speed offense as the new gold standard.
Now that's over.
Seattle proved a hard-hitting but very traditional defense -- conventional fronts, few blitzes, tight coverage and nasty disposition -- could roll over the highest-scoring offense in professional football history. Not just defeat that offense: everyone knew Seattle might win. The Seahawks' defense mopped the floor with Denver's offense, as emphatic a victory as any team sport has ever produced.
This offseason will be about NFL teams looking at their defenses -- personnel, styles of play, mindset. Head coaches will shift from focusing on offense to defense. Money and draft choices will go to the defense. Crazy defensive schemes will be tossed out and replaced with traditionalism. The idea that defense not only can slow down the other team but can itself win the game -- the Seattle defense outscored the highest-scoring NFL offense ever -- will be revived.
In Super Bowl matchups of No. 1 offense versus No. 1 defense, defense is 5-1. Of the 10 highest-scoring teams in NFL annals, only one, the 1999 Rams, won the Super Bowl that season. Some thought the arrival of quick-snap, shotgun-spread, call-everything-at-the-line offense fundamentally had overcome the edge of pressure defense. Now we know that's not true. The highest-scoring, highest-tech team in NFL history was held to eight points in the Super Bowl. The Super Bowl story for this year might as well be: Seattle Defense 9, Denver Offense 8.
Pro, college and high school coaches will re-evaluate everything they do. Keep your head low as the pendulum swings back toward defense.
In football safety news, for years this column has rolled the drums for the idea that although no football helmet can prevent concussions, newer designs reduce the risk. Three years ago at Super Bowl time, I wanted to know why the NFL would not disclose which helmet models its players wear; and why the NFL does not mandate that only improved models be worn: "This is a short-sighted policy TMQ has been objecting to since the Riddell Revolution, the first-generation helmet engineered to reduce concussion risk, went on sale." In July 2011, I detailed Virginia Tech research showing that the Riddell VSR4, the most common helmet, was dangerous compared to newer models. My new book "The King of Sports" details how James Collins, football coach of the public high school nearest my home, junked the school's VSR4s and replaced them with the modern Riddell Revo, owing to safety concerns. Collins did this in 2003, a full decade ago! Yet VSR4s are still on players' heads, including in the NFL.