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Kris Richard's first great play call

Intuition--there's a played out word. Surely Kris Richard doesn't have an ounce of it. He's too inexperienced.

Kris Richards squints in the light of his own brilliant potential.
Kris Richards squints in the light of his own brilliant potential.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Intuition is false friends with the (yet more) played out and bogus concept of "10,000 hours." I'm 5'7". If I put 10,000 hours toward becoming a great basketball player, I would be the stupidest man alive. And still pretty lousy at basketball. But play-calling is ultimately an act of intuition.

One couldn't hope to calculate the performance of one's players, the performance of the opposing players, the possibility of surprise and deception, and the effect of that surprise and deception. Not in a precise way and so Richard had to feel it. The thought had to appear in his head fully formed, as if the Genius of Gridiron Football said "here, young man. For a play call I will make you great."

But wouldn't you know it? That's exactly what happened.

Second and ten, after an always-funny deep shot by by Alex Smith, the Chiefs and play caller Andy Reid are using an empty backfield. Through which Reid will run a conservative timing-based pass.


Nothing's apparent yet. Which is sorta the point.

Unlike the brassy, conspicuous blitzes of the Brothers Ryan, this is finesse--a subtle, low-risk gadget that is more about knowledge of personnel and execution than chalkboard theatrics.

The key to this play design, best as I can tell, is to convince Alex Smith that Black Santa is Bobby Wagner. We need a nickname for Wagner? How about "The Total Work of Art?"

Here's how this happens:

Smith's first read is to his left

It isn't clear whether Smith is performing a perfunctory look off, or if one of Knile Davis or Chris Conley is the preferred receiver given the personnel grouping and route concept, but Smith is staring left while Michael Bennett retreats into coverage. My guess is this is a tendency of Smith's, and Richard, the savvy former defensive back, took note.

Checking over at Field Gulls' sister site, Arrowhead Pride, I would guess this is probably the case. Davis is a back and Conley is a project, tools-freak rookie, who may cut his teeth this season as a returner. But, just to be sporting, it also may be that the Thunder and Lightning pairing of Davis and Conley was intended to create problems in space. That said, I stick with my original supposition: Smith has a reflexive look off that can be exploited.

False Stare Down

Think of it like a guy who scratches his nose when he's not bluffing.

Bennett has to hustle into place, but he's surprisingly quick when striding in the open field, and before Smith can finish his look off, the trap is set.

Wagner Disappears

Wagner moves very little from his starting position. His customary assignment, tight end James O'SureTheresaNessy,  has been passed on to Bennett. And this allows Wagner to lurk. Somewhere between science and superstition, Wagner awaits Smith's fateful mistake.


Is Alex Smith's vision exactly like a T-rex's? Yes. Yes it is.

It's a three man rush that has flexed into a two-man rush. Compellingly enormous Frank Clark is occupying blockers and defending passing lanes. He's also protecting against a Smith scramble, and perhaps applying pressure should Smith step up. Cliff Avril and Bruce Irvin have turned the corner and are applying non-trivial pressure, but if this weren't a timing play, Smith could easily step up and likely avoid pressure.

But Smith has counted his defenders. He's read coverage. He sees his window and it's opening. Avant has a step on Wright to the inside and zip and that'll ensure a makeable third and short and



As Brock Huard, who by-the-way dominates Curt Menefee as an announcing tandem, correctly notes: Wagner doesn't even look at the route of Avant. Nor should he. He's a spy. He's living in Alex Smith's home. Smith doesn't know who's drinking all of his Bourbon Barrel Quad. But Wags is straight buzzin'.

Richard Means "Brave Power"

I thought Dan Quinn was among the very best defensive coordinators in football. He has a quiet self-assurance and though Seattle's system is purposefully simple, Quinn excelled at devising fine tactical wrinkles which were not overly clever but maximized his personnel. His loss worried me greatly. I wish him success up to a point, but his loss is potentially damaging. And for a team expected to compete for and even win the Super Bowl, maybe even very damaging.

That's only true if Richard doesn't prove precocious and able.

Some defensive coordinators disable their teams. Theirs is a set of tactics better described as divination, with all the subtly and efficacy of a Rube Goldberg machine. Many are as good as their personnel. If Richard is as good as his personnel and no better, the Seahawks could still field the best defense in football. So good and developed is the talent that it could make a virtuoso performance from even the simplest of schemes. But that's dangerously arrogant.

Expectation is a drowning pit. Yet I've been saying that for three years. Kris Richard is a rookie and by NFL-coaching standards silly young. But no one cares and if the Seahawks field anything but an elite defense, people will care a great deal. This sneaky finesse won't make it onto Edge NFL Matchups. But its elegance, its amazing result and how little was staked to achieve that result, is something more than promising. It's a first faint signal that someone special has taken the reins.