If I turned in a piss-poor performance at work, it would be pretty sweet to have a PR army behind me making excuses on my behalf. Apparently that’s the role that the South Bend Tribune plays for the Notre Dame football team, as Al Lesar laments Navy and their dirty ol’ “chop blocks.”
It is absolutely inexcusable for a writer who comments on sports for a living to devote an entire piece on blocking that contains the line, “Call it a cut block, chop block, whatever.” If you aren’t going to bother to educate yourself on the difference, don’t bother writing the column. I’m a friggin’ part-time, accountable-to-nobody blogger, and even I have more of a sense of professionalism than that. A cut block is any block at or below the knees. A chop block is a 2-man combination high-low block. They are not the same, which is why people do differentiate between the two. Cut blocks in front of a defender are legal. Chop blocks are not. How is blocking someone at the legs is any different from tackling someone at the legs? Is that dirty? Does it get into people’s heads? Should we turn the game into Greco-Roman football? In fairness to Lesar, he doesn’t come out and say the word “dirty.” But the constant harping on cut blocking all week from Notre Dame writers, combined with the way the “cut” and “chop” terminology has been used interchangeably, certainly seem to indicate an agenda.
How is it that Navy didn’t have a single penalty called against them yesterday? How is it that Navy’s annual game against Air Force, another team that runs the option and uses those dirty blocks, doesn’t turn into a pile of leg-carnage every year? Why doesn’t stock in wheelchair and crutch companies go up after every Navy spring scrimmage? Because good coaches know how to teach their players to use their hands against cut blocking. Other coaches don’t want to waste time with that whole “teaching” thing and would rather complain to willing ears in the media.
Navy doesn’t cut block because their players are smaller. They go after smaller players because they cut block, which is an integral part of any option offense. The offense is designed to have ballcarriers hit the line of scrimmage as quickly as possible. That makes it essential to get defenders on the ground, and the best way to do that is by cut blocking. The linemen best suited for cutting are those who are quicker rather than bigger.
Of course, the option isn’t the only play that calls for getting defenders on the ground. If you run screen plays, you cut block. If you run slant patterns, you cut block. If you run a quarterback sneak, you cut block. Navy does it more than most, but the truth is that everyone cut blocks– including Notre Dame.
For 19 of the last 24 years, Navy has run option-heavy offenses that utilized cut blocks. Only now do we hear complaining out of South Bend. I think we all know why.
A block is a block?
Navy offensive linemen, seriously undersized compared to just about every defensive line they face, use a tactic called a cut block to clear the way. One man goes low to take out a defender in a legal manner.
That’s much different than the term “chop block.” A chop block, illegal in college football, is when one man hits low, another hits the same defender high.
There’s a big difference between the two.
It was inaccurately mentioned in a Tribune story Sunday that the two terms were interchangeable.
Navy, not flagged for a single penalty Saturday, obviously was cutting and not chopping.
Mea culpa. Mea culpa.
So we’ll go ahead and take him off the list. Credit to Lesar for correcting himself. The case remains, though, that there is far too much hand-wringing over cut blocks.