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.


Lesar redeemed himself today:

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.

28 thoughts on “MUST BE NICE

  1. Dave'69

    So – did you post a copy of this on the Tribune site and also a link on the ND “chop block” thread – not that it will be read/understood by many of the complainers.

  2. Navy72


    Ignorance on this issue is viral. I hear college football announcers interchange “cut block” and “chop block” all the time. Amazing.

    Nobody seems to call out these idiots on their ignorance. Thanks for trying to keep the cry-babies honest.

    My favorite line in the link: “You can’t get ready for Navy in one or two days (of practice).” That’s strange. I read all week that ND had been getting ready for the option since….SPRING PRACTICE.

  3. Tim

    Well, it’s not like it’s a requirement to have a sense of professionalism, or even a modicum of talent, to comment on sports for a living (see: Ramsey, Dave); and let’s be honest here, no one has been paid to do so in South Bend with the expectation of being anything but an ND apologist since WW II. If you were a talented sports writer, you wouldn’t be in South Bend, Indiana. QEDMF.

    The thing that bugs me about this is that the Annapolis Capital ran the piece on their website, under the headline “Mids Chop Irish Down to Size”. Why propagate that sh*t, in Navy’s hometown paper? That’s being as lazy as Lesar.

  4. Gary

    That was the title in the “hometown” paper?
    Bad enough we had to try and win “against” our own home crowd!
    Cripes some respect out there please?

  5. Anonymous

    Mike you totally read my mind. When I saw the SBT piece whining about our blocking it got me thinking. Yesterday I was listening to the game on radio, and the ND radio network play by play guy, Don Criqui I believe, bitched about our blocking virtually nonstop. He had some snarky comment about it on just about every play, no exaggeration. So I think you’re on to something when you say it smacks of an agenda. I don’t want to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but it sure does seem like all the nd media people got the talking points memo.

  6. Eighty Fiver


    We appreciate your attempts to educate, but Lesar and the guys over at Her Loyal Whiners are total morons. (Either that or they understand the difference and are too dishonest to admit it.)

    You are wasting your time.

  7. Eighty Fiver

    Ginko, Armando Allen attempted a cut block on Vela, not a chop block. (Though Allen’s technique was pretty poor.) It was totally legal, just like every block used by Navy on Saturday.

  8. gonavy81

    Since we are so good at it, do it more than any other team in the history of the universe, and it is our specialty, I think we should rename the Navy Cut Block to “The Meat Cleaver”. This will scare the living $hit out of our opponents prior to the game – really get into their heads. It would also get all the moron announcers, coaches and pundits something to focus on other than The Chop Block. Can you imagine our OL’s talking smack on the field? “I’m going to Meat Cleaver you, dude”.

  9. EKWJR

    Noticed 47 for the Redskins cut blocking on Sunday – not familiar with the rules at the pro level where it is allowed, but he was attempting it at the line of scrimmage. He also was unsuccessful on the play that caught my eye.

    Also observe teams other than the SAs and Ga Tech doing it at the collegiate level.

  10. EKWJR

    I think that there was a grand total on one penalty called on either team last Saturday, which was the pass interference penalty on ND 22 when he grabbed Santiago after he got beat deep and Jones underthrew the pass.

    I think we can be thankful for the non-interference these officials had on the outcome of this game, especially no phantom chop block calls.

  11. Newt91

    Great article. Best (and also most subtle) point – we recruited lineman smaller and quicker to execute the type of blocking that our offensive scheme requires. Not the other way around.

    Coaches and teams can’t believe when a properly coached, undersized team beats them.

    It’s all about execution. Arrogance only get’s you so far.

  12. JustSayin

    The modern pass happy offenses that rely on 300+lbs linemen has encouraged teenagers that hope to make it in college and the NFL to gain a lot of weight. There are more 300+LBS linemen now than ever before in all levels of football. It could be argued that the long-term health effects of this is far more detrimental than having to get cut a few times a game.

  13. Dave'69

    Interesting comment taken from the Annapolis Capital. The cut block is effective, even when you don’t use it.

    “However, Dowd pointed out that Notre Dame defenders seemed so concerned about the cut block that they were easily moved by more traditional blocks.

    “They were backing up to avoid the cut block and that made it easier to drive them,” Dowd said. “They expected us to go low all the time, but we went high on them a lot. I guess they didn’t realize that we mix it up a lot.” “

  14. Bill73

    Coach Kelly said they had no answer for Navy’s offense, even after practicing daily on it since spring. He better figure out an answer, or the Army mule will kick ND’s you know what (similar to mule).

  15. JFH

    Love the innuendo that Ian Williams “may have been a casualty of the cut block”

    I watched the last two drives closely and I didn’t see one cut block on the NG, There was no need, as our center pretty much manhandled Williams all game.

    I watched the replay of the injury about 25 times and this is what I saw:

    DeMell (C) was once again pushing Williams (NG) into a stalemate


    On the left side of the line Diggs (FB) gets the fake from Dobbs and gets tackled by the #89? (DE) into the NG/C

    On the right side of the line, Basford (OT) attempts to “cut block” (above the knee, but below the waist) #90 (DE) , and the defense end pushes him into the NG.

    A classic accidental injury caused by other players being pushed into the victim.

  16. GT Fan

    If Notre Dame needs a shoulder to cry on, tell them to give Virgina Tech a call. Last year when Georgia Tech beat Virginia Tech there was a lot of whining from Frank Beamer about chop blocks. The drama went on for a couple weeks before dying out. This year, it’s turning into a subplot of the upcoming Nov 4 game (both teams have byes this week). GT hasn’t looked good very often this year and I expect them to lose to VT. If they do lose, I wonder how much complaining by VT there will be about chop blocks. I’m sure we’ll hear a lot about it again if GT wins.

  17. MT Jarhead 86

    Living in Missoula, Montana, the local station pre-empted the Navy – ND Game so they could show the U of Montana vs. Northern Arizona game. I saw the highlights, but would love to see the game. Anyone have a VHS or DVD copy they would be willing to send? I will pay all costs. Many thanks.

    Mike Cadwell 505.400.3406

  18. nonnobis1

    MT Jarhead: I was in Miles City MT on 11/3/07, on business. The NBC affiliate that day aired the Montana State-Northern AZ game. The game ended…and instead of cutting to the Navy-ND feed (which by that time was in the 2nd of the 3 OTs), the station ran…a dog care show. I couldn’t believe it. i called the station and game them What For.

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