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Disruptive Innovation, Football and Education

At the end of his article about an innovative offensive scheme called the A-11 being implemented by one high school football team in California,’s Michael Weinreb writes: “And while I do not know if the A-11 can challenge all our assumptions, or if it is merely a lark, I do know that it accomplishes one very important thing: It reminds us that nothing in the universe can ever remain static. Not even football.”

So, clearly, Weinreb has never considered the institution of public schooling.

That oversight notwithstanding…

Just before I launched this blog, I wrote over on LeaderTalk about an ESPN article by Gregg Easterbrook where he explored a different innovative football strategy: no punting or rarely punting.  Easterbrook pointed to research and simulations that rather clearly demonstrated the benefits of a no-punt or rarely punt approach.  Yet, he could only find one high school team that was willing to adopt the strategy.  Why the reluctance in the face of compelling evidence/data?  As I wrote in the earlier post, Easterbrook offers two reasons: “First, ‘because that’s what we always do.’ Second, because if coaches order fourth-down tries that fail, they will be blamed, whereas if coaches order punts, the players will be blamed for the loss.”  More succinctly, coaches are risk and blame averse.

Now, we have Weinreb’s report on the A-11, a radical offensive strategy in football.  Weinreb wonders about the viability of the A-11, but does not directly speculate on why coaches will or will not adopt it.  Rather, more philosophically, he writes: “The dominant paradigm has always tended toward conservatism; in the previous century, it took several decades for the forward pass to gain acceptance. Change is frowned upon, even as it is surreptitiously embraced by coaches, who will plagiarize almost any scheme that might potentially save their jobs.”

Conservatism as the dominant paradigm…change is frowned upon…save their jobs.  Sound familiar educationalists?

If you want to see what the A-11 looks like in action, check out the following video:

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