There's a new offense in high school football. It's illegal under NCAA and NFL rules, but it's not as non-traditional as formations under arena football rules. This offense is called the A-11. It's announced objective is to allow smaller players in smaller schools with talent an opportunity to compete with teams from schools with more big players.
It's controversial because football is a bastion of tradition. Change comes very incrementally.
My comments come from the perspective of fifty-five years of trying to play and observing football at all levels. I am biased in favor of a game that gives normal sized guys and gals a chance to compete. When I started playing football in the 4th grade I was relatively big kid. I was told to play guard. I skipped playing in the 5th grade because I thought the coach was a fat ass.
In the sixth grade I attended a different school in a different town. I was still big for my age, but not as big. The first couple of days of practice I was put with the linemen, then the coach saw me run wind sprints and I was sent to practice with the backs. That season I was selected for the city all-star team from my school as a running back. I was pretty good for my age and size.
In junior high school the coaches made me into an option quarterback. I was still bigger than most other backs, in fact I was sometimes inserted into the lineup as a fullback.
However, as time passed other guys took off on growth spurts. I topped out in H.S. at 170 lbs and 5'7". And I was not always sure I was the fastest guy on the field either, but I had moves and I could catch a football and had a few other skills - quick kick and I could throw short passes with either hand running left of right. I wound up being an all-district running back my senior year.
The point of this recitation is that by the time I went to college football was almost out of the question - too small and not exceptionally fast. Nevertheless, I could do things I didn't see other players do on the field. It didn't matter. You had to be big or you were regarded as useless.
I recall one team mate in junior high school who gave up football after the eighth grade because his was regarded as too small. He switched to baseball and eventually played in the minors. BUT at the time in J.H.S this guy was the best tackler I ever went up against - ever! I remember because I could juke or run over anybody once in a while. I never got passed this guy and I went up against him in dozens of scrimmages and we must have been one on one fifty times. He was maybe three-fourths my size and no faster than me, but I NEVER beat him. You never forget a guy like that. But he was an exception - one in 125 on our team. If I had been choosing for sandlot ball he would have been my first pick.
There will be a few exceptions to the big is best mindset, but generally in H.S. football especially, I think a lot of talent is wasted because the game itself - the rules - are biased toward the bigger player.
I was reading a blog by officials commenting on the A-11 offense and I lot of it seemed to be about, in effect, making the rules as intricate as needed to keep the offense and defense "balanced". The result of these bureaucratic and intricate rules which no human official can apply consistently is a lot of annoying complications for coaches, players and fans. And an under current of suspicious about the fairness of officials or "rigging" outcomes.
I offer a simply proposal to "level the playing field" especially at the J.H.S. and H.S. level: just handicap the big guys with weight like horses are handicapped.
First, put weight in their shoes, then weights in their pads - not their helmets! The starting units of teams should weigh-in before the game and the heavier team is assigned additional weight according to a standard mathematical formula to give the lighter team some speed and agility compensation. Backs should be especially weighted on both offense and defense.
Tall players should also be weighted over shorter players to mitigate against their leaping ability.
With this individual handicapping in place, the rules should be simplified to make it easier to officiate games.
It may seem shocking to some folks but there are people under six feet and 220 lbs who are quite good athletes with outstanding balance, speed and body agility and who can be quite entertaining to watch play.
I wouldn't advocate this approach at the NCAA or NFL level. Let's face it, these are professionals or apprentice professionals. Let them maximize their innate abilities. The little guys can go to little schools. I had that opportunity, but I wasn't interested. Some will, some won't at that age. But for the tens of thousands of young athletes, give 'em a motivating chance and really enforce anti-doping regulations.
Well, that's it. The next time you look at a gymnast and wonder what kind of football player he might be if he wasn't such a compact athlete.
P.S. In grade school and junior high I should have been carrying extra weight. In H.S. the other guys should have been packing extra weight.
Or, let's just make it all more complicated and subjective and blame the officials for every outcome.