LITTLE ROCK — A lost art in Washington, compromise is not even an option when it comes to the chasm between coaches who are proponents of hurry-up offenses and their straight-laced counterparts.
On one side are Gus Malzahn and Hugh Freeze; on the other, Bret Bielema and Nick Saban.
Speaking separately to the media as they did at SEC Media Days, there was no room for confrontational give and take. We need a face to face, we need wrestling promoter extraordinaire Vince McMahon.
This argument is custom-made for WWE, where interest in the tag team division is on the decline, according to an online report.
Selling a couple of themes, there is potential for a box-office smash. For instance, the topic of hurry-up offenses is so polarizing that on-field competitors would team up. Auburn (Malzahn) and Ole Miss (Freeze) will go at it tooth and nail on Oct. 5 and Arkansas (Bielema) and Alabama (Saban) will square off two weeks later, but they would partner for this fight. I’m pretty sure that Kane and the Big Show went one on one before and after being a formidable tag team.
Imagine the possibilities. Malzahn could taunt Saban with Cam Newton, 28-27, 2010. Freeze could don Johnny Manziel’s No. 2 jersey, tote a replica of the Heisman Trophy instead of a folding chair, and whisper 29-24. They could be billed as the Jonesboro Connection with former Arkansas State University quarterback Ryan Aplin as their manager, since he had something to do with both of them moving up the coaching ladder.
Bielema would be cast as the newcomer to the league, proving he belongs by stepping in to defend Saban, the king of the SEC roost.
To make a point about their respective positions, Malzahn and Freeze could use giant placards to signal the next in-ring move, maybe some junk with a golf club nearby would say piledriver. Meanwhile, Bielema and Saban would be huddled on the other side of the ring, discussing strategy.
Working off Malzahn’s response that slowing down offenses must be a joke, the Auburn coach would pitch a comedy mask at Bielema. The Arkansas coach would lift it high, bounce it off the mat, and respond, "I’m not a comedian."
Beyond the aforementioned nonsense, both sides are passionate about their positions. Siding with Saban that there are safety issues involved when the offense is non-stop, Bielema gets caught up in skepticism about the real reason for the stance of the Alabama coach. Saban knows that if the opponent’s offense plays straight up, Alabama is going to win 95 percent of the time.
Confident that Bielema believes that uninterrupted offense raises the risk of injury, his willingness to speak out should be appreciated by his players. "I’m looking at it from a head coach’s point of view, that the personal well being of my players is paramount," he said.
Equally passionate, Freeze said, "There’s no way that is putting more people at more risk than they’re already at."
From the pressbox, it seems that defensive linemen run more chasing the football than offensive linemen trying to manhandle a 300-pound load, but both are asked to exert great effort. A dozen non-stop plays and I’ll bet big men on both sides will be bent over, hands on hips.
Freeze’s call for more research raises a question about how to go about quantifying the source of an injury. What if it happens on the third play of a hurry-up series? How about the sixth play? Or the 10th play? What if the offense turned the ball over or scored quickly and the defense rushed back onto the field?
More than likely, Bielema and Saban are on the losing side of this argument. One reason the college game is so popular is that many fans enjoy the fast pace and the scoring that results.
Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media’s Arkansas News Bureau.