Finding a Happy Medium with the Jamarr Robinson Package

Maryland deserved to lose yesterday, but it wasn't necessary that they did: in fact, they probably wouldn't have had the coaching been better. One of the most heinous calls, in hindsight: the substitution of a cold Jamarr Robinson for Danny O'Brien on 2nd & goal at the 3-yard-line in the second quarter. Robinson and Bennett Fulper botched the snap, which caused the ball to roll back to the 11-yard-line and forced Maryland to throw the ball on 3rd and long instead of being able to run on 3rd and short.

The Terrapins ended up with a field goal instead a touchdown. Had Maryland received the extra four points, they could've attempted a game-winning 47-yard field goal on the final play of the game instead of being forced to heave the ball into the end zone. Nick Ferrara, for the record, has kicks of 48 and 50 yards in his career and would've been kicking with the wind. So yeah, it was kinda important, and that's not even considering momentum.

That's been one of the most complained-about coaching decisions in a game full of head-scratching ones. Heck, some say that's what stands out most. It's really unknown whether or not that snap was Jamarr's fault or whether it would've happened with O'Brien in; that doesn't mean, however, it wasn't questionable or downright foolish. Sending in a quarterback that doesn't regularly practice with the center - whom, might I add, is actually a guard - in a crucial situation when Maryland was driving and succeeding with O'Brien already is just all kinds of inept. Even if they didn't botch the snap, it almost certainly would've disrupted the rhythm of the offense and served no real purpose.

The idea of the Robinson package, which is a faux-triple option flexbone set, is to jumpstart the offense, confuse the defense, and give them something else to prepare for. But when Maryland has 64 yards in seven plays and were inches away from scoring on the previous play, the offense doesn't need jump-starting, now does it?

I'm not going to go on; you should understand the ridiculousness of the playcall regardless of the outcome by now. But I will do something that some might not: defend the package as a whole.

Robinson is a serious threat running the ball. We tend to forget that he ran for 92 yards on 12 carries against Navy in the first game of the season, including a spectacular 28-yarder in which he was probably running a 4.2 40. We also tend to forget that he's proven he can be an adequate passer, especially in long throws to Torrey Smith.

When you combine the options of Robinson, Tony Logan, and Davin Meggett all in the same play, plus the potential of a deep pass to Smith, who would more than likely be in single-coverage, the package becomes the most dangerous one Maryland has. It even has the added bonus of confusing the defense; on one occasion, Miami's back seven was visibly confused at where to line up, with a cornerback barely getting to the slot receiver just before the snap got off.

Remember: Maryland has an extremely stagnant offense at times. They punted on the game's first three possessions and the final six drives produced one field goal and five failures. They're 11th in the ACC in total offense. A good number of their touchdowns came on short fields. They're 87th in the country in time of possession, as inept at holding the ball as they are stopping it.

But they have some extraordinarily dangerous players, and the Robinson package makes great use of them. Getting a formation with Maryland's 3 biggest threats on the field at the same time with all as options sounds like a pretty good idea for a struggling offense in the midst of a punting spree. I haven't done the statistical analysis, but in theory, it works. Forget the Wild Turtle: Maryland has the Flex-Turtle (Turtle-Option?).

It's also a dangerous formation, though, same as many other alternative formations, by virtue of the fact that it requires more execution and uses players that aren't in the game nearly as much. Bringing in a dangerous, cold formation is foolish in a variety of situations, particularly when it's not necessary. There is one truly acceptable, nay intelligent, situation to use it: when Maryland's in-between the 20s and in need of an offensive jumpstart.

Considering the risk, putting it in near either goal line is just a bad, needlessly reckless idea. And when Maryland's already having success, the risk is needless. But with the ball at the 30 after two straight punts on first or second down? Throw it in there and let's see what comes of it. I'd prefer it to be more than a one-off, but even that's acceptable. A risk of a turnover is heightened, but that's not that much worse than another punt and it's the case with a lot of high-risk/high-reward plays. Particularly if the Terrapins are losing, the potential of a turnover isn't as scary as the potential of a jumpstarting big play is appetizing.

(And, to be honest, I'm not sure it wouldn't work when Maryland needs to run the ball to waste some time. But I'll leave that for another time.)

Of course, that depends on things I don't know: how successful it is in practice and how much confidence the coaching staff has in it. If it's mistake-prone or fails more often than succeeds in practice, then obviously it's a poor idea (but then why use it in the first place?). But if they do have confidence in it, I don't want to see the formation go away. In fact, in a perfect world, Devin Burns would be schooled in the ins and outs for the next two seasons, so that he'd be even more effective in the formation once Robinson left. 

Any other thoughts? I'm assuming I'm in a minority here.

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