Here it is, the long awaited question and answer with Phil Steele. Aside from the fact that my last name is spelled incorrectly, I'll reserve my commentary and let it speak for itself. A huge thank you is in order for Mr. Steele and his staff, which went out of their way to fix an email problem which delayed this message for quite some time.
I want to begin by saying how much I look forward to the publication of your magazine every year, and want to thank you for putting out such an outstanding product every June. As a lifelong fan of the Navy Midshipmen I can appreciate the full and equal coverage of every team in the FBS, as opposed to many other magazines which significantly downgrade their coverage for non-BCS conference teams.
My question pertains to the recent success of the Navy Midshipmen under Head Coach Paul Johnson. Considering the recent success of Navy against the other Service Academies (Johnson is 9-1 against AF and Army in his career) and the ability of Coach Johnson to out-recruit Army and Air Force, do you think the Midshipmen are poised to make a run like Air Force did under Fisher DeBerry in the 1980’s and 1990’s? I also wanted to ask you about the option offense as utilized by the Service Academies. Many Navy fans (including myself) swear by it, and contend that given the limitations and unique mission of the Academies, the option is really the only way to win at Army, Navy, and Air Force. However, Air Force is moving away from an exclusively option-based offense under Troy Calhoun, and as far as I know new Army HC Stan Brock has no plans to utilize option looks with frequency. Can these new Head Coaches win with these offenses, or has Paul Johnson and the Naval Academy confirmed what Fisher DeBerry betted on 25 years ago in Colorado Springs; that the only way to win at a Service Academy is to run an option oriented offense? Once again, thank you for your outstanding magazine and for the continued coverage on your website!
PS: Count me in with the readers who would love to see more FCS coverage!
Navy sure does appear to be in the same shape Air Force was during the 1980’s and 1990’s when it was almost a gimmie that Air Force would win the Commander-in-Chief’s trophy every year. I am in full agreement with you that the best way for any service academy to go offensively is the option. This is even more true now with fewer and fewer teams running the bone, it makes preparing for it in one week nearly impossible. Since the service academy teams will always be smaller and usually slower than their opponents, they need to have the option to level out or even tilt the playing field in their favor. Opposing scout teams cannot come anywhere near duplicating the speed and precision that Navy runs the bone.
In the 7 year period from 1993-99 Army won a total of 35 games. When Bob Sutton was let go they brought in Todd Berry who promised a “more aggressive”, wide open offense that would feature the pass. Army football has gone away from the bone and over the last 7 years have won a total of 14 games which is 60% LESS than they won the previous 7. It was that abandonment of the bone that allowed Navy to take control. Navy won 36 games from 1993-1999 but in just the last 4 years have won 35 games using Paul Johnson’s option offense.
I feel Air Force abandoning the bone will result is a similar scenario to what Army went through and this year I have pegged them for last in the MWC. As long as both Army and Air Force try to remain pro style with their offenses, it should be a long productive streak for the Midshipmen to continue winning the CIC trophy each and every year. Also with all of the bowl games coveting any service academy with a winning record, I expect Navy’s bowl streak (4 in a row) to continue to grow each year.
I hope the Mids can keep Paul Johnson as I put him on my list of most coveted non-BCS coaches in this week’s Weekly Notes.
I am a little disappointed in the turnout for the FCS coverage on the website the last week. I am basically giving away what I feel is the best 1AA or FCS coverage in the country for free on the website and we let all of the FCS schools know about this giveaway. There are only about 850 downloads of each conference so far and If I am only going to sell 850 magazines for the FCS than it would not be worth investing the THOUSANDS of man hours and tens of thousands of dollars needed to print a separate FCS guide. I was thinking there would be a lot more people interested in FCS football.
Finally whenever I do a Google Search for 2007 “Phil Steele” College Football magazine, your site comes up in the top 100 searches and I want to thank you for all of the kind comments you have made about my magazine the past couple of years. You have a fine website and for any of my readers who have an interest in Navy football, it is the best website out there!
Thanks for writing,