10 Maddening Football Cliches That Won’t Die

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With the average football game lasting more than three hours, it's not easy for play-by-play men and analysts to fill air time. Think about it — the average broadcast pairing calls 16 games per season, working in the neighborhood of 48 hours. They witness different sequences of the same events, dispensing essentially the same overused analysis as each play unfolds (see Madden's maddening cliches during his heyday in the booth). That's why smart football fans appreciate the supremely talented guys who don't spare the details and don't conceal their honest opinions. They typically don't rely on the following tired cliches that you've undoubtedly heard over and over again on fall Saturdays and Sundays.

  1. He's a high-motor guy

    Peyton Hillis is a "high-motor guy" for the Browns (or was until this season). David Pollack was a "high-motor guy" at Georgia. See a pattern? This describes a player who is thought to lack athleticism, but exhibits a lot of heart. He's more likely to truck multiple defenders while fighting for a two-yard gain. He's more likely to run down a ball carrier after a missed tackle. He's more likely to make a great play on special teams. On the other hand, the exceptionally athletic tend to not work as hard, according to those commentators, which couldn't be further from the truth.

  2. He's a throwback

    Like the "high-motor guy," a "throwback" player "gives 110%" each time he takes the field, proving that "he just wants it more" than his opponent. He'll play with a broken femur or with blood gushing out of his forehead. He'll spend late nights studying film, as opposed to womanizing at the local bars and clubs. His coaches love him. In fact, he'll probably end up being a coach after he retires. Modern players, for the most part, have been characterized as selfish and not nearly as devoted to their craft, despite the fact that they spend many, many more hours preparing physically and mentally than in the past.

  3. He's deceptively fast

    He's either fast or he's not. You can't be "deceptively fast." Again, making generalizations about players based solely on their appearances isn't wise. The aforementioned Peyton Hillis, a "high-motor guy," may weigh 250 pounds, but he also ran a 4.5 40-yard dash. Overshadowed by Darren McFadden and Felix Jones at Arkansas, he quietly punished opposing SEC defenses by both pounding the ball and breaking long runs. General Managers took note, and the Broncos made him their third-round selection in 2008. He had a breakout season for the Browns in 2010, and now is on the cover of Madden NFL 12. This season, nobody is deceived by his fastness, however, which might explain why he's averaging fewer than four yards per carry.

  4. He left it all on the field

    In most cases, this one is used to describe a player on an outmatched team who performed well despite the loss. He demonstrated "the heart of a champion," expending all of his energy in pursuit of that elusive victory. Here are a few examples of players who did just that: Thurman Thomas during Super Bowl XXV, Jake Delhomme during Super Bowl XXXVIII, and Kurt Warner during Super Bowl XLIII.

  5. They'll have to play all 60 minutes

    Just to be dense, imagine if a team stopped playing after six minutes had passed in the third quarter, meaning the players were on the field for 36 of 60 minutes. That would be something, right? Forfeits don't happen in modern NFL games, though they happen all the time in college football — several years after the games had been played (see USC, SMU, etc.). Every team plays 60 minutes. Not every team plays hard during the entire 60 minutes. Even still, everyone knows that a team can't take a siesta during the third quarter if they hope to win.

  1. That's a costly turnover

    Is there ever a time when a turnover isn't costly? Of course, some turnovers are more costly than others. It stings much more when your team's running back fumbles the ball on his opponent's three-yard line during the waning moments of a closely fought AFC Championship Game (sorry, Browns fans) than when your team's backup quarterback tosses an interception when he's overseeing a five-touchdown lead in the fourth quarter. So, instead of stating the obvious, play-by-play men and analysts could say "that was the worst possible time for a turnover."

  2. They were out-talented

    "Out-talented" is a new term that has emerged in recent years, probably created by a fatigued sports announcer during the conclusion of a mind-numbing blowout. When Houston obliterated SMU 95-21 in 1989, the Mustangs were "out-talented." Actually, they were out-talented a lot that season, their first after the devastating death penalty. There really isn't a more concise, politically correct way to say a team is bad, though an announcer could always just say, "they had less talent." It's not difficult, and sounds much, much better.

  3. The best defense is a good offense

    The idea is that a team overwhelming its opponent on offense is enough to reduce the harm the opponent can inflict on that team's defense. That strategy has been successful for college programs such as Hawaii and Houston, each of which has shattered passing records en route to winning seasons. However, on higher levels of football, teams simply can't win anything substantial without having at least a mediocre defense. The 2009 Saints, for example, ranked 20th in scoring defense and 26th in yards allowed per game, but had 41 takeaways. Their defense gained more possessions for their incredible offense, enabling the team to win the Super Bowl. As any Saints fan, Steel Curtain fan, or SEC fan will tell you, defense matters.

  4. Either team could win in overtime

    Or something to that effect. Who knew? The cliche essentially means that both teams are capable of outlasting the other in extra time, but that was already proven in regulation. This cliche is especially useful during college overtime, when the outcome is guaranteed not to be a tie. Spouting it during pro overtime could leave egg on an announcer's face since there's a possibility the game could end in a tie.

  5. They're better than their record indicates

    Bill Parcells killed this one when he said, "You are what your record says you are." Winning games requires more than just compiling gaudy stats during games and through the course of a season. Turnovers and special teams — just ask Alabama about the latter — are parts of football, too. These teams typically are capable of "out-talenting" their opponents, but lack the skill, coaching, or execution to do it consistently.

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