The four-minute drill in football is different from the two-minute drill. While the two-minute drill is a pass happy with a purpose to preserve the time left on the clock, the four-minute drill’s objective is to quickly use up the time left on the clock. The latter has a great need for a consistent yard gaining running back while the former has no need for that position at all.
When I was a kid, fullbacks and running backs were staple positions on any football team. Now fullbacks are almost extinct dinosaurs and running backs are being diminished because of more teams’ reliance on the intricacies of the passing game. I think that depreciation of the running back has occurred for three reasons. Firstly, the offensive run blocking is not at the level it was in the past. Offensive lineman are not able to open holes or are just routinely missing their blocking assignments. Secondly, most running backs are being picked on the basis of straight line, 40 yard dash, speed. The coaches are forgetting that a back has to be strong and shifty enough to get to where that straight line speed can be utilized. Most of the straight line speed backs are stopped in the backfield if there is no hole opened up for them or they run east and west for 20 yards with maybe a one or two yard gain to show for their effort. Lastly, the preponderance of ankle biting or ankle tackling has limited backs to very short yardage. About 75% of the short yardage, gains of 2 yards or less, seem to be due to the mastery of ankle-biters at or around the line of scrimmage.
Coaches are getting reluctant to use running backs in short yardage situations on 3rd down. Short yardage plays on 3rd down of distances 2 to 3 yards are almost routinely passing plays, roughly about seventy-five percent. Although, historical data in the NFL shows that runs on this down and distance are more successful than passes, the coaches go against the historical evidence and rely on the pass. The coaches, across the board, distrust their running backs in these situations.
In order for running backs to return to a position of prominence on the football field, they must be trained differently. The backs must acquire some training in the martial arts. Martial arts training teaches the student how to overcome an opponent quickly and decisively. It would teach running backs how to win against a bigger defensive lineman if an offensive linemen missed his assignment, it would teach running backs to rely more on shiftiness and elusiveness instead of straight line speed, and it would teach running backs to develop extreme leg explosiveness that would minimize their chances of being brought down by ankle-biters.
If the running backs could once more gain their coaches trust in short yard situations, their usefulness in the NFL and all levels of football would be enhanced. Having to use a pass in the four-minute drill has lost quite few games over recent years. A coach’s desperation to get a game sealing first down in a short yardage situation by passing the ball has opened many doors for two- minute drill magicians like Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, and Russell Wilson to move the ball down the field and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Well trained running backs will send a message to coaches that the Chicken, the passing game, came second and will remain second on third down and short or in the four-minute drill if running backs are trained to perform more efficiently.