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For every play Mike Leach adds to his playbook, he takes one away

"Better having a too small of a package than too big of one," Leach said.

Depending on how you compile the numbers, Mike Leach has been running the Air Raid for three and a half decades now. It was 1989 when he first linked up with Hal Mumme, as the offensive coordinator and offensive line coach on Mumme's Iowa Wesleyan team. The pair worked together at Iowa Wesleyan and Valdosta State before leaping up two levels to Kentucky. Leach has been on his own for 22 seasons now, and 2022 marks his 21st season as a head coach.

Either way, Leach has been living in the Air Raid longer than his players have been alive. If he wanted, his playbook could be thicker than a Sunday edition of the New York Times, a reference almost as old as the Air Raid itself. Instead, Leach's playbook remains lean. That's on purpose.

"If we adopt a new play, I've always tried to cut one that we have so we can control the package, practice and execute it, because execution is the most important," Leach said Tuesday. "Better having too small of a package than too big of one."

The Air Raid originally succeeded because it was ahead of its time. Mumme and Leach saw where football was going and went there before the competition was willing or able to do so.

That was 20-plus years ago, though. The secret's long been out. Today, the Air Raid succeeds because Leach's team reps the concepts over and over and over again. The mental edge is gone, the opponent knows what's coming. Leach succeeds because he's better at running it than the other team is at stopping it.

In fact, practice and execution are so important to Leach's success that he repeated the word "execute" or "execution" eight times in his 30-ish minutes at the podium on Tuesday. 

Here was his best answer on the topic:

But football has always been a game of execution. There's not a lot of Roadrunner/Wiley Coyote, who you ambush, fool the other guy, then you walk away laughing like Muttley after the rock fell on the guy or something like that. It's always been a game of execution. 

It doesn't matter what you do schematically, you have to execute well. I think some schemes are better than others. The most important thing is execution. We spend more time thinking about practice and how to teach what we want to execute. And the more sharply refined you can teach it and focus on it, the better you're going to be.

The Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote. Now there's a reference almost as old as the Air Raid itself.

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