by Taylor Williams
January 18, 2010 – When the term “going green” is used in this day and age, it usually refers to a business’ commitment towards implementing environmentally conscious practices. In uptown New Orleans, however, home of both the Tulane Green Wave and the Isidore Newman Greenies, the term has taken on very different connotations, especially as regards football. To all of us here in the Big Easy, football is a serious and lucrative business, and never more so than right now with the Saints’ in the heart of the NFL playoff picture. Die-hard Tulane fans undoubtedly remember having similar feelings during the previous decade and its’ gridiron glories. Under the leadership of head coach Tommy Bowden and offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez, that Tulane team boasted a seriously formidable offense that averaged over 40 points a game during the undefeated season of 1998. The Green Wave enjoyed national recognition and respect during this era, and laid the foundations for successful emulation by other programs- hence “going green”. That team’s offensive structure was highly innovative- spread formations, slot passing, no huddle offense- essentially an ongoing effort to take full advantage of the available, highly unique offensive talent.
Quarterback Shaun King mastered Coach Rodriguez’s highly volatile offensive system and in doing so took the previously floundering Tulane program to the pinnacle of achievement. One of the players from that team was Nelson Stewart, a walk-on lineman who currently serves as head coach of the Isidore Newman Greenies, a program whose alumni include current NFL stars Peyton and Eli Manning. Coach Stewart inherited a program centered on exceptional quarterback play within a west coast, drop back passing system, with the majority of throws coming from under center in screen or short yardage situations. The Greenies also utilized a traditional 2 tailback set to complement their passing game, a formula which was relatively successful for many years. However, with competition intensifying from rivals St. Charles and John Curtis, Coach Stewart was forced to draw upon his experience at Tulane in implementing some changes to Newman’s program. The element of innovation in particular became critical, in the form of revised protection schemes to allow more shotgun passing and play action sequences. Heavy reliance on team speed, particularly with regard to defense and the pass rush represents another important holdover from his Tulane days. All of these aspects of the game which Coach Stewart integrated into the program reflect the notion of “going green” on the football field, in this case borrowing from the playbooks and coaching principles of the best Tulane team to ever suit up. The Greenies have maintained much of their legacy and successes within their division as a result of Coach Stewart’s improvisations, finishing with a 9-3 record this season. This year’s team was notable for solid offensive and defensive line play, consistently outstanding performances by wide receivers O’Dell Beckham and Jonathan Fisher, and the particularly inspired play of Ronnie Vinson, a running back and strong safety committed to LSU. Coach Stewart describes Vinson’s play as “the epitome of team accomplishments through individual achievements,” a reference to the Bowden/Rodriguez notion of individual play as motivation for team success. All of these ideas exemplify the core values that Bowden, Rodriguez and their staff ingrained so heavily in their Tulane players. As Newman looks to remain atop their division, the only thing that remains clear is that “going green” is the formula for success.