View Full Version : 21st Century Offense, Part 1 By Gretz

07-18-2005, 06:45 AM

This Chiefs offense can do what it wants on any given Sunday. Come out to stop the run, they can pass. Decide to slow down the passing attack and the Chiefs can run. A defensive move, begets a countermove from the offense. Check, checkmate.

The last three years have been the most productive offensive show in franchise history. It has also been the National Football League’s most productive offense over that same span. Some of the Chiefs offensive accomplishments have found their way into the league record books.

The reasons for success have shown themselves over the last three seasons. It has been a mix of remarkable talent, directed by a strong offensive coaching staff. The Chiefs offense has averaged 6,201 yards and 55.7 offensive touchdowns per season in 2002-2004. In that time, the Chiefs led the league in scoring twice and finished second last season. The offense finished in the top four in total offensive yards three times, including leading the NFL last season in most yards.

“We have been successful because of the talented people who have been on the field and in the coaching staff,” said Chiefs offensive coordinator Al Saunders. “We have all worked in a flexible offense that allows us to take advantage of what we have.”

The talent of the players is a key ingredient. The quarterback, running back, fullback, tight end, right guard, left guard and left tackle have all been elected to the Pro Bowl over the last three seasons, some multiple times. It’s a total of 15 spots on the offensive roster for the AFC team, something no other AFC or NFC team can match (Philadelphia is the closest with 11 offensive spots.)

Besides outstanding talent, the foundation of this Chiefs offense is built on five building blocks:

* Vertical passing game.
* Balance in running and passing.
* Shifts, motion, movement and personnel groups
* Volume.
* Fast break mentality.

1. Vertical Passing Game: The Chiefs start with throwing the ball down the field. It’s the initial building block to everything they do offensively.greeno1

“We believe in stretching the field vertically and stretching the field laterally,” Saunders said. “We do that with the implementation of the best playmakers we have on the perimeter. The philosophy of the vertical passing game is really a way to attack the seams of the defense and always have the opportunity to push the ball up the field. If the up field opportunities are not there, then we’ll come down and utilize the underneath, flare control elements, but we look first to take the ball down the field.”

With the Chiefs it’s the vertical passing game that helps make the running game work. It’s a reverse of the old NFL adage that the running game sets up the passing game. With the Chiefs, the passing game sets up the running game. Defenses are forced to keep their safeties in the secondary when there’s the threat of the deep pass, pulling them away from the line of scrimmage. That opens up running lanes.

2. Balance: Although the vertical passing game is what the Chiefs look to do first, this scheme is not designed to be dominated by throwing the ball.

That’s why if there’s a requirement to make this offensive style work, it’s a running back, especially one versatile enough to not only get the tough running yards, but catch the football on the perimeter, stretching the defense even more.

“It’s Marshall Faulk in St. Louis. It was Emmitt Smith in Dallas, Chuck Muncie, Gary Anderson, James Brooks in San Diego, John Riggins with the Redskins,” said Saunders. “Here, it’s Priest Holmes.”

3. Shifts, Movement, Motion, Personnel Groups: “The philosophy of our offense is the utilization of multiple personnel groups, multiple shifting and multiple moving to try and create an advantage before the snap of the ball,” said Saunders.gonzbutton

More simply: the Chiefs never stop moving on offense, and that’s before the snap. “I’m sure there are scouting reports on us that say ‘They come off the bus shifting’,” Saunders said. “That’s true. We do it every single game, every practice, in season and during the off-season.”

Of the 1,089 plays the offense ran last year, more than likely 1,080 were called with some sort of movement or motion. The Chiefs have 14 different personnel groups, some 35 different shift combinations and 30 different motions. Every NFL offense has those facets, but few are as dedicated to showing and using them as the Chiefs. This is Saunders stamp on the scheme created more than 40 years ago by Don Coryell.

4. Volume: The Chiefs will have between 250 and 300 plays in their game plan each week.

“A lot of people say, ‘How can you do that, how can you teach that, how can you practice that in a given week?’” said Saunders. “That’s the key to our offense: the volume.”

That volume would not be possible without what Saunders calls the simplicity of the offensive language used by the Chiefs. It was developed by Coryell when he became the head coach at San Diego State University back in the 1960s.

“We tell everybody what to do on every play,” said Saunders. “We try to simplify the language for the players, so assignment-wise they can play with a tremendous amount of speed and a lack of thinking as they go through their particular assignments.”

Where the Chiefs offense expands is the motion, shifting, movement and personnel groups. Add those in different combinations and a mathematical equation is needed to explain the number of options the Chiefs carry into each game.

“We can run that play with 14 different personnel groups,” said Saunders. “Now it takes a different face to the defense. Then, you keep multiplying it. We have 35 different shifts, 30 different motions, with 50 protections where the offensive line is looking different all the time. You are getting thousands and thousands of different types of combinations that you can use.”

5. Fast Break Mentality: “There are two terms we use on a daily basis: fast and finish,” said Saunders. “That capsulizes the attitude that we have to play this offense.

“Everything is fast. Coming up to the line of scrimmage is fast, the shifting and moving is fast, to create a distortion for the defense. When the ball is snapped, the quickness and speed or our perimeter players getting up the field, the decision making by thehall2 quarterback, the movement and sets by the offensive line; everything is based on speed.”

From the day back in 2001 when he was announced as Dick Vermeil’s coordinator, Saunders has used one word to explain the offensive philosophy: attack. And it’s another sport that provides the best description of the Chiefs mindset:

“It’s like UNLV basketball (under Jerry Tarkanian) versus Indiana basketball when Bob Knight was there,” said Saunders. “It’s expansive and explosive, as opposed to a controlled and deliberate style.

“That’s different from an offense that would believe that you can only run a certain number of plays and that the limited number makes you better at what you do. We would rather give up a little bit of technique or a little bit of familiarity with more expansion and surprise and we use that element to our advantage against the defense.”

(Coming on Wednesday: a look at the roots of the Chiefs offensive scheme.)

The opinions offered in this column do not necessarily reflect those of the Kansas City Chiefs.

A former beat reporter who covered the Pittsburgh Steelers during their glory years, Gretz covered the Chiefs for the Kansas City Star for nine years before heading up KCFX-FM's sports department. He is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Board of Selectors. His column appears three times a week during the season.

07-18-2005, 07:07 AM
Good read.

the Talking Can
07-18-2005, 07:11 AM
damn....I love it

“We can run that play with 14 different personnel groups,” said Saunders. “Now it takes a different face to the defense. Then, you keep multiplying it. We have 35 different shifts, 30 different motions, with 50 protections where the offensive line is looking different all the time. You are getting thousands and thousands of different types of combinations that you can use.”

the Talking Can
07-18-2005, 07:13 AM
it always makes me laugh imaging AS trying to teach this offense to Plummber...