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View Full Version : Chiefs Football Outsiders - the pistol formation


Chiefnj2
12-05-2008, 09:38 AM
If a repost, disregard. If not, a pretty good read:
Footballoutsiders.com

Kansas City Chiefs Quarterback Tyler Thigpen
Kansas City Chiefs 20 at Oakland Raiders 13

The Chiefs' passing DVOA in their first five games of the 2008 season: -39.5%, -49.5%, -86.7%, -13.0%, -75.3%.

The Chiefs' passing DVOA in the five games after their Week 6 bye: 32.1%, 39.0%, 51.2%, 18.4%, -5.8%. They also put up a passing DVOA of 19.1% last Sunday against a Raiders team whose defensive passing efficiency has shot through the roof in the second half of the season.

The difference? Apparently, the maturation of one Tyler Thigpen, who has thrown for 1,347 yards with 11 touchdowns and four interceptions since becoming the full-time starting quarterback in late October. Selected by the Vikings in the seventh round of the 2007 draft, Thigpen was way under the radar coming out of Coastal Carolina. He didn't even receive a Combine invite, and his Pro Day took place on South Carolina State's larger campus. Thigpen was one of Minnesota's final cuts, and Kansas City signed him on early September. He was active for one game in his rookie year, and got the full-time starter's job after Brodie Croyle and Damon Huard were lost for the season to various injuries.

The Chiefs are using the Pistol formation to increase Thigpen's efficiency. Developed by Chris Ault of the Nevada Wolfpack, the Pistol is a mini-shotgun in which the quarterback stands about three yards behind center, waiting for the snap, while the tailback stands another three yards directly behind him (Fig. 1 shows a typical example of the formation the Chiefs use, with the addition of rookie fullback Mike Cox in an H-back look). It's a nice hybrid of the spread offense that most young quarterbacks find easier to run, and the power-running success that the NFL requires. Tight end Tony Gonzalez has been the main man in the Kansas City Pistol, finding open zones against defenses that are playing the Chiefs honest.

Figure 1: One Brand of Pistol

You will also see Cox directly to Thigpen's right or left, Gonzalez split slightly wider (though he's mostly in the slot), and the occasional empty backfield formation. Adam Caplan, who frequently watches coaches' tape at NFL Films HQ with his buddy Greg Cosell when he's not hosting various programs on SIRIUS NFL Radio and writing for Scout.com, had this to say about the benefits of the formation for Kansas City's young quarterback:

"Thigpen clearly works best out of the Pistol formation for several reasons. He lacks ideal height to play the position (6-2) and being able to play a few feet back from center helps to give him a better line of vision in order to scan the field.

"Because he doesn't have the strongest arm in the world, he's able to work the intermediate passing game easier this way. It gives him a little more time to get rid of the football. This is really evident against the better pass-rushing teams. The intermediate passing game has really been a boost to Gonzalez's productivity.

"The addition of receiver Mark Bradley is probably one of the more underrated moves the team has made. Bradley gives them a legitimate third passing option, which has made it harder for teams to focus on Gonzalez and Dwayne Bowe. The one drawback is that working out of the shotgun makes it a little awkward to run the football at times. Some feel Jamaal Charles would be a better fit for the Chiefs' revamped scheme."

Against the Raiders, Thigpen ran 11 times and threw only 22 passes. It was the ground game that led the way on the 91-yard drive that took up half of the third quarter and six minutes of the fourth, broke a 10-10 tie, and took the Raiders out of the game. A 50-yard punt by Shane Lechler, and a two-yard return by Kevin Robinson, put the ball at the Kansas City 9 with seven minutes elapsed in the second half.

After a 23-yard pass to Gonzalez to get the Chiefs out of Purgatory, Larry Johnson took a direct snap. I'm going to digress here and point out that there was one advantage for Johnson that a lot of teams who run pseudo-Wildcat stuff don't provide: Rookie tight end Brad Cottam lined up to block just outside right tackle Damon McIntosh. The Wildcat looks that the Dolphins give generally have an H-back (usually David Martin), which makes a lot more sense than a direct snap up the middle with no extra blocking. In this case, Johnson took the ball right, and outside past the lane that Cottam created, for seven yards. The reason this trick stuff works when it does is so often the success of the blocking that sets it all up. When they first started running the 'Cat, the Dolphins would overload the right side with an extra right tackle, a pulling left guard, an H-back, and three Zambonis, for all I know. Moving on, but I felt compelled to point that out.

A low snap in the Pistol formation killed the next play, and the Chiefs lost the seven yards that Johnson picked up. But on third-and-10 from his own 32, Thigpen took the ball on a short shotgun and threw deep to Gonzales, who ran out of the slot and beat Gibril Wilson on an underthrown comeback. Johnson rumbled right for two yards out of another sawed-off shotgun on the next play.

On second-and-eight from the 50, Thigpen took the ball in yet another Pistol, and the Raiders responded with a rather odd defensive formation. Left end Derrick Burgess, left tackle Tommy Kelly and right tackle Gerard Warren were lined up in their usual spots for a 4-3 front, but right end Kalimba Edwards was lined up an entire gap to the right of Warren.


At the snap, Burgess, Kelly, and Warren headed straight forward. The entire Kansas City offensive line went to its right, not even bothering to block Edwards, who came out of his stance with a delay at the snap. I'm not sure if this was a planned delayed rush, or Edwards slipped, or what the hell happened, but the Chiefs line acted as if he wasn't even there. Left tackle Brendan Albert and left guard Brian Waters doubled Warren, center Rudy Niswanger and right guard Wade Smith doubled Kelly, and McIntosh rode Burgess out of the play behind Thigpen. Johnson came out and took the late-arriving Mr. Edwards out of the equation with a low block, Thigpen couldn't find anything downfield, and he picked up six yards on a scramble. The real scramble, however, was going on in the head of whoever drew that defense up. Two plays later, Thigpen threw an ugly near-pick to Gibril Wilson that Wilson flat-out dropped.

The real effectiveness of the Pistol for the Chiefs was how it helped them on the ground at the end of this drive. After a 12-yard pass to Gonzalez on third-and-9 from the Oakland 40, Thigpen either took the ball himself or gave it to Johnson on each of the next six plays. When the Raiders played a base 4-3, Johnson would veer and roam through defenders, around some quality blocking. If Oakland brought an extra man to the line, Thigpen wasn't shy about taking off just as that blitzing linebacker left a vacated area. 16 plays and 9:24 after it started, the Chiefs' long drive came to a successful end with a two-yard touchdown run.

We've said it in Audibles, and our readers have commented to the same effect: Wouldn't it be fun if a truly bad team decided that they had nothing to lose and were just going to go for it with all the nutty formations they could imagine? The Chiefs are a truly bad team -- they're at the starting point of a serious rebuild that looks like it could take years -- but they're not running the Pistol and these direct snaps just for the sake of it. Herm Edwards and offensive coordinator Chan Gailey are doing these things with proper planning to try and make something happen in the face of severe personnel deficits, and that's admirable. They're also making a surprise star out of their young quarterback, and that's something to build on.

the Talking Can
12-05-2008, 10:11 AM
interesting

bowener
12-05-2008, 11:05 AM
link please?

PhillyChiefFan
12-05-2008, 11:53 AM
Some feel Jamaal Charles would be a better fit for the Chiefs' revamped scheme."



Don't have a problem with this, but is there any particular reason for this, or simply because he is a quicker back?

KCrockaholic
12-05-2008, 11:57 AM
I would like the link also...

Detoxing
12-05-2008, 12:26 PM
Very interesting read. I don't agree that we are a truly bad team though. Every week, Chan Gaily looks like the savior of this team

Demonpenz
12-05-2008, 12:28 PM
that was a good read

Chiefnj2
12-05-2008, 12:29 PM
http://www.footballoutsiders.com/cover-3/2008/cover-3-kids-are-alright

I hope the weather turns bad for KCs remaining games. I want to see how the pistol will work in the cold and wind. The NFL is all about innovation and then everybody copying you. If KC is the only team running the pistol it gives them a distinct advantage.

Gailey should be named head coach and continue to call the offensive plays. Maybe he can turn this defense around because Herm sure as hell can't.

chiefsngop
12-05-2008, 01:02 PM
The articles brings forth another point to the argument I had with people that felt we only beat Oakland because they "handed us the game" or "gifted" it to us.

When the Offense really needed it, they put together a good solid 9 minute drive that capped off with a touchdown.

That's a great way to win games on the road no matter the opponent. Long time consuming scoring drives with a good mix of run and pass.

All credit to the players, no endorsement for Herm.

Chiefnj2
12-05-2008, 01:14 PM
The use of the pistol and abondoning the run up the center's arse, means KC could have kept Weigman around.

Starbux37
12-05-2008, 01:20 PM
Chris Ault started and uses the Pistol at the University of Nevada. I can tell you what makes this system really effective is having a mobile QB. If you have a QB who is the prototypical pocket passer this system is doomed.

I have gone to several UNR games and can tell you it is a lot of fun to watch when it works correctly. I can also tell you it has been very painful to watch when it doesn't.

I believe this is the reason why Thigpen has made this system look so good and in turn make Gailey look even better for going to it. This system would have been a complete and total failure with Brodie in the QB position.

Then again no offensive system was working with Brodie in the QB position.

beach tribe
12-05-2008, 01:23 PM
The articles brings forth another point to the argument I had with people that felt we only beat Oakland because they "handed us the game" or "gifted" it to us.

When the Offense really needed it, they put together a good solid 9 minute drive that capped off with a touchdown.

That's a great way to win games on the road no matter the opponent. Long time consuming scoring drives with a good mix of run and pass.

All credit to the players, no endorsement for Herm.

Yeah, and if Oakland would have just kicked the FGs, that drive would not have mattered. Just sayin.

It was nice drive.

beach tribe
12-05-2008, 01:23 PM
.

Who is in your av?

penguinz
12-05-2008, 01:25 PM
Then again no offensive system was working with Brodie in the QB position.We did not have an offensive system when Brody was in. ;)

FringeNC
12-05-2008, 02:13 PM
most interesting post in a long time.

talastan
12-05-2008, 02:16 PM
I guess the only thing I didn't like about this article was that it seems to put the spread offense in the light of just another gimmick. While it isn't a normal offense that most NFL teams run, I think a version spread will work its way into the NFL and like the WCO or Coryell will become a mainstay.

Chiefnj2
12-05-2008, 02:17 PM
most interesting post in a long time.

Apparently it's not nearly as interesting as arguing over potential draft picks.

FringeNC
12-05-2008, 02:18 PM
http://www.footballoutsiders.com/cover-3/2008/cover-3-kids-are-alright

I hope the weather turns bad for KCs remaining games. I want to see how the pistol will work in the cold and wind. The NFL is all about innovation and then everybody copying you. If KC is the only team running the pistol it gives them a distinct advantage.

Gailey should be named head coach and continue to call the offensive plays. Maybe he can turn this defense around because Herm sure as hell can't.

Agree with everything.

Like the Pistol, Air Coryell and the WCO came from college.

Deberg_1990
12-05-2008, 02:22 PM
Wouldn't it be fun if a truly bad team decided that they had nothing to lose and were just going to go for it with all the nutty formations they could imagine? The Chiefs are a truly bad team -- they're at the starting point of a serious rebuild that looks like it could take years -- but they're not running the Pistol and these direct snaps just for the sake of it. Herm Edwards and offensive coordinator Chan Gailey are doing these things with proper planning to try and make something happen in the face of severe personnel deficits, and that's admirable. They're also making a surprise star out of their young quarterback, and that's something to build on.

This.


Great read. Thanks

FringeNC
12-05-2008, 02:23 PM
Apparently it's not nearly as interesting as arguing over potential draft picks.

I don't see how so many can have such strong opinions of the draft of specific players. I watch a ton of college football, but can only give you an opinion on a few players.

LiL stumppy
12-05-2008, 03:10 PM
Chris Ault started and uses the Pistol at the University of Nevada. I can tell you what makes this system really effective is having a mobile QB. If you have a QB who is the prototypical pocket passer this system is doomed.

I have gone to several UNR games and can tell you it is a lot of fun to watch when it works correctly. I can also tell you it has been very painful to watch when it doesn't.

I believe this is the reason why Thigpen has made this system look so good and in turn make Gailey look even better for going to it. This system would have been a complete and total failure with Brodie in the QB position.

Then again no offensive system was working with Brodie in the QB position.


The Pistol wouldn't have been a failure with Brodie. He was mobile enough to move around when needed.

Starbux37
12-05-2008, 03:34 PM
The Pistol wouldn't have been a failure with Brodie. He was mobile enough to move around when needed.

You need a QB who can run with the ball and make the defense account for him as being a threat to do so, not just move around with the ball in the pocket when he is in trouble.

If you want to see what I mean by mobile QB in the Pistol system just look at footage of Colin Kaepernick the QB for the Nevada Wolfpack.

Tribal Warfare
12-05-2008, 03:42 PM
You need a QB who can run with the ball and make the defense account for him as being a threat to do so, not just move around with the ball in the pocket when he is in trouble.

If you want to see what I mean by mobile QB in the Pistol system just look at footage of Colin Kaepernick the QB for the Nevada Wolfpack.

Brodie had some wheels too, enough to make 5 yards when he scrambled

Chiefnj2
12-05-2008, 03:48 PM
Brodie had some wheels too, enough to make 5 yards when he scrambled

Except he hurt himself on the slide.

Brock
12-05-2008, 03:50 PM
The Pistol wouldn't have been a failure with Brodie. He was mobile enough to move around when needed.

Any offense would have been a failure with Croyle.

the Talking Can
12-05-2008, 04:00 PM
The use of the pistol and abondoning the run up the center's arse, means KC could have kept Weigman around.

which Herm alluded too the other day..some comment about how if they stay with the pistol, they'll have to re-evaluate the type of OL they want...in crude terms i'm assuming that means less road grader and more athletic, lighter types...

chiefzilla1501
12-05-2008, 04:15 PM
Don't have a problem with this, but is there any particular reason for this, or simply because he is a quicker back?

Yes. The pistol formation has the RB behind the QB in the shotgun, which means that he is a few yards further back than usual. In order to make up for those lost yards, you have to have a back that can explode to the original line of scrimmage. I would think another reason is that you are asking your linemen to hold their blocks for a second or two longer and the defense has a little more time to figure out what you're doing with the ball and in what direction, so the quicker you can get the back to the offensive line, the less prepared the defense will be to stop you. Just a few thoughts.

Radar Chief
12-05-2008, 04:17 PM
which Herm alluded too the other day..some comment about how if they stay with the pistol, they'll have to re-evaluate the type of OL they want...in crude terms i'm assuming that means less road grader and more athletic, lighter types...

Kinda makes his “make the system fit the players” comment ring hollow, doesn’t it.

Short Leash Hootie
12-05-2008, 04:24 PM
Brodie was mobile, but not nearly as mobile as Thigpen...Thigpen runs like McNabb used to.

milkman
12-06-2008, 07:22 AM
Agree with everything.

Like the Pistol, Air Coryell and the WCO came from college.

What the hell are you talking about?

Air Coryell and the WCO offense are just refined and expanded elements of the Sid Gillman offenses of the 50's Rams and 60's Chargers.

Neither came from college.

JuicesFlowing
12-06-2008, 07:33 AM
Very interesting read. I don't agree that we are a truly bad team though. Every week, Chan Gaily looks like the savior of this team

I agree, Chan is working wonders. At the beginning of the year, I didn't necessarily doubt him, because I knew Herm wanted more conservative plays and of course to handcuff Croyle. Now that Chan is free to call whatever, the offense is miles ahead of where it was.

FringeNC
12-06-2008, 12:26 PM
What the hell are you talking about?

Air Coryell and the WCO offense are just refined and expanded elements of the Sid Gillman offenses of the 50's Rams and 60's Chargers.

Neither came from college.

Yes, I know the history of Gillman. Stanford under Walsh used the pure West Coast offense before any NFL team did. San Diego State under Coryell used the first pure Air Coryell offense before any NFL team did.

Both of those guys were hired to bring those offenses into the NFL.

chiefzilla1501
12-06-2008, 12:34 PM
Kinda makes his “make the system fit the players” comment ring hollow, doesn’t it.

No, it doesn't. You have to find the right system first, and then build upon it. You can't continually bring the wrong players and then ask your players to learn a new offense every year.

The first step is finding an offense to build off of. The second step is finding players who will make that offensive system better.

The Bad Guy
12-06-2008, 12:38 PM
The Pistol wouldn't have been a failure with Brodie. He was mobile enough to move around when needed.

Please.

Thigpen is one of the best running QBs in the entire league.

Croyle can roll out. He's not a mobile QB by any stretch of the imagination.

The only thing that Brodie can run to is the training room.

Deberg_1990
12-06-2008, 12:48 PM
Please.

Thigpen is one of the best running QBs in the entire league.

Croyle can roll out. He's not a mobile QB by any stretch of the imagination.

The only thing that Brodie can run to is the training room.

Well said. IM amazed at people still defending Croyle here. WTF? Whats the point? His Chiefs career is done.

milkman
12-06-2008, 12:53 PM
Well said. IM amazed at people still defending Croyle here. WTF? Whats the point? His Chiefs career is done.

But......But.....But.......He has a strong arm and a hot wife.