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Old 09-09-2009, 07:29 AM  
DaKCMan AP DaKCMan AP is offline
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Spread offense in the NFL?

N.F.L. Looks to College Game for a New Plan of Attack

By JUDY BATTISTA

Published: September 4, 2009

It has been 10 years since the St. Louis Rams rode a fast and furious offense that resembled pinball on cleats — the Greatest Show on Turf — to a Super Bowl title.

But that attack, which seemed to come out of nowhere along with quarterback Kurt Warner, was merely prologue to an explosion of innovation that is transforming the N.F.L. Conjured by coaches who borrow from the wide-open college game, new-look offenses have developed into something previously imagined by video gamers in their living rooms.

Nearly every team now has a Wildcat package, the scheme that carried the Miami Dolphins to the playoffs last season by putting players in unexpected positions. And the spread offense floods the field, with receivers stretched from sideline to sideline, to such effect that Warner and the Arizona Cardinals used it about 85 percent of the time on their stunning run to the Super Bowl last season.

On the horizon is the University of Florida’s star quarterback, Tim Tebow, who will enter the draft next year. He could open the door to what was once virtually unthinkable in the N.F.L.: a quarterback with the size and sturdiness of a linebacker who reads the defense and has the freedom to run as often as he passes in the college-style spread-option offense.
In many ways, change has been forced on the N.F.L. because defenses are so fast and complex, and because fewer drop-back passers, fullbacks and blocking tight ends are being produced in a college game dominated by the spread.

So it is little surprise that almost all N.F.L. teams occasionally use a four- or five-receiver offense, and that Florida Coach Urban Meyer, who has all but perfected the spread with the Gators after giving it prominence at Utah, has been asked for advice from at least four N.F.L. teams, including the New England Patriots.

“I think it would have worked years ago,” Meyer said. “No one has had enough — I don’t want to say courage — no one has wanted to step across that line. Everyone runs the same offense in the N.F.L. A lot of those coaches are retreads. They get fired in Minnesota, they go to St. Louis. They get fired in St. Louis and go to San Diego. I guess what gets lost in the shuffle is your objective is to go win the game. If it’s going to help you win the game, then you should run the spread.”

The resistance to the spread was based on a belief that no N.F.L. team would expose a quarterback to the pounding that might result with fewer blockers on the field. The Patriots, who rewrote the single-season record book in 2007, are the best N.F.L. team at the pass-heavy version of the spread precisely because quarterback Tom Brady gets rid of the ball so quickly, said Bruce Arians, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offensive coordinator.
The Dolphins went to the Wildcat to exploit a different advantage. They have two superb running backs, and they could be on the field at the same time.

“You can’t sit back and do the same basic stuff, because both sides have to try to fool the other,” Warner said. “It’s guys in their little laboratory saying, ‘What’s the next big things we can pull out to fool people for three or four plays?’ ”

Many teams still use a form of the West Coast offense, which stresses methodical movement down the field. But the tipping point for the offensive revolution might already have occurred.

When the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden attended his son’s high school football tournament, only one school of 77 used a traditional center-to-quarterback snap. The others were in the shotgun, running the spread-option offense. Those are the players who feed into the college game, where even traditional running teams like Texas and Oklahoma have switched to the spread after watching opponents with less talent become competitive with it.

The new schemes force defenses to honor all 11 players on offense. Against traditional offenses, defenses do not account for the quarterback. But if the quarterback — or the player taking the snap in a Wildcat formation — is a threat to run, it removes the defense’s numbers advantage. When the offense is spread out, the running lanes widen and it is easier to spot blitzes. That holds the promise of more effectively attacking defenses like Dick LeBeau’s confusing zone blitz, which has propelled the Steelers to two Super Bowl titles in four years.

When Kansas City Chiefs Coach Todd Haley was with the Jets earlier this decade and with Arizona last season, he said the teams deployed the spread against opponents they thought could manhandle them because forcing a defensive player to line up wide neutralizes his ability to overwhelm an offensive lineman.

And with the defense easier to see when spread out, quarterbacks tend to make fewer mistakes. Last season, the interception rate dipped below one per team per game for the first time since such statistics were first kept in 1932, even though teams have passed more in the last 20 years.
But the new offenses have also created problems for coaches. Quarterbacks are no longer schooled in the traditional drop-back model that is still the N.F.L. standard personified by Brady and Peyton Manning. It means quarterback coaches must teach rudimentary skills like how to take a snap from directly under the center or even run a huddle. This may eventually force teams to pluck college backups with little playing experience from programs that still run traditional offenses — a risky draft strategy.


“As coaches, we have to find ways to use what we have, and we have to do it fast,” said the Dolphins’ offensive coordinator, Dan Henning. “They don’t give you a five-year program. What are you going to do, live and die until you get a franchise quarterback? Nobody wants that, because they don’t want to pick him No. 1 because they don’t want to pay them.”

This season, more teams seem to be trying to adapt elements of their offenses to their players’ talents. The Dolphins drafted Pat White, the former West Virginia quarterback, who is widely expected to run a fuller Wildcat package this year. In Minnesota, the former Florida receiver Percy Harvin will probably be deployed at a number of positions. And in Philadelphia, the Eagles signed Michael Vick — once the highest-paid player in the N.F.L. because he could deploy designed runs to such devastating effect — to run a specialized package of plays.

Still, as tantalizing as the Wildcat is, it is likely to remain a curveball more than a regular part of the offense.

“I’m not a fan of putting a $100 million quarterback on the bench or at wide receiver, where they can take a cheap shot at him,” Arians said.
The threat of injury is probably what will keep the college-style spread option from migrating en masse to the N.F.L., the way the passing iteration of the spread has. In 2006, Vick occasionally ran something similar: He was reading the defense and either running himself, handing the ball off or passing. He surpassed 1,000 yards rushing that season, averaging 8.4 yards a carry.

At 6 feet 3 inches and 245 pounds, Tebow is a physical marvel who Gil Brandt, a former personnel executive with the Dallas Cowboys, thinks will be a top-10 draft pick next spring. But for an N.F.L. team to make the spread option its full-time offense, it would need several quarterbacks who can do what Tebow does. Even trickier, it would need players who are built to take the hits he does. Otherwise, one injury means the entire offense must change.

“You’re not going to be running your $18 million quarterback in the option,” said Jeff Jagodzinski, the recently fired offensive coordinator for Tampa Bay who saw plenty of the spread option as Boston College’s head coach. “That would be a tough one to explain to the owner.”

Perhaps, then, Tebow will represent the end of this thread of innovation. Even fans of the spread wonder if it could someday go the way of the wishbone and the run and shoot, earlier offensive incarnations that defenses eventually caught up to. Then someone will have to go back to the laboratory to dream up the next big thing.

Warner will be retired by then, but he will be watching.

“I love the innovation,” he said. “Better than 3 yards and a cloud of dust.”

Pete Thamel contributed reporting.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/06/sp...2&ref=football


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Old 09-09-2009, 07:48 AM   #2
dirk digler dirk digler is offline
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It will be interesting to see if the NFL really moves into this direction though they maybe forced to considering how all the high schools and alot of colleges are moving that way. It is going to harder and harder to find QB's that play in a traditional offense
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Old 09-09-2009, 07:53 AM   #3
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I think the league encourages it more. They have made passing easier by rules protecting the QB and receivers, but there haven't been corresponding things that make running the ball easier over time, have there?
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Old 09-09-2009, 07:55 AM   #4
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Honestly I think Tebow would get broken in the NFL at QB.
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Old 09-09-2009, 09:11 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by kcchiefsfanGoLJ View Post
Honestly I think Tebow would get broken in the NFL at QB.
he's steve young with a tude'
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Old 09-09-2009, 09:32 AM   #6
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The college version of the spread won't work in the NFL because the college spread requires the QB to run and get hit.
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Old 09-09-2009, 09:38 AM   #7
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"When Kansas City Chiefs Coach Todd Haley was with the Jets earlier this decade and with Arizona last season, he said the teams deployed the spread against opponents they thought could manhandle them because forcing a defensive player to line up wide neutralizes his ability to overwhelm an offensive lineman."



So we are running the spread this week?
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Old 09-09-2009, 10:03 AM   #8
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"When Kansas City Chiefs Coach Todd Haley was with the Jets earlier this decade and with Arizona last season, he said the teams deployed the spread against opponents they thought could manhandle them because forcing a defensive player to line up wide neutralizes his ability to overwhelm an offensive lineman."



So we are running the spread this week?
The college spread and pro spread are two entirely different things.
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Old 09-09-2009, 11:31 AM   #9
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The college version of the spread won't work in the NFL because the college spread requires the QB to run and get hit.
This.
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Old 09-09-2009, 11:46 AM   #10
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Spread option or any form of the option will never work in todays NFL. Your QB won't last a half with the size and speed of todays players. Maybe 50 years ago when the NFL player wasn't much different than the average joe out there..maybe slightly bigger/faster but NOTHING compared to now.

The Spread or versions of it, have been successfully seen in the NFL. StL in Warners days, the Chiefs after, New England etc have all ran very successful versions of the Spread. It will continue to become more popular in my opinion...but I still don't see Tebow be successful in the NFL and any GM that drafts him top 10 should be fired.
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Old 09-09-2009, 11:51 AM   #11
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The spread won't work in the NFL. /cPlanet
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