I love Coach Chris Brown's blog called Smart Football because it's the best place to learn what the the most effective and cutting-edge schemes are and how they work: Urban Meyer's spread, Mike Leach's Airraid offense at Texas Tech, and the "Jet" concept, to name some of them.
The Airraid Offense of Texas Tech
Most of the new plays and formations are at the college level and there's a buzz about "who's doing what" that I've never seen before. But now, college coaches are looking at the NFL as the lesser level of football, at least from a strategy perspective.
Today, I ran across a discussion about Florida Head Coach Urban Meyer's comments in the Sunday New York Times. This is what he said:
“I think it (the spread) 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.”
Florida Coach Urban Meyer
While Meyer's comment may be seen as arrogant, he's correct. Where college teams have become known for a wide variety of offensive variation - Navy has the Speed Option, Hawaii has the Run and Shoot, Stanford uses an older two-back pro style offense with two backs, Cal employs a hybrid H-back system, Florida's known for the Spread - the NFL offenses have a boring sameness.
The Wildcat was born in Arkansas
It's hard to tell one offense from the other. Every team uses the "I" formation. Or if it's not that, then it's the "Offset I" formation. Four wide receiver sets have receivers all lined up the same way, and one back behind the quarterback. The Wildcast's new? Yes.
Most teams have it but no team, except the Miami Dolphins who brought it into the league, have created variations of it. And the Wildcat was created at Arkansas by then offensive coordinator David Lee, who holds the same title with The Dolphins and brought the system to the NFL. Point here is that the NFL's newest innovation is a college-born scheme.
The Wildcat works even in Madden NFL 2010:
And while you may observe that the Wildcat's just a variation of the old single wing set, remember the passing game was not well known at the time; the passes out of the Wildcat are brand new, not a reinvention of an age old approach.
NFL Owners must encourage innovation
Given the fact that NFL players and coaches are paid to spend time on football, one would think the league would be the leader in the creation of new approaches to the game. It's not. I think Meyer's right that the reason is the "retread" coach with the "proven" approach, but in a recession that way can lead to a boring offense that doesn't sell tickets or win games.
Using the Spread, in all of its forms, is an answer but I don't think one should stop there. Developing something new should be the objective just to keep NFL defenses on their toes.
Defenses are made to quickly adjust and as I've written before the Baltimore Ravens have set the tone for the kind of flexible, aggressive styles that have a schematic answer for any offense. Offensive variation is important to counter these defenses.