If you have been watching the NFL, and let's face it, you have. Then you have seen the Grand Canyon size differences in innovation for offenses like the Los Angeles Rams, Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots and the New Orleans Saints from teams like the Jacksonville Jaguars, Green Bay Packers and the Buffalo Bills. It is really quite simple, innovate or get left in the past like the dinosaurs. While some coaches cling to their remedial offenses of fullbacks and two-man routes that worked in the ’80s, ’90s and early 2000’s others are utilizing presnap motions, passing on first down, jet sweep motions, run-pass options (RPOs) and it seems that no NFL record is safe any longer.
For the record, it isn’t like these concepts are groundbreaking, but in years past they were reserved to only a few bold coordinators that were willing to call them but now it seems coordinators are starting to build their scheme around their players and what they are good at, rather than trying to jam a square peg through a round hole, also known as the “my way or the highway” offensive scheme.
Per Adam Schefter, through four weeks of the NFL this season there were more points scored (3,030, the previous record was 2,986), more touchdowns scored (344, the previous record being 332) and more passing touchdowns (228, previous record 205) than ever in NFL. Now I can already hear the conservative play callers reading this and rolling their eyes and saying something about the rules changing and making it harder to play defense, and they would be correct, but even a blind man could watch the Rams and Jaguars play and realize that one of the two offenses lack creativity and to be quite blunt, the chutzpah to call plays down the field.
Deception is nothing new to football offense, the Wing-T was predicated on it but like the evolution of basketball, coordinators are starting to realize that there are great benefits in utilizing the entire field rather than cramming everyone between the hashes and because of it, passers are more efficient than ever. I don’t know if you noticed but the consecutive completions in a game record was broken this week when Phillip Rivers connected on his first 25 straight passes.
We can plainly say it now if you thought that shotgun spread offenses of college couldn’t translate into the NFL then you were wrong and if you still think that then you can’t be helped.
Jet sweep motions and orbit motions have taken over the NFL and the easiest way to prove that it has is how fast other teams are adopting the same principles. Remember when we saw the first jet sweep touch pass, where the QB hikes the ball and just gently tosses it forward to a receiver that is already running full speed? Two weeks later every team in the NFL had that play in their playbook because if you utilize the motion right it is nearly impossible for a defense to stop.
Presnap motion, deception, effective spacing, bunch formations, route combinations, play action, all of these things not only cause defenses to think, which makes them play slower, it also helps receivers gain leverage and separation in their routes.
What makes me happiest is the rise of passing on first down. It works people. Go watch a local high school game and count how many times both teams run on first down, it’s preposterous because defenses also know its coming. You know when passing is a lot harder? On third-and-12 when everyone knows you are passing and defensive coordinators can draw up elaborate blitz packages that confuse the lineman or play coverage at the sticks.
According to an article written by Danny Kelly of the Ringer, through four weeks, teams are passing on 51.6 percent of the time on first down, which is on track to finish 4.5 percentage points higher than last year’s mark of 47.1 and is the highest pass rate on first down this century.
Early adopters always see the most advantages. We have all marveled at the way the Patriots would completely abandon the run and pass the ball 50 times and they did that because they saw the advantages. Josh McDaniels studied the college game and implemented things he saw from coaches like Urban Meyer. One of my favorite quotes this season came from offensive innovator Mike Leach who leads the nation in passing at every school he goes to when he was asked about a game in which he recorded exactly 0 rushing yards.
Leach said, “I want all of the positions to touch it. There’s nothing balanced about 50 percent run, 50 percent pass…that’s just 50 percent stupid. Now, what is balanced is when you have five skill positions and all five of them are contributing to the offensive effort in a somewhat equal fashion, and that is balanced. But this notion that if you had it off to this one guy 50 percent of the time and then you throw it to a combination of these two guys the other 50 percent of the time, that you’re really balanced then you probably pat yourself on the back and tell yourself that, and people have been doing that for decades. Well, you’re delusional.”
I want to be clear I am not advocating for a complete abandonment of the run game, I just love innovation and I think that is a thought that many coaches haven’t had.
Why do I bring all this up? Well, for starters I am a Green Bay Packer fan and our offense has sent me spiraling into depression for years but never worse than this year when I see Rodgers on pace to break the single-season touchdown to interception ratio while playing with literal handcuffs on him in the form of all of Mike McCarthy’s chins.
The Rams, Saints, and Chiefs are the Golden State Warriors of the NBA. When the Warriors realized they could distort the math with 3-point shots that are more valuable every analyst in the NBA said a jump shooting team can’t win an NBA title. Now every team in the NBA is shooting three’s at an astronomical rate and any broadcaster that says something like that now would run out of the booth. Sports are constantly evolving and if you want to watch it happen in real life watch the NFL because the gap between good teams and bad teams has never been greater.