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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Offenses Leaving Their Roots (Non-Panthers)

I'm always fascinated by coaching moves, finding them the very core of
how you build a team.

This isn't Panther related, by the way, so feel free to tune this out if
you want - I'm just kinda running off at the gums about leaguewide
schemes.

I was surprised by a couple of moves, where existing head coaches
deviated from their own offensive philosophies.

The surprising move to add a West Coast guy - Ben McAdoo - to the
Giants, where they'd built an offense around Eli Manning and where Tom
Coughlin himself had his own ideals of offense for the last 30 years,
and they certainly weren't West Coast.

Now, WCO isn't what it meant 30 years ago, either. It's not all base
offense, short hits. The Packers and Mike McCarthy have been
progressive. It makes some strategic sense, in a way. Manning threw
tons of INTs last year, they have no line and no running game; McAdoo's
likely to bring packaged plays and a very spread version of the WCO to a
team with a usually-accurate QB and a couple of good route runners at
WR.

It's just the idea of switching streams so late that's bizarre for
Coughlin. You just don't see that - you can see a change of coordinator
occasionally bring a different style of the same offense, but you just
don't see it happen where they fully change the scheme. Guys as often
get fired for not wanting to ditch what they have, even with a
coordinator change. It's even part of the "buddy system", or "good old
boy network" that comes up regarding hires that often contains charges
of nepotism and even racism, but sometimes is as simple as a coach keeps
a system because it's what he knows. His trusted associates know it
too. It fits.

But it's happening more lately, this ditching of scheme and history for
change.

The Ravens did the same - ditching their Coryell from Cam Cameron/David
Caldwell for the WCO of Gary Kubiak. Now, it's harder to say that John
Harbaugh has a given offensive scheme (and brother Jim is often
miscategorized as WCO). Harbaugh likely chose Coryell for the esoteric
reason of being able to pickup Cameron, but through Cameron and
Caldwell, they were one scheme. A little less change comes when a
defensive guy pushes for offensive scheme change, of course. It's not
like Coughlin eating his philosophies he's built a career on. But it's
change, nonetheless.

The fit is a little more bizarre, where Joe Flacco is a massive-armed
statue and Kubiak has tended to employ moving targets with a quick
release. I don't suggest Flacco is going to struggle hard to make a
living in a shorter scheme, but at first glance it's not an incredible
fit. That's a concern anytime you throw out the baby with the
bathwater - how do the existing pieces fit? You have to build in some
mis-fitting pieces, like giving Flacco those 18 yard skinny posts behind
all the short routes. You have to hope Torrey Smith can be precise
short. At least they have Ray Rice (for most of a season), already used
to carrying too much load, in the passing game.



The Jets did this last year, by picking up Marty Mornhinweg, a West
Coast guy who didn't go with Andy Reid to Kansas City. Reid promoted
his QBs coach, Doug Pederson, and picked up former assistant Brad
Childress to be, oddly, "Spread Game Analyst/Special Projects" coach,
and hired a Statistical Analyst, but doesn't employ a QBs coach, oddly
enough, and didn't want Mornhinweg.

Anyway, the Jets had been hardcore Coryell under Rex Ryan, who had been
under the Coryell regime of the Ravens, which just ended. In crisis
with its own OL and RB situation, add in QB issues and, well, WR issues
and TE issues to where it doesn't really matter, does it? But there's
nothing to build on, and I'm having a hard time seeing how the Jets'
offense won't be its undoing yet again. That's not because they changed
scheme, but you can't throw a new bandaid onto that mess and say it's
fixed.

I think some of my own apprehension from this ideal is watching crummy
teams - let's say, the Browns, for instance - go through regime after
regime, and with it, coordinator after coordinator that changes
everything up, every time. One year brings the WCO, the next Coryell,
then you have Ehrhart-Perkins. Or you might have two years of Coryell
but one might be very spread, one very pro style. You have different
resources to use with each - the prototypical big Coryell receiver might
struggle pretty heavily with the WCO, a WCO left tackle could struggle
pretty heavily with a lot of seven step drop Coryell. The Ehrhart
Perkins scheme is pretty radically different in the way that Bill
Belichick currently runs it, from the version that Charlie Weis or Jeff
Davidson ends up using it. So you see these offensive players twist in
the wind, never fully catching up.

Even the Alex Smith example, or Jason Campbell. Both were young QBs
going through a lot of coordinator change early in their career - and
some of that is warranted. Smith was drafted to McCarthy's WCO, before
McCarthy got his Green Bay reward. Norv Turner came, with Coryell, the
next year, and Smith wouldn't have the same coordinator for two years in
a row until 2011-12 under Harbaugh/Greg Roman. But Smith played under
the same offense from 2006 (a good year) through his trade to KC; Jim
Hostler, Mike Martz, Jimmy Raye, and Mike Johnson were all Coryell.
Turner provided Martz with a lot of his know-how; Hostler had been
Turner's QBs coach when he was hired to San Diego. Raye and Johnson were
on-staff succession plays.

For the most part, Smith played in the same offense, and apparently
just suffered from being under crummy head coaching (and assistants).
But while the changes hurt, it wasn't the offense's fault.

Campbell, as well, had to undergo different coordinators, but again just
two offenses. Drafted under Joe Gibbs, who shuffled in a new coordinator
yearly but also had an associate head coach and assistant head coach and
various other nonsense titles for his offense, Campbell had three
coordinators; but it was the same offense. Jim Zorn's nonsense didn't
help, and he had an oddity forced on him - an owner hiring an outside
coach to push on him - at the end of his tenure, but he was WCO, as was
Mike Shanahan. He was shipped to Oakland, then went to Chicago and
Cincy, all Coryell.

So these guys had to learn two offenses, not the worst in the world -
but still, apparently jarring change. So, as I see skill players
struggle with regime change, I'm a little surprised by existing teams
shaking things up so much. Who knows if it'll work - my favorite NFL
statistic remains that half of the teams, every year, are below average
and there's only one true winner.
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