As usual, the media fixates on the least interesting part of this RichRod interview – the “regrets, he’s had a few” admission about taking the Michigan job – and ignores what he had to say about the offensive trend which he had a major role in shaping. Start with this question, which is a fair one when you consider that you’ve got a high-profile program at Florida abandoning the spread to return to a pro-style attack:
If the spread has “peaked”
RR: Everything is cyclical, but I think the spread is not easily defined. I’m sure you’ve heard coaches say this before, there isn’t one kind, just like there is not one pro-style. Even though a west coast offense is pretty much a west coast offense. When you see the spread now, you know us and other teams that were using it — Oklahoma State, other – we’re still using tight ends and fullbacks they were just in the shotgun a lot, using a lot of no-huddle. I think the spread has taken so many different forms on that it’s kind of here to stay. You know you see a spread team use tight ends and maybe a fullback in the shotgun, you saw it with Green Bay in the Super Bowl. I think it’s constantly evolving, I think even though they still call it a spread it’s not like a “run n’ shoot” type of spread. It’s taken on so many forms and it’s evolved in so many ways I think it’s probably here to stay. In the NFL there is so much talk about pro-style but there’s as many or more teams in the NFL that get in a shotgun. It’s not easily defined, and that’s probably why it’s going to stay around a while.
And the question I’ve had from the start with the spread, how quarterbacks trained in that scheme translate to the pros, gets two answers.
On making the jump from the spread college offense to the NFL
RR: I think it’s so overstated from a standpoint of this guy played in a spread in college so he’s going to have a bigger adjustment. If you look at the success of guys in the last several years, I think it’s irrelevant whether they came from spread system or pro-style. I mean Sam Bradford was the first pick in the draft, he played in a spread system and he did pretty well;. Colt McCoy played, Tim Tebow also played as a rookie, and they all came from spread systems. I think it’s more rather how coachable a guy is, how quickly he can learn. Even if you come from a pro-style in college, you still are going to have to learn when you get to the NFL. You have to learn the terminology, the speed of the game; in my opinion if you are in the right kind of spread and get coached up it can actually help make the transition easier because you have to make quick, active decisions. The best quarterback in the NFL makes quick, accurate decisions. It’s not so much whether he can take a three-step or a five-step drop under center.
That’s a bit of a stretch to me in that he emphasizes McCoy’s and Tebow’s accomplishments a bit more than they deserve to this point. Let’s see them thrive this season as starters and I’ll concede Rodriguez’ point.
Adjustments for quarterbacks from college to NFL
RR: The speed of the game is going to be the biggest adjustment, and the windows that you can throw in. When you go from high school to college that window becomes smaller and quicker, when you go from college to pros the windows you can throw become tighter and you have to make a quicker decision. I think learning the terminology is the first thing, the second thing is understanding how fast, how timely you have to be with your throws. Whether you are coming from a pro-style or a spread style there’s still that understanding.
Okay, but isn’t he really saying there that quarterbacks coming from pro-style college offenses have a leg up on their spread counterparts because the first half of that learning curve is more familiar to them? And there’s this, too:
Running the ball in the spread
RR: There’s a difference between the spread at Oregon, Auburn, some of the ones we did, and then a so-called spread in the NFL. There’s a lot more running involved, and I think that’s two-fold: In the NFL your guys are so much faster on the front 7, they can chase things down. I think in college you can have a little more variety, guys can be a little more creative and run a different type of run scheme than you would in the NFL. I think at some point in the NFL I wouldn’t be surprised if someone starts taking a third quarterback and making him be a quarterback that can run and throw a little bit, use him in all different ways.
Some of this no doubt is due to imprecise terminology, as the term “spread” is used to describe a variety of offensive sets and philosophies. Still, it’s fair to say that there’s clearly been some blurring of the lines between “pro-style” and “spread”. It’s also fair to say there’s a limit on how far that goes.