Chris Brown’s got a fascinating post about how the NFL is adapting all sorts of college offensive schemes these days, for many of the same reasons that such have succeeded on the college level.
There was never any doubt these concepts would eventually be adopted by NFL coaches as a useful tool in a larger arsenal, but many resisted the notion of ever making the concepts the centerpiece of a team’s offense. The most common reason cited for such resistance was NFL defenses were simply too fast, too strong, too complex and too good for it to be successful. Yet that always got the point backwards. Those factors – while all true – also made it inevitable that the NFL would eventually adopt these concepts: Ault’s Pistol zone read attack, Chip Kelly’s no-huddle spread option, and other variants mathematically tip the scales back to the offense’s favor. It’s basic arithmetic.
“As I’ve tried to explain to people, whenever the guy who takes the snap is a threat to run, it changes all the math of defenses,” Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano said last March [source]. “That’s really what defense is, it’s getting your troops to where the ball is going to be. And when that guy holding it is a threat to run, it changes the numbers – minus-one.”
And it’s not all about running. The other reason – maybe the major reason – the NFL is now catching on is that they now see the effect these schemes can have on passing. When the quarterback is a threat to run, defenses must stack the line of scrimmage, opening up passing lanes and one-on-one matchups for wide receivers outside.
But it’s the why the usually stodgy NFL is grabbing this stuff and running with it that’s most interesting.
The common motivation for change in the NFL is not the genius of the coaches, or a desire to be revolutionary, or any kind of special tactical wisdom unforeseen by anyone before. In the NFL, change is not driven so much by the ideas themselves as by the skills of its players. In this instance it is the need to find a way that best takes advantage of the dynamic talent of young quarterbacks like Griffin, Kaepernick and Wilson. As long as more quarterbacks with their skills keep coming into the league, the NFL will continue to adapt. [Emphasis added.]
All of which makes me wonder how this shakes out on the recruiting trail. If there is a true future on Sundays for dual-threat quarterbacks, how much will that affect sales pitches to kids who would formerly be pigeonholed as “athletes” and moved to receiver or defensive back by many schools? And, indeed, how much will that affect the way college programs evaluate high school quarterback talent?