I know I’m a smart-ass fan blogger. I’ve never coached a football game in my life. So, believe it or not, when it comes to coaching, I try to give the men who do it for a living the benefit of the doubt because they know more than I do. But there are times when all I can do is react with a “damn, just damn” take to something somebody says.
On Monday, Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said on his call-in radio show that the I-Formation cannot be the main focus of an offense anymore.
“You have to change it up,” Smart said. “You cannot sit there in the I nowadays – there are just too many teams that attack you. You have to be in 1-back sets, but when you are in that 1-back set, who are the other four guys on the field? Three receivers and one tight end, two receivers and two tight ends? You have to have a lot of packages to mix it up, and you have to find guys who can block and play in space.”
The advent of the dual-threat quarterback has made it more difficult to keep teams out of the endzone.
“Teams are scoring a little more nowadays because they are able to do RPO’s (run-pass option), they are able to throw run-pass options, and they are not doing that out of a traditional I-set with a traditional fullback,” Smart said.
Smart pointed out that teams cannot just line up offensively with a plan of beating the man in front of them, pointing out one SEC program recently tried to keep that approach.
“It would be great if we could just go out there and overpower people,” Smart said. “But I think you are always going to struggle with that, because most defenses in the SEC are a little more stout, a little more physical than the offenses.
Wait, what? You just spent an entire season trying the pound and ground approach, one that your personnel weren’t really suited for, presumably because you wanted to establish a certain identity on offense, only to change course after one year? Man, were I Jacob Eason, I’d sure wonder why the staff put me through what they put me through.
As for that one SEC program,
“I think you see that with LSU. Because LSU used to overpower a lot of teams, but when they play a team comparable to themselves, they struggle to manufacture out of the I.”
As I posted the other day, I’m not certain that’s an accurate portrayal of LSU’s offensive woes last season. The Tigers led the conference in yards per rush (they were even better in conference play), as well as yards per play, which doesn’t indicate much of a struggle to manufacture. Their shortcoming was that they simply didn’t have the ball on offense enough. If you’re going to learn lessons from others, make sure it’s the right lesson you’re learning.
I probably sound more critical here than I mean to be. For one thing, it’s hard to disagree with Smart’s conclusion.
“You have to be good at what you do,” Smart said. “Catering that to who we are is really important. If we are not the same as that team, or we don’t have the same weapons, we all know it boils down to players. We have to find ways to get players the ball. You want to look at teams similar to yourselves. How are they using two backs at the same time, if that is what a team’s got.
“If you are not changing, or you are not looking at things, you are going to get passed by.”
I’ve always believed that the sign of a good offensive coordinator is an approach that you take what a defense gives you until the other guy proves he can stop it. That was definitely not Georgia’s offensive philosophy in 2016. So if this is simply Kirby processing the experience and coming to terms with what didn’t work, that’s grounds for optimism. Hopefully he’s got someone in Chaney who can show an appropriate level of flexibility to allow the offense to succeed.
But if this is more of a flavor of the month reaction to a flaccid offensive season, such that there’s no real direction — establishing identity replaced by throw a bunch of stuff out there and see what sticks — then, yeah, that’s a little concerning to me. What happens if doing things differently doesn’t click relatively soon?