“After that, I think everybody started taking us serious.”

What the Air Raid and 7-on-7 football hath wrought:

The common refrain was that Tech quarterbacks under Mike Leach and other quarterbacks in similar offenses were products of the system. That the Air Raid offense Leach brought with him to Tech from Kentucky wouldn’t work in the NFL.

But that was then. This is the beginning of 2019, a now that includes Mahomes putting up 50 touchdowns in his MVP-level first season as a starter after spending three years under Kingsbury’s tutelage in an Air Raid-based system.

And now that includes 2018 No. 1 NFL draft pick Baker Mayfield completing nearly 64 percent of his passes and throwing 28 touchdowns for the Cleveland Browns a year after being drafted first overall despite standing just north of 6 feet tall and hailing from an offense run by a Leach disciple in Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley.

Mayfield and Mahomes have succeeded in their brief times as NFL quarterbacks because of their ability to make quick decisions and accurate throws, two characteristics needed to succeed in an Air Raid system.

It also helps that Mayfield (in the second half of the season) and Mahomes have been coached in the NFL by play-callers willing to use the plays they’ve been running in high school and college…

“As far as the Air Raid goes, the biggest thing for me is the NFL’s started to do it now,” Samford coach Chris Hatcher said. “And it’s amazing to me. To me you can look at that and it’s taken them a while to make that adjustment but that’s what the high schools are doing, that’s what the colleges are doing, that’s what the players are more suited to doing now and that’s why you see a guy like [Los Angeles Rams QB Jared Goff] and Mahomes becoming so successful. Andy Reid, he was [a grad assistant] at BYU under LaVell Edwards and that’s who [Hal] Mumme learned the base scheme from.”

Now that coaches like Reid and the Rams’ Sean McVay were brave enough to try once-exotic college concepts in the NFL, Mumme, who Leach coached under at Kentucky and Valdosta State, believes the copycat league will do what it does best.

“Maybe a fourth of the NFL’s kind of come on board, and they’ll all copy each other,” Mumme said. “You watch. Next year, it will be twice. It will be half of the NFL.”

I was admittedly skeptical of that a decade ago, but nothing succeeds like success.  It’s not just the scheme, either.  7-on-7 ball lets quarterbacks spend more time developing their skills within the scheme than ever.

“Because you can throw and catch — skill can be done all summer long,” Olin said. “You run your offense, and kids learn how to run routes. Quarterbacks learn how to throw.”

He had heard about 7-on-7 football from Bill Snyder, who was an assistant on Hayden Fry’s staff in the 1980s when Olin was coaching in Iowa. Olin’s first tournament was a four-team exhibition. After it was played, the goal quickly became a 32-team tournament. Rules were finalized, sites and insurance were procured and teams throughout the greater Houston area started signing up.

“I think that 7-on-7 leagues have helped a tremendous amount,” Washington State coach Mike Leach said of the growth of offenses stretching the field. “They were allowed to do it in California for a long time. As a matter of fact, California started them. And then, and Texas was actually quite stubborn about accepting them, and then when Texas did — another huge football state — then it exploded even more.”

We all kind of brushed aside what Mumme and Leach did at Kentucky, but twenty or so years later, it’s amazing how much influence the Air Raid has had over football offense, on every level.


Filed under Strategery And Mechanics

15 responses to ““After that, I think everybody started taking us serious.”

  1. Derek

    It’s important to understand that there’s a fine between adapting some concepts and running some plays and going full Leach/Mumme and chucking 50 plus times a game.

    If you’re at a talent disadvantage going full Leach (or even Johnson) can make sense because your unique approach is difficult to prepare for. If you are not at a talent deficit, giving up on imposing your will with your backs comes at a cost in terms of physicality and finishing off games.

    Championship football will always be about winning at the LOS. Occasionally you will see a qb who is so transcendent that he can single handledly change that and come through with a trophy, but that’s the rarity.

    On the other hand, it is apparent that shorter, mobile, improvising qbs are definitely becoming a “thing.” The stationary 6’5” pocket passer isn’t the model any longer. Rules protecting qbs from the inherent violence of the game is allowing both improvisation and investment in qbs that in the 1970s would have ended in an ugly fashion.

    One of the reasons I’d be estatic is Fields chooses to stay is that he is ideal for this new brand of football. You take a kid that can throw it a mile and who can run power, and a defense is just helpless. That Texas kid killed us repeatedly running power and he isn’t a quarter the player Fields is. And he’s doing it with like 12 plays on a wristband. I think Fields is the type of player that once he gets to a place where he can complete north of 55% of his passes that his team (hopefully UGA) will be impossible to defend.

    Slight, quick guys like Mahomes and Watson are trouble enough. You take a kid with a similar skill set who can lower his shoulder and make DBs pay? Then you’ve really got something.


    • Tony Barnfart

      what if Fields just doesn’t get it ?


      • Derek

        It’s early. Newton was in his fourth year of college ball in 2010 and looked rough for the first half of that season in the passing game. Once it clicked, no one had any answers. For me that’s another reason for him to hang in there. It’s not like he’s a finished product. He needs reps and he needs to learn. You also just don’t know how much those limited reps end up with things like we saw out of Shockley. DJ was a totally different player once he was “the guy” than what he was on those few series he’d get earlier in his career.

        With a kid that uber talented I’m not going to say he cant get “it” from this small sample as a true freshman.

        Fields will be a star someday, somewhere. I hope it’s in Athens.


  2. Like Derek, I agree that every team (other than the service academies and Fech) has adopted some Air Raid concepts, but look at the two teams left standing. They both have powerful offensive lines and running backs who can be home run hitters. I don’t want my QB taking 20-30 hits per game regardless of the rules, so I would only run QB designed runs when it’s necessary. I want a QB who can distribute the ball and make plays with his feet when he has to rather than when I want him to.

    Fields can be a special talent, but it appears that ship has sailed. If Kirby thought he had any chance to keep him, he would have played on Tuesday night with every other freshman it seemed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Derek

      It’s not over until it’s OVER!

      The only reason I have hope is that I don’t know how the kids justifies sitting out in 2019 knowing that the starter in front of him, even if by necessity, could become entrenched.

      If he wants to sit out a year, sit out 2020 if Fromm doesn’t bolt for the league. Makes the most sense to me. He knows he’s the next guy up here and an injury could happen at anytime. Who knows what happens in Columbus or Norman?


      • I agree, but he’s going to fight like hell to get that hardship waiver even it means dragging UGA through the mud. I hope we’re able to keep him, but I have little confidence.


        • Derek

          Doesn’t he have to transfer and THEN ask for them the waiver? He can’t get “pre-cleared” for a waiver can he?


          • Brandon M

            That’s correct. His family is trying to do some lawyering right now to find out how good the chances might be that he can get it beforehand but no one will know for sure until he pulls the trigger


            • Derek

              Has there been a guy move 700 miles from home and gotten a hardship waiver? And it’s not like they can shame CKS into it. It’s an NCAA rule.

              It seems to me that granting Fields a hardship waiver is opening the door to free agency across the board. All a guy has to do is say the guy down the hall said something he heard about later that made him feel bad right?


              • Macallanlover

                That is what I see as well, and the only reason Fields hasn’t made an announcement…yet. He may be willing to go sit but there is no guarantee he will win the job at OU or ohio, the two schools that have been mentioned the most for him, even though he has strong physical skills. There are still other questions that surround his ability to earn a spot against top competition.

                It would be an epic fail (again) for him to sit a year, and then not win the job. And now the critical need to learn a pro style offense to succeed in the NFL may be shifting his way. His QB coach and dad may be wise to consider a 1AA, or JUCO school for him. It takes the waiting off the table and probably the immediate chance to win a job. He is high-profile enough to be sure he won’t be missed by the NFL regardless of where he plays.


                • Macallanlover

                  Also, the NCAA did not make waiver decisions until mid-year for Patterson or DRob. Fields will have to make a decision before knowing the outcome.


  3. As far as the Air Raid goes with regards to the NFL, these playoffs will be interesting to watch, especially with KC.

    The Rams will either play 2 in LA, or 1 in LA and 1 in a dome.

    But the Chiefs are going to have to do it outdoors in January. I just don’t know that once the weather becomes an issue if that system will still work.


  4. Jack Burton

    Well, the rule changes in the NFL are 90% the reason it has taken of in recent years. DBs can’t play physical, PI is a spot foul, illegal contact is an automatic first down, etc.

    Let’s not ignore the true reason the Air Raid is a big deal in the NFL (NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE 😜).

    Oh and offense sells. So…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Russ

      Yep, heard a story yesterday talking about all the scoring in the NFL and one stat they mentioned was that DPI penalties have more than doubled from last year. The NFL wants scoring so it’s interpreting the rules so that they get scoring. That helps the Air Raid more than anything else.