Why I Love The Spread Offense (Part 2)Erick Streelman
Last week’s post was entitled Why I love The Spread Offense. If you missed that, I definitely recommend going back and reading it. It is basically a discussion of my personal philosophy regarding how and why we choose to run certain systems and why I choose to run the spread offense. To summarize, the main argument in the post is that system is kind of irrelevant so we should make our choices based on what we are passionate about and what our kids are passionate about. But, I won’t rehash too much. If you want the full explanation, go back and check out that post.
Today we are going to continue with a similar theme but we are going to get a little more practical and a little less philosophical. So, here are a few very practical reasons that I think every coach in America should at least consider running a spread offense. Some of this is a repeat of things I say all the time. It’s all over the website and all over the blog. But, I know that, especially at this time of year, a lot of us are reconsidering our systems, thinking about installation, etc. So, I want to give you all some food for thought.
First of all, let me say a couple things that are probably pretty obvious to everyone. The Air Raid is a version of the spread offense that I believe offers high school kids the best chance to succeed in the passing game. I think that everything you need to be successful in the passing game is included in our Air Raid system so we don’t mess with our passing concepts too much. We keep them pretty consistent. But, we only throw the ball 50% or 60% of the time on Fridays. So, just because we are an Air Raid passing game, does not mean that we don’t beg, borrow, and steal from all kinds of spread offenses in the running game and the screen game. Also, just because you are a spread offense does not mean that you cannot have a package of plays from the I or the Wing T. In fact, I think having a change up is a really good idea and also helps
get some players on the field that might not fit into your spread sets.
Ok, let’s look at the arguments.
THE SPREAD OFFENSE LIMITS THE DEFENSE
In a lot of ways, all of football is about numbers. Defensive alignments are designed to outflank and outnumber the offense. Motions and shifts are designed to try to combat defensive alignment. Pulling guards are an attempt to get an extra man at the point of attack. We could go on and on.
But, the reason that I love the Spread Offense is that it dictates how the defense is going to line up. There are only a few ways you can over a 4 WR set. There are only a few coverages you can play and a few fronts that you can run. And, especially at the high school level, the defensive approach is going to be obvious. The defensive alignment gives insight into the methods and priorities of your opponent. If they put 7 in the box and play 1 on 1 across the formation, they are daring you to throw. If they put 5 in the box, they are daring you to run. More on this in a bit.
But, jut think about what this type of knowledge can do for your efficiency in game planning and your efficiency in practice. Because there are far less permutations and combinations that they can throw at you, you do not have to gameplan for all eventualities. There is far less guesswork. There is far less to anticipate. I remember when I coached in the West Coast Offense. My goodness, if we were facing a 3-5 I wouldn’t see my wife for a week. Sunday film sessions were 8 hours long. We had to think of every possible blitz and every possible stunt and we had to have an adjustment for every one. And even then, we would miss something or overlook something and have to change on Friday nights.
By removing guys from the box, you force the defense to be much more predicable. That saves you time and saves your coaches time. Plus, there are fewer variations from week to week so your guys can get really comfortable with playing against similar fronts and similar coverages each week. Every league and every state is a bit different. But in my experience, almost everyone in high school is going to give you a 4-2 or a 3-3. They will play soft man, cover 4, or cover 2. And we will get that week after week after week.
Then, If you combine a spread offense with a no huddle system, you limit the defense even more. If you are playing really fast, the don’t have time to get their calls in and will be forced to play base. If you are playing slow, you can wait for the defense to line up and then call a play based on their alignment.
THE SPREAD OFFENSE LETS YOU WIN ON THE CHALKBOARD
My job is to call plays that win on the chalkboard. Of course we have to teach the skills the kids need to run those plays and sometimes you can win with better execution or better athletes. But, let’s just assume that you are playing even competition. Their athletes will out execute yours sometimes and our athletes will out execute their athletes sometimes. But, If we are constantly getting outflanked, outguessed, or outnumbered, execution is going to be really difficult. I have found that a spread system gives me the best chance of calling a play that wins on the chalkboard. Here’s what I mean.
If there are 5 guys in the box, a running play always wins on the chalkboard. Their nose might beat our center and we might get tackled for a loss, but we have 6 guys to block 5 (we count our QB as a blocker because he always reads the backside DE) so the play is always right. If we get beat, it’s not because of the play call. Maybe we have to coach double teams better or maybe we have to coach down blocks better, but we can’t excuse ourselves by saying that it was the play’s fault. It just means we need to coach the little things better in practice.
If there are 7 guys in the box, they are playing 1 on 1 in the secondary and a pass play always wins on the chalkboard. Again, we may fail to get off of press coverage. Or, we might throw a bad ball or drop a perfect pass, but the play is not the culprit. We won on the chalkboard.
If there are 6 guys in the box, almost every single play in the offense wins on the chalkboard. They are playing 5 on 4 in the secondary so they have us outmatched, but the safety is probably in the middle of the field so we are still in a 1 on 1 situation in most outside routes. Plus, we are 6 on 6 in the run game so any run play wins on the chalkboard.
Now let’s compare the spread to a traditional pro set. First of all, in the pro set lose your QB as a “blocker” because he is under center and cannot read the backside end. You can boot to hold the DE, but actually calling a bootleg is still a huge gamble. You are betting that a high school DE is going to close down the line and the boot is going to outflank him. There is no read involved. It’s a guess. And, if you guess wrong, you have a loss of 7. What if the DE has not been coached properly or if he doesn’t listen to his coaches? (Wait…that never happens in high school). He will be waiting for the boot and you have a loss of 7. Because you can’t utilize the QB read, you lose your numbers advantage.
Second, in a pro set, you lose the predictability of the defense. They could put 9 in the box, show man on the outside, and actually drop 7 guys into a cover 4 look. Or they could play man and blitz 8. You really have no idea. Also, tendencies are harder to pick up. A safety aligned at 6 yards could be a pass defender, or he could be coming on a blitz, or he might be the force player. I hate not knowing what the defense is doing. We might guess wrong or our opponent might break tendencies. Either way, we have failed because we have not put our guys in the best chance to win. We did not win on the chalkboard.
Ok, let’s stop there for today. Next week we will look at two more practical reasons why the spread offense is a perfect system for high school. Thanks for reading guys. I appreciate it! Have a great week!