Why I Love The Spread OffenseErick Streelman
For the next several weeks we are going to go back to basics and talk about why we believe in the Spread Offense.
I have said it before and I will say it again. I love the spread offense. But there are a ton of great offenses and there are a ton of great systems. There is not a single system that will always work. There is not a single system that is inherently superior to everything else. There is not a single system that will, on its own, make you win more games.
You can win with the Veer, and the Wing T, and the Triple Option, and with Wishbone, the I, the Pistol, the A11, and the spread offense. You can win with your own system, where you beg and borrow and steal from ESPN and Youtube.
This may sound kind of harsh…but I am just trying to be real here. If you have good kids and you coach the little things, you are going to be successful. If you have great kids and don’t coach them well, you will probably be average. If you coach your butt off but have bad athletes you will probably be average to below average. If you have bad athletes and bad coaches, you will be bad. It really is that simple.
So, in a lot of ways, your offensive system is irrelevant. I recognize the irony of this statement. I am saying this as a coach that loves X’s and O’s and could talk offensive football everyday for the rest of my life. But, I will say it again…your offensive system is kind of irrelevant.
I am California born and bred, so I will use a local example that has gained some national prominence and recognition. Concord De La Salle is a powerhouse. For the last 20 years they have been arguably the greatest high school football team in the nation. (All the Florida and Texas guys are getting really heated right now. I concede that I do not know the landscape of Florida and Texas football as well so you may be right…there may be a team out there that is better than De La Salle on a year in and year out basis). But, for us West Coast guys, De La Salle is the model.
De La Salle runs the split back veer. Now, they have variations and permutations and they adjust based on the strength of their personal. But, year in and year out, they run the veer. They run the same 6 plays over and over and over. You know they are going to run the veer. They tell you they are going to run the veer. And they still kick your butt with the veer. They still win 120 games in a row with the veer. You can’t stop the veer when De La Salle runs the veer.
But, this raises an interesting question. If the secret of offense was your offensive system, then wouldn’t everyone on the West Coast run the veer? It obviously works for De La Salle, why don’t we all try to emulate it?
Stop and think for a second…Does De La Salle’s success actually have anything to do with the veer?
Of course not. De La Salle is successful for two reasons. First of all, and most importantly, they have great players. Let’s not overlook that fact. Second, their coaches do an amazing job of coaching the little things. The veer works for them because their coaches know the veer inside and out and they teach their guys how to execute. They coach every nuance over and over and over. They coach a mentality and a mindset and an approach. The veer works for them because they are passionate about it and they sell it. And, once again…they are selling it to great players.
Without either of these factors, the veer is just a bunch of X’s and O’s on the chalkboard. It is not inherently great and it is not magic. But, when you match a system with a great coaching staff and a great roster, you get De La Salle.
But, lets play the hypothetical game for a second. What if the coaches at De La Salle decided tomorrow that they were going to run the Georgia Tech Flexbone? What would determine their success? Well, if they coached the heck out of it and still had really good athletes, I would argue that they would still be pretty darn good. What if they decided to run the Pistol? Well, if they coached the heck out of it and still had really good athletes, they would still be pretty darn good. What if they decided to run the Air Raid or the Run and Shoot or the Pro Set I? If they coached the heck out of it and still had good athletes, they would still be pretty darn good. Are we detecting a pattern?
This logic holds true for all of us. If we are good, it’s not the system that makes us good. If we are bad, it’s not the system that makes us bad. It all comes down to athletes and coaches.
Ok, here is where we use a little bit of circular logic…check this out. System is irrelevant because offensive success is completely dependent upon your athletes and your coaching. But, system is completely relevant because you need great athletes and you need great coaches.
Let’s start with the athletes. I think kids love the Spread Offense. We all know that kids have a million options today. They can play year round lacrosse and year round baseball and year round basketball. Football is no longer a given, even for the best athletes on campus. And, If we are following the rules and not recruiting anywhere except our own hallways (which is the way that it should be, but that is the subject of past and future posts) your system and your culture are the only thing that will draw kids to your program. Do you want the 6’6” basketball player to come and play receiver for you? Try running the Wing T and see if he comes out to play. Do you want the QB that throws 87 from the mound and is deciding between year round scout ball and high school football? Try running the triple option and see if he comes out. Your system is one of your best recruiting tools.
Kids love the spread offense. They get excited about the spread offense. You have a better chance to get good athletes to come out for football if you run the spread. If you don’t think this is true…survey your kids and ask them about their favorite plays, their favorite sets, and their favorite parts about practice. They love to throw the ball around and spread it out. Watch them play Madden sometime and take note of how often they run iso through the 2 hole. They don’t! They chuck it all over the field almost every play. Kids want to run a spread system. So, if our offensive success is dependent upon athletes, we should run a system that kids want to run and that encourages them to play football.
Second, we need to be great coaches and we need to attract great coaches. I know coaches that are passionate about the Wing T and the Triple Option. That’s great! I still think they are fighting an uphill battle to get kids to buy into it, but obviously it works sometimes and that’s awesome. But, I will speak for myself here. Maybe you can identify with this and maybe you can’t, but this is my personal experience. I’ve coached the Wing T and hated it. I’ve coached the Double Wing and hated it. I’ve coached the Veer and hated it. Because I hated it, I was not the best coach I could have been. I didn’t care enough or know enough to coach the little things. I hated watching film. I hated scouting. I hated gameplanning. I did it for the sake of the kids in the program, but all of those years were full of fake passion and fake enthusiasm.
And fake passion leads to burnout and apathy. I’ve been there. I have lived it. I’ve lost coaches because of it and I’ve resigned several times because of it.
Now, if you’re a young coach, let me encourage you, A lot of times you have to do things that you don’t like because you want to be a part of something bigger. And, even in the midst of fake passion for your offensive system, there are still a lot of great things about coaching high school football…relationships with the kids being the most important. So, be patient and keep pressing on. Someday you will get to set the culture of your own offense or your own program.
But, if you are reading this and you are a head coach or coordinator, I think there is an important lesson here. Even more than your system, your passion and enthusiasm for football is the driving force of your program. It’s the energy that will radiate through the entire school and the entire community. If you are out of passion, your program will be out of passion. And, if your assistant coaches are out of passion, they won’t be with you very long.
So, for me, the Spread Offense is about my ability to coach well. I know it inside and out so I can coach the little things. But, more than that, I am passionate about the spread offense so I am passionate about the little things. I want to watch more film. I want to experiment. I want to gameplan. I want to practice plan. I want to learn and clinic and write and speak. I can’t not, because it is so fun and so exciting and so cool! And, to come full circle with our argument, if I am coaching well and if I am full of passion, I believe that this passion will filter down and attract athletes to the program. Even more than the system, athletes will come out and be excited to play for a coach that can’t hide his enthusiasm and passion.
So, I say all that to say this. It’s spring and it’s time to start planning for the upcoming season. In terms of actually winning games and having offensive success, system is kind of irrelevant. But in terms of coaching well and getting athletes to play, system is incredibly important. So, my number one piece of advice would be to pick system you are passionate about and to pick a system that kids are passionate about. Then, let that passion fuel your drive and your excitement. That’s why I love the Spread Offense!
Thanks again for reading guys. I really appreciate it!
Keep Chucking It,