The Spread Offense: What Football Purists should know

Posted: December 1, 2011 by arayegee in NFL

Tim Tebow’s 5-1 start to revitalize the upstart Broncos has perplexed football fans everywhere. Its not pretty, but he’s winning is the most common description of what they do. Many will credit the defense with the sudden turnaround, holding their past four opponents to 15 PPG. Quite impressive, considering they played the Chargers, Chiefs, Raiders, and Jets in that stretch *insert as much sarcasm as you possibly can here*.  The offense, on the other hand, is seen by most as elementary, nothing but a flash in the pan that will work for a season and eventually fade out like the Wildcat did.

On the other side of the coin, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers have led their teams to Super Bowl championships powered by their high scoring offenses.  Since 2007, football fans will agree unanimously that these are two of the premier offensive teams in the league, and show no signs of slowing down.

Why is any of that important? Because all three of these teams use a spread offense attack. If you’re offended or flabbergasted by that last sentence, then you’ve proven my second point in that nobody really knows what the spread offense is. The first thing people will think about are the Hawaiis, the Texas Techs, and the Baylors: pass-happy college offenses that mask average skill position talent with great systems. Arguments that are made about how ineffective these systems would be in the league continue to amaze me, seeing that the New England Patriots have spent the past decade doing the exact same thing. Heres food for thought: remove Randy Moss,  Corey Dillon, and Tom Brady from the Patriots’ recent history and you have a lineup full of #2 receivers, 3rd down running backs, and garbage time signal-callers. (Editors Note: Welker wouldve been added, but a 2 years in Miami averaging 48 catches lets us at the ManCave know he is a product of the system). Keep in mind that this offense  got Matt Cassel ten wins, a franchise tag, and a career in Kansas City. That kind of move would make Master of the Swindle DontbeSkerritt blush. Oh, its gimmicky, but it works.

The spread offense, in the most lay of terms, is an offense strategy used to spread the defense out. It started simply as a response to defenses filling their front seven with gargantuan sized people, and coaches looking for a way to find holes in seemingly impenetrable defenses. Split out a tight end, and a defender has to go with him. Boom, u now have made seven in the box turn into six just like that. So if you want to run, a la the Tebow spread option attack, its now easier. And if you want to pass, just replace that tight end with another wide reciever, and voila, a mismatch has been created.Its really that simple. Youre just spreading the offense out, and running the same thing you usually run. You think the Packers are doing something revolutionary? Mike Mcarthy is a disciple of the West Coast offense, all he’s done is use the same route combinations and put them in a five wide receiver set.  So in essence, the Packers run a spread West coast offense. Hell, the high school I coach for runs a spread Wing-T, so I know the spread philosophy can be applied to nearly any offens.

Theyre just spread out. Hence the name. Its not rocket science.

Its not gimmicky, its utilizing all the space that you have on the field. This “pro style” certain Mancavers clamor for (ahem, Renzuno) are only for quarterbacks who suck. Here’s a list of a few teams who currently use a pro style offense.

  • Miami Dolphins
  • New York Jets
  • Seattle Seahawks
  • Cleveland Browns

You know, I thought that statement was a  reach, but after seeing those teams, I dont anymore.

It’s hard to accept the fact that defenses will be playing on their heels, but this is how football works. The offensive creates an innovative system, and defenses find a way to stop it. Nobody could stop the shotgun when it first hit the scene (which is also a product of the collegiate football system. Northern Illinois’ Howard Fletcher invented it in the late 1950s). And as far as the physicality of the game being taken away, I strongly suggest you take a look at what goes on at the line of scrimmage. Pretty brutal if you ask me. More importantly, if you want smash mouth football back, then I should never hear anyone complain about low scoring games being boring. You should enjoy watching Tebow running a 16 Belly out of a double twins set, gaining 4 yards and prepping for 2nd and 6. In fact, Ill find seven of the biggest brutes to line up in double Tight End formation, throw two Mike Alstott-looking runners in the backfield, dig up Charley Dressen’s grave and put him under the center, and have them run dive plays all day. Is that what you want? HUH?! Smashmouth? That would be football at its purest. Right?

Thats what I thought.

Setting up the dive left...with the dive right.

The spread offense can be summed up in two words: competitive advantage. Its not the offense’s job to appease so called football purists, its their job to put points on the board. Its the defense’s job to stop them, and its our job as fans to appreciate the game as it evolves. Im sure when a defensive strategy is made that shuts down the spread, there will be groans about how football is boring again. In the meantime, lets just enjoy the new age of football.

  1. LBC says:

    Very good points here. Good points also in edthesportsfan blog too. After reading both and evaluating my Madden game (which is completely spread offense). I like the spread offense, I may not like the option out of it as done by Tebow. Don’t like that because as said it “masks” his lack of QB talent. Football is a chess game to try to create mismatches. Spreading defenders out to create favorable mismatches sounds like a well thought out game plan to me. Think about what is the best way to eliminate players like Troy Polamalu, Ray Lewis, Laron Landry? Spread them fools out wide, and make them cover! We really just need to watch the evolution of football and enjoy.

    It is amazing how every time a football game is on and the score is 9-6, the game is boring, but when the game is 35-28 with over 1,000 yards of offense. That is considered a good game.

    I challenge defenses to come up with a plan to stop the spread offense ran by Packers and Patriots.

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