In a recent article on NBC, Football Outsiders senior writer Mike Tanier wrote a piece on how the lockout might have a detrimental affect NFL offenses. (Picture taken from National Football Post, props to anyone who can figure out what play this diagram is showing) The reasoning is pretty simple, with less time to prepare and train players due to the lockout, playbooks and offensive philosophies that are considered “tricky” are going to be harder to execute than “simple” offenses and therefore put “tricky” offenses at a disadvantage.
I respect Tanier’s work and I think Football outsiders is one of the best football websites out there, but this article had me scratching my head a little. The implicit suggestion of this article is that if a team utilizes a “tricky” offense they should consider dumbing it down to account for the lockout.
To me this seems a little bit ridiculous, teams spend years building an identity and to throw it out the window for one year sounds like a decidedly bad idea. Should the Packers take the ball out of Aaron Rodgers hands and start calling more running plays? That’s not who the Packers are and it definitely wouldn’t work for them. That’s like asking the Tennessee Titans (who Tanier uses for comparison for the Packers), to take the ball away from Chris Johnson and give it to (insert quarterback here).
To me the inherent flaw in this piece is that ”tricky” plays are inherently complex and that complexity is handled the same for each team.
- Personnel factor heavily on the play selection: All teams try to maximize the strength of their players while mitigating their weaknesses. For the Titans, this means running the ball and for the Packers this means throwing the ball. You can bet that if the Titans had Aaron Rodgers they would throw it more or if the Packers had Chris Johnson they would run it more. Simply put, the Packers are built to run a more “tricky” offense, but that also means that they are better suited to run “tricky” plays.
- Above all, the quarterback determines the limit of “trickiness”: The quality of a quarterback can mitigate many positional deficiencies on the offense, but the quality of a quarterback also determines how “tricky” an offense can get. The Titans are a mess at quarterback at the moment, they’ve announced that former starter Vince Young will no longer be on the team and Kerry Collins is not lock to make it back either. The team also drafted Jake Locker in the 1st round, who is considered talented but raw at this moment (and is a rookie quarterback to top it off). It’s pretty obvious that the Titans are going to try to limit the damage of an inexperienced/ineffective quarterback by relying on its running game and defense. On the other hand, the Packers have Aaron Rodgers, who might be the best quarterback in the NFL at the moment, and actually taking away “tricky” plays would likely hurt Rodgers’ production.