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OFFENSIVE SCHEMES This story won't be quite as visual as our work on defense. There's a couple reasons for this.

Defenses are regularly categorized by their formation. Offensive formations change play to play, and during the course of the play. Traditionally, offenses are categorized by strategy. We're going to cover the four major strategies currently used in the NFL after the break. Two things to note before reading further. Some offensive strategies were not included for various reasons. Strategies that did not constitute a complete strategy or a portion of a strategy were not considered. This list included option, Wildcat, pistol and A-11 (now illegal). The spread was also not included, since most NFL personnel wouldn't consider the spread a strategy. The spread is a formation, and can be used by any strategy. Second, it's hard to peg most teams as a "this system" team anymore. Teams use strategies more as base offensive philosophies, and incorporate plays that work from the other strategies. The four strategies that we're going to look at are the Erhardt-Perkins, Coryell, West Coast, and the Run 'n' Shoot. Erhardt-Perkins This system's name originates back to the Chuck Fairbanks-coached Patriots of the 1970s, where Ron Erhardt and Ray Perkins coached as offensive assistants. The system has been called "smashmouth" or "ball control" offense. It surely didn't originate with the 1970s Patriots, and, like the defensive trends, this offense comes from an earlier form of offense. Traditional running football of the 1950s and 60s underwent some modifications and was renamed. The Erhardt-Perkins offensive philosophy was summed up with this Erhardt quote: "Pass to score, run to win." The offense has been considered a run first, play-action passing offense. This is really not the case. The Erhardt-Perkins strategy relies on possessing the football. In previous decades, running the ball was the best way to do this. However, as the recent Patriot teams have shown, possession football and passing aren't mutually exclusive. New England regularly runs entire drives from the spread, throwing most of the plays, and progress through 10+ play drives. The strategy's strengths include the ease in finding players to fit the system, since a great quarterback or receivers are not required. The system is relatively easy to learn compared to the complexity ot the other three systems, and the system is the easiest to run in bad weather. Teams using the Erhardt-Perkins strategy often times aren't geared for high scoring games, and don't have consistent comeback ability. While no team exclusively runs the Erhardt-Perkins offensive, many teams use its philosophy as the basis for creating the playbook. Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick, Josh McDaniels, Charlie Weis, Jeff Davidson, Bill Cowher, Marty Schottenheimer, and Chan Gailey-led teams typically base their attacks on ball control and/or running the ball. Coryell This offensive strategy bears the name of Don Coryell. This offense was initially called the "West Coast" offense, since Coryell ran it in San Diego. After Bill Parcells' famous quote calling San Francisco's offense "west coast," the Coryell offense became best known as the Vertical or Timing offense. The Coryell offense really began conceptually with Sid Gillman in the 1960s. Coryell's offense maintained a basic power running game. Coryell's innovative passing concepts allowed the Cardinals to win two division titles in the 1970s, but most famously, helped make the San Diego Chargers a playoff team. The Coryell offense requires a great offensive line, because the scheme sends all five receivers into

pass patterns. The scheme also sends two or more receivers deep regularly. Throws require a QB with a strong arm, and throws are made to a spot where the receiver will be running to. Keeping the passer upright is not only the key to the offense, but also the critical vulnerability. The offense can be very easy to learn. Coryell simplified pass patterns into a route tree, where each route is numbered. Below is "an example" of what this tree could look like:

The strengths of the system include the ability to mix a power running game and an explosive passing game. Defenses that stack the line to stop the run are often exposed by deep pass plays. Coryell offenses with the right personnel tend to be the higher scoring offenses in the league. The system requires a great offensive line, a great quarterback, and at least two great wide receivers - a tall task for any front office, and also a huge chunk of a team's salary cap space. This system can get extremely complicated, depending on the offensive coordinator, and this system can also commonly lull play callers into selecting many more passes than runs. John Madden, Joe Gibbs, Ron Turner, Mike Martz, Al Saunders and coaches from their coaching trees favor this system. West Coast This is really the Bill Walsh offense. Thanks to Parcells' comments in the 1985 playoffs, the Walsh system will be forever known as the West Coast offense. This system is also known as the Cincinnati offense, and is the most commonly used system in the NFL. Walsh served as an assistant coach under the Paul Brown coached Cincinnati Bengals from 1968 to 1975. Walsh invented the scheme out of necessity. The Bengals' offensive line could not block long enough for the quarterback to use a seven-step drop, so Walsh innovated and developed the short passing attack that we know now. The basic concept of the West Coast offense is to stretch the defense horizontally by using short passes early in the game. These short passes are difficult for the defense to stop, since the pass rush has no time to get to the quarterback. The offense scores early, and then runs on the spread out defense. The offense can also throw deep on a defense that's keyed in on shorter routes. There are many adaptations and modifications to the pure West Coast system. Mike Shanahan prefers to run and throw play-action passes, but his passing game still relies on stretching the defense horizontally. Andy Reid and Sam Wyche lengthened many of the routes, but still stretch the defense horizontally. Almost every team runs some version of West Coast plays.

The strength of the system is the difficulty for defenses to stop the offense. The system is very diverse, and defenses have a number of different attack options to counter. The quarterback doesn't need to have a rocket arm, but he needs to be very accurate, since most of the routes are throws to a spot instead of a receiver, or throwing to receivers with defenders in close proximity. The shorter routes are less risky than the longer Coryell pass routes. The system can be neutralized by defenses that confuse the quarterback. The quarterback has to make reads at blindingly fast speeds, since the progressions and reads occur very fast in a short passing attack. A defense that confuses the quarterback has the best chance of succeeding. As with the Coryell offense, having great skill players is a requirement. If the West Coast team gets behind early, the run-pass ratio ends up overwhelmingly pass heavy. Mike Shanahan, Jon Gruden, and Andy Reid are the most well-known West Coast offense users, but almost every team has some Walsh plays in their attack. Run 'n' Shoot "It's just evolved to where everybody in the United States now runs it, including everyone in the NFL. A portion of all packages has been developed out of it. You don't see the pure Run 'n' Shoot much anymore. It's been incorporated into other offenses." - Mouse Davis (2004) The Run 'n' Shoot was invented by Tiger Ellison, who originally called the offense "The Lonesome Polecat." Mouse Davis adopted the offense at Portland State in the 1974. June Jones is also closely linked with the offense. The Run 'n' Shoot is really a sight adjustment offense. Receivers and the quarterback move to the line of scrimmage with many different routes that each receiver can run. The placement of the defenders dictates the pass route and route combinations. With four receivers at the line, this becomes problematic for the defense. The "site adjustment" route in the Run 'n' Shoot can be characterized by this saying: "If he's up, I'm deep. If he's deep, I'm short. If he's in, I'm out. If he's out, I'm in."

The sight adjustment offense is very difficult for the defense to stop. The offense has many counters to any coverage or alignment that the defense uses. One such example is where the Free Safety is placed. If the Free Safety is in Cover 2, the middle of the field is considered open, and the routes adjust. If the Free Safety is in Cover 1, the middle of the field is considered closed and the routes adjust. All of this occurs pre-snap, and in the first seconds of the play's execution.

Conversely, if the quarterback and receivers aren't on the same page, disaster occurs. The quarterback not only needs to be accurate and have a good arm, but he also needs to be extremely intelligent. The skill positions also need to be very talented. Many teams use Run 'n' Shoot variants, with the Indianapolis Colts running the most famous variant. The Colts use a blocking TE and Dallas Clark as a WR, but when the Colts use three WRs and Clark, the Run 'n' Shoot roots of the offense are obvious. New England also began to dip into Run 'n' Shoot concepts with the arrival of Randy Moss and Wes Welker. Also, our own Buffalo Bills used the Run 'n' Shoot at one point in their history. The K-Gun was a Run 'n' Shoot, using Keith McKeller as one of the slot backs, hence the name. Something to consider: Jim Kelly is very underrated in NFL quarterback history. If you re-watch Kelly's games, the speed that Kelly made his reads is almost unreal. With four receivers running site adjustment routes, Kelly's decisions are made almost immediately. Very impressive. Summary While teams no longer rely solely on one strategy, it is important to understand the schemes, since they are really the philosophy of the head coach/offensive coordinator. While the plays that work are almost universally used, the philosophies (ball control, vertical stretch, horizontal stretch, and site adjustment) dictate how the team is going to approach offense. Chan Gailey comes from a Erhardt-Perkins background. Buffalo fans can expect to see an offense grounded in ball control. Buffalo can expect to see a lot of the same in their opponents, since everyone in the AFC East is grounded in Erhardt-Perkins. Despite formation and plays, expect to see a season formed by a great deal of ball control, with time of possession being a key statistic for Buffalo this season. ------------------------------------------------DEFENSIVE SCHEMES I thought that it might be a good idea to talk about each defensive scheme in terms of strengths and weaknesses. This won't cover every variation of every defense, but will cover the basics. We'll start with a some history. I think it's useful to document how each scheme began and evolved, and to dispel a lot of the rumors about the schemes. In my opinion, there is no one scheme that's displayed dominance over another. Scheming on defense can't replace good players. Also, each defense has been dominant during a period of NFL history. In the case of the Bullough-Fairbanks 30 Front and the 46 Defense, the defenses were dominant, went out of style, evolved, and re-emerged as a dominant form of defense. The base 3-4 (Bullough-Fairbanks) defense was designed in the 40s at OU but wasnt used in the NFL until Miami used in in 1972, but is was more a hybrid defense than a true 3-4. The 3-4 became the defense of choice in the late 1970s and into the 1980s. Two styles were used: the base defense, and for those teams that had a pass-rushing OLB, the hyprid or "elephant" 3-4. The defense waned in the 90s, as teams began to win with fast-flowing 4-3 defenses used by Dallas, Minnesota, and Tampa Bay. In the late 1990s only two teams ran a 3-4 defense: Pittsburgh and Buffalo. The defense re-emerged with use by the Patriots and the ease of finding small college DEs to fill the OLB roles, despite the difficulty in finding true NTs to man the scheme. The LeBeau or Blitzburgh 3-4 defense is similar in set-up as the Bullough-Fairbanks. The main difference is that any player in the front seven can blitz, and any player in the front seven can drop

into coverage. The scheme still requires a space-eating NT but places more emphasis on having good athletes at all four LB positions and both DEs. The Base 4-3 was designed in the 50s by the NY Giants. It was supposedly designed by thendefensive coordinator Tom Landry to stop Jim Brown. It was the defense of choice through the 1960s and into the 1970s, and faded in the late 70s and into the 1980s. The defense re-emerged with the success of Jimmy Johnson, who used a one-gap fast-flowing 4-3 defense with the Dallas Cowboys. Scouts also found it easier to find smaller DTs and LBs who could run and fit the scheme. When Tony Dungy took over the Bucanneers, it solidified this trend to the point where 30 of 32 NFL teams ran a 4-3 defense in the late 1990s. The defense waned as passing attacks became more complex and dependant on the spread formation, as the 4-3 had lesser blitz variation to confuse an offense. The Tampa 2 began with the Steelers' Steel Curtain defense in the 1970s. The defense was run exclusively by the Steelers until Dungy took over as the Defensive Coordinator for the Vikings in the early 1990s. He brought the defense with him to Tampa Bay and later Indianapolis. It shared the some of the same principles as Jimmy Johnsons defense, but was also much simpler, as the defense played the same way every snap. The scheme began to flame out when Peyton Manning exposed it the year after Tampas Super Bowl win, as the defense is limited in the amount of variations that it can use during the game. The scheme also became harder to draft for as offenses got more complex, as a defense that runs a vanilla scheme needs tremendous athletes across its front seven. The Bates 4-3 defense is similar in design as the Jimmy Johnson fast-flowing defense as well as the Tampa 2. Main differences include playing more man defense than zone at the CB positions, and the two DTs playing two-gap instead of one-gap. The scheme essentially has two NTs, each one playing over the guard. This allows for the rest of the team to play a fast flowing attacking style. Bates' defense was very good with the Wannstadt-era Dolphins, with Tim Bowens and Darryl Gardener clogging the middle and allowing undersized players like Jason Taylor and Zach Thomas become stars. The 46 defense began with the Bears in the 80s under Buddy Ryan. It quickly flamed out as the scheme was very vulnerable without a defensive front seven full of stars, with only the Eagles using the defense by the 90s. It re-emerged in a different form later in the decade. Many concepts survived: the SLB as a stand-up DE-type, the two DTs and one DE covering the center and both guards, and a SS that plays in the box. This form of the defense was highly successful in the NFL in the late 1990s and through the past decade, with the Giants Super Bowl win being the culmination of the 46 re-emergence. The Eagles, Titans, Bills, Saints, and Lions have run this defense the past decade, with the first three teams mentioned having near-NFL best defenses at various points. The main reason for the success of this defense is that it offers near-equal blitz variations as a 3-4 defense, and its easier to draft for than a traditional or Tampa 2 variation of the 4-3. In this defense, the DTs are big space eaters but not NT types, the WDE and SLB are edge rushers, the SDE is a 5technique DE, the MLB and WLB are smaller LBs, and the SS is a SS-LB hybrid; all of these types of players are common in the college ranks. This form of defense is also more reliant on scheme and less on star players when compared to a Tampa 2 or traditional 4-3 defense. Bullough-Fairbanks 3-4

Strengths: 3 down linemen all play two-gap, leaving only one LB with a gap assignment. Very good against outside runs with a LB and DE placed at the OT or wider. Bigger bodies needed to play the defense allow the team to be physical with run-oriented offenses. The blitz packages are extensive and have been the most successful recently in countering spread and Coryall offenses. ILBs can be ordinary athletes with good instincts and do well. Weaknesses: Defense requires three very good defensive linemen to be effective in order to keep the LBs free to make plays. Slower defense that can be exposed if the offensive line is successful in pass protection. Fast TEs give the defense trouble, as well as teams that can run with power out of the two-TE, one-back set. Used By: New England, Kansas City, Miami, Cleveland, Denver, Green Bay, San Francisco Hybrid or Elephant Version of the Bullough-Fairbanks 3-4

ROLB shown as a defensive lineman and designated as "B" since the player mostly rushes. Used By: Baltimore, NY Jets, San Diego

LeBeau 3-4

Strengths: Faster players that can all rush and all drop into cover allows for almost innumerable blitzing combinations. Very effective against passing offenses due to confusion created by blitzing combinations. Effective stunting and looping on pass rushes, and also effective shooting gaps on run plays. Nearly impossible to beat wide. Weaknesses: Can be overwhelmed by a power rushing attack that takes advantage of blitzes and movement. Will give up big plays when the defense doesn't get to the QB. Requires a good coverage SS as the defense's blitzing combinations make the scheme susceptible to pass catching TEs or bigger WRs that use the middle of the field. Requires a great NT to base the defense and the draft has to bring in a lot of quality athletes at LB. Best Used By: Pittsburgh 3-4 Over

Strengths: Combines strength of a 3-4 hybrid with attacking, one-gap scheme. Very fast defense

that can disrupt timing of passing attacks and beat blockers to spots in the run game. Hard to run wide against as every player in the front is athletic and can run. Blitz combinations can be as varied as the LeBeau defense. Very good pass rushing defense. Weaknesses: Can be run against effectively with a power run game. Defense uses smaller players that can be worn down as the game goes on. Will give up a lot of big play is the pass rush doesn't get to the QB. Requires high quality personnel at almost every position in the front. Used By: Dallas, Arizona Base 4-3

Strengths: Four down linemen to attack four of the five offensive linemen allows LBs to take advantage of blocking by backs and TEs. Good with inside runs and OLBs are in position to stack the edge and hold against outside runs. OLBs in position to keep TEs from getting off the ball cleanly. Fast flowing and will penetrate against runs and passes. Weaknesses: Older defense that has morphed into a couple other defenses. MLB must be a ProBowl level player for the defense to work. Few blitz variations. Very vanilla. Used by: Houston, Oakland, Atlanta Tampa 2

Strengths: Extremely hard to play against if the defense has all the required personnel. Scheme calls for penetration on every play to disrupt pass and run, and can generate a solid rush without blitzing. Very fast LBs that don't allow for big plays in the passing game. Hard to run against wide. Effective against fast TEs and pass catching RBs. Can generate a lot of big plays with the number of athletes on the field. Weaknesses: The defense requires at least one Pro-Bowl DT, two very good ends, and extremely fast LBs to be truly dominant, which is all hard to find. Can be gashed by running plays for big gains. If one gap assignment is missed, the entire defense can fail for the play. A bending defense that can be driven on. Used by: Indianapolis, Minnesota, Chicago, Tampa Bay, Carolina, Seattle 46 Defense The Bear 46....

... has morphed into this:

Strengths: Uses two big DTs and a bigger 5-technique DE on the strong side to overwhelm the GC-G-RT. Uses an edge rusher as a strong side LB that excels at rushing the passer and stacking the edge. MLB and WLB kept clean to make tackles. Difficult to run inside against and wide against the strong side. Can use a similar blitz package as a 3-4 with two LB's playing inside the tackle box and off the ball. Weaknesses: Gives up big plays to runners that break through the second level. Can give up runs to the weak side. Susceptible to fast TEs and RBs without a very good SS. Can be torn apart by a horizontal West Coast system that protects the QB. Used by: Cincinnati, Tennessee, Philadelphia, Giants, Washington, Detroit, New Orleans, St. Louis. Bates 4-3

Strengths: A variation of the Jimmy Johnson 4-3 defense that essentially calls for two NTs type players to man the DTs positions. Hard defense to run against because of the containment style the defense plays. The two DTs take up the G-C-G in blocking schemes, allowing the smaller and

faster DEs and OLBs to funnel plays back inside playing off blocks from TEs and backs. The MLB then cleans up making the tackle agains the runner, who can't get wide and has no hole between the guards. Very good against wide plays, fast TEs, RBs and offenses that spread the field. Weaknesses: Hard to find two NTs. Smaller linebackers and ends are vulnerable if the runner gets past the line of scrimmage. Somewhat inflexible in terms of what type of personnel the scheme requires. Scheme needs two DEs that can get to the passer on their own. Used by: Jacksonville, 2009 Buccaneers Hopefully this helps us define the conversation about what type of defense that we could or should use. I'll start with this statement: my studies of defenses has led me to believe three things: Players dictate success on defense more than scheme. I can find few defenses that were great without great players but using a great scheme. There are plenty of so-called "bad" schemes that work because of great players. Minnesota's Tampa 2 is a great example of this. Schemes aren't successful or unsuccessful because of weather or location alone. Chicago plays the Tampa 2 in the cold, Miami plays a Bullough-Fairbanks 3-4 in good weather. None of these defenses will every "die" completely. They will evolve and change. Just like the Bullough-Fairbanks version of the 3-4 defense "died" in the late 1990s, but re-emerged with the Patriots. And because of this, no defensive scheme is ever permanently superior. You can already see the vulnerabilities of the Bullough-Fairbanks 3-4 when a Wildcat offense is run at it.