Friday, March 27, 2015

The Spread Offense

Like all sports the x’s and o’s of football have evolved over the games 100 plus year history. The game has moved away from its traditional offensive schemes of running downhill with the Wing T, Triple Option and Power I. Within the past 20 years the game has switched to a passing dominate game and the term ‘Spread Offense’ has become the norm. Running an offense that has four wide receivers and one running back is the base offense for many football teams. You may wonder what caused this change in schematics and the answer is simple, to create mismatches.
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Offensively, the game of football has always been about creating mismatches, trying to get a more athletic player guarded by a less athletic player on the opposing team. The spread offense was originally created in 1958 by Tiger Ellison and was first referred to as the Run-and-Shoot offense.1 Over the next 70 years the run and shoot will develop into what the spread is now.
During the late 90’s and early 2000’s the spread-to-pass consisted of four to five receivers that spread across the field from number to number. The coaches spread the receivers and lineman out so much to create easy throwing lanes for the quarterback. Coaches such as Hal Mumme and Mike Leach and known for lining up in these formations and throwing the ball 70 times a game. “Only problem with this is, when a defense figures out a way to stop the passing game, they make you one dimensional and force you to run the ball. With these huge splits between the offensive line it limits the schemes that you can run from a run-game perspective.”2  This puts your offense on a crutch at all time. Defenses know when they stop the passing game, they are kicking the crutch out from under you, leaving you helpless.
The adaption to this crutch is to tighten the splits of your receivers and lineman back down so you can run the ball. “A lot of guys that were spread, have come to the conclusion that we’re going to be a lot better if we can run the football. And as a result the line splits have gotten smaller which has allowed more blocking schemes to evolve.”2  This created the Spread-to-Run offense which is what teams such as Oregon, Auburn and Clemson run. These teams are spreading the formations out and running many of the same plays that were being ran in the Wing T and Triple Option, the only difference this time, it is out of the shotgun.
Within the past decade football has become a offensive dominate game. Coaches are running these formations to create mismatches on the field. Just like every other offense ever ran in football, it will eventually be figured out. When defensive coaches find a way to beat the mismatches and shut down the spread offensive on a consecutive basis, the game of football offensively will change into something else. But until this time, the spread offense is here to stay.
1Schlabach, M. (2009, July 20). Schlabach: Spread offense has been decades in the making. Retrieved March 23, 2015.

2Gemmell, K. (2014, November 25). Sonny Dykes talks evolution of the spread. Retrieved March 23, 2015.

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