A commenter in the previous post raised a simple question…why go with the no-huddle attack? What is so great about it? Oregon didn’t win any national titles. No-huddle teams in the NFL haven’t loaded up on Super Bowls. What’s the big deal?
There are various reasons behind going no-huddle. Eagles OL coach Jeff Stoutland talked about a key one this spring. He said that no-huddle teams drove Nick Saban crazy. Saban loves to use very specific defensive packages. Watch an Alabama game and you’ll see players coming and going off the field as Saban adjusts his defenses. Bama lost just one game in 2012. Texas A&M beat them 29-24, using a no-huddle attack. The last team to score more points on Bama than that was back in October of 2010.
The no-huddle means that defenses can’t substitute players. As long as the offense doesn’t make changes, the defense can’t make changes. Well, they could try, but the offense would catch them with too many players on the field and guys not sure what to do as they ran on at the last minute. The no-huddle allows the offense to control who is in the game and the flow of the game.
This is where having versatile offensive players is so huge. If you can keep the same personnel on the field, but switch from the I-formation to the empty set to the 2-TE set, you will put the defense at a major disadvantage. The offense then dictates the action and should be able to create favorable matchups.
Offense also like to go no-huddle to try and wear down defenses. This is where the number of plays you run in a game is important. The goal is to run an extra 20 plays in a game. Go from 65 to 85. If a defense is used to 65 snaps, those extra 20 plays may wear them down and leave them vulnerable to mistakes, physical and mental. Tired players are sloppy players.
What you have to understand is that the no-huddle offense doesn’t mean going full speed hurry-up on every snap. This isn’t a gimmick. The no-huddle attack runs at multiple speeds and can be adjusted to different game situations. You want to work the clock late in a game when you’ve got the lead. You can still do that from the no-huddle. If you’re trailing and in hurry-up mode, that will be very natural because it won’t be a huge change from your base offense the way it might if you were an old school I-formation running team.
As for success, this has to be split into a college and pro discussion.
In college football, the spread and no-huddle attacks were partially designed as a way to help lesser talent beat better talent. Alabama can line up with a 5-star QB, 5-star RB and the best O-line in the nation and run base plays. If Oregon tried to do that, they would have limited success and be more of an 8-4 type of team. Oregon isn’t loaded with special players. They need an edge.
The Ducks did make the title game a couple of years back. The team that beat them, Auburn, ran a spread attack that used some no-huddle. Offensive guru Gus Malzahn arrived in 2009 and installed the attack. The Tigers had been awful in 2008, finishing 104th in yards and 110th in scoring. In Malzahn’s first year, Auburn finished 16th in yards and 17th in scoring. The next year they got Cam Newton. Auburn was 7th in yards and points. Newton won the Heisman and the Tigers were national champs.
Northwestern has a good football team every year, in part because of their spread, no-huddle attack. They don’t have the athletes to stop people on defense so they try to out-score them. Joe Tiller brought this idea to Purdue in the 1990s and it took over the Big Ten. Iowa remains a team that runs an old school system. They line up in the I and pound the rock. The Hawkeyes haven’t finished in the Top 50 in the nation in yards gained in the last 6 years. I quit checking at that point.
Teams like Bama and LSU can line up in basic formations and win with talent. USC was like this for a while. Texas too. Other teams aren’t so lucky and they have to find an edge. That’s when they spread you out and go no-huddle. It has been a tremendous help to many programs and college football would be worlds different without it.
As for the NFL, teams are mixing in some of these elements, but we really don’t have enough evidence to judge right now. The Patriots offense has been great in the last couple of years. The team reached the Super Bowl and lost in the AFC title game in those 2 years so I think the system is working well for them. The big problem for them in those years was injuries to Rob Gronkowski. He is their special player, but had an ankle injury slow him in the Super Bowl and then last year broke his arm and missed the AFC title game altogether.
The 2006 Colts won the Super Bowl using some no-huddle. The 2009 Colts got to the title game, but lost using the same attack. Jim Caldwell had a hand in both offenses and last year helped the Ravens win the Super Bowl by mixing in some no-huddle. Green Bay is in the middle of using more no-huddle.
Heck, you can argue that the 2012 Eagles offense looked its best when going no-huddle vs the Ravens. There were parts of that game where you really thought the offense was getting on track after the poor showing in the season opener at Cleveland.
Both Manning brothers use some no-huddle, Peyton more than Eli.
There is no system that will win you games, whether something as exotic as the Run ‘n Shoot or as basic as the I-formation run game. Schemes and philosophies can help players by giving them favorable situations. That advantage only goes so far, though. At a certain point it comes down to talent and execution.
Kelly’s ideas will only work in the NFL if he has the right personnel to make them come alive. How different was Buddy Ryan’s 46 Defense with Mike Singletary in Chicago vs Mike Reichenbach in Philly (the early years)? Kurt Warner threw 26 TD passes in his final season with the Cardinals. The team has only thrown 42 TD passes in the last 3 years. Same scheme. Same ideas. Very, very different results.
Kelly thinks his system can work in the NFL because he’s seen the Patriots use some of his ideas successfully. Kelly also sees more and more teams incorporating the no-huddle as more than a situational system. The goal isn’t to hide talent deficiencies, as in college, but rather to limit what the defense can do and to throw the other team off balance. NFL coaches put in complex, meticulous gameplans. All that planning can become a moot point when the offense goes no-huddle. The defense can’t change personnel and is more likely to run base plays than anything special for that game.
Do you remember the Eagles-Patriots game from 2007? Jim Johnson came up with this wild gameplan. He moved guys all over and got very creative. Chris Gocong played some DE. Jevon Kearse played some DT. There were plays with 4 DEs on the field. LBs came and went according to different situations. If the Pats had gone no-huddle, that gameplan would have gone largely unused. You’d have seen the base defense or base Nickel package out there and that’s it.
One of the real keys for me in buying into this system is that Kelly knows how to run it. He can teach it to the players. He can show them how to practice it. He can then make adjustments during the game. I would feel very different if Andy Reid had gone to Oregon to meet with Kelly and bring his ideas to Philly. I’d be much less comfortable with that.
Football is a cyclical game. Defenses will find some way to adjust to the no-huddle attacks and then offenses will have to figure out their next counter-move.
One point I do have to stress…the no-huddle is not a gimmick. This isn’t the Wildcat where you are trying to trick defenses and hope they’re confused. The no-huddle is a system that relies on logic and tries to help the offense in some basic ways. It can be adapted to different situations so this isn’t the Run ‘n Shoot that is trying to completely change offensive thinking.
The commenter made the point that the Bills used the no-huddle and they lost 4 Super Bowls. I would actually say that is the argument for using the no-huddle. Getting to 4 straight Super Bowls is an amazing achievement. You only do that when you’ve got a great combination of personnel and scheme. As for the losses, the first was a heartbreaker. After that, the Bills had the bad luck of running into great teams. The 1991 Skins were amazingly good. The 1992 and 1993 Dallas teams were loaded with Hall of Famers. Those Bills teams would have wiped the floor with some recent Super Bowl champs. I don’t think the 2005 Steelers, 2006 Colts or either Giants team would have stood a chance against them.
We’ll see if the no-huddle is just getting ready to take off or if it will get stopped in its infancy by NFL defensive coaches. I do know that college coaches have been trying to stop it for years and have had little to no luck.