In designing an effective offense—something the Oakland Raiders failed to do in 2012-13—a fundamental principle is building around the strengths of your roster. Consider two examples from recent NFL seasons:
- Since drafting Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski in 2010, the New England Patriots have reaped great success exploiting linebackers with its two-tight end passing attack. In each season since, quarterback Tom Brady has averaged more than 4,600 passing yards and a 36-to-7 TD-to-INT ratio. Meanwhile, the Patriots have averaged 13 wins and made two AFC Championship Game appearances, including a Super Bowl berth.
- During the same span, the Green Bay Packers have lost top running back Ryan Grant and dynamic tight end Jermichael Finley to multiple injuries. In turn, the Packers have relied on three- and four-receiver sets that cater to quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ elite arm strength and accuracy. Despite a de-emphasis of the running game—Green Bay has ranked 20th, 26th, and 16th, respectively, in rushing attempts from 2010-11 to 2012-13—the Packers have won a Super Bowl title, making the playoffs in each of the last three seasons. Rodgers has averaged more than 4,300 passing yards a season while topping a 100.00 quarterback rating each year.
It might seem laughable that a team like the Raiders could emulate these successes anytime soon. Their follies in the draft and in managing the salary cap in recent years have left them with arguably one of the worst rosters in the league.
Last season, it showed: Oakland, running a woefully ill-fitting zone-blocking scheme, finished 26th in points scored, en route to a 4-12 season.
Yet on closer inspection, the Raiders—like the Patriots and the Packers—appear to be an ideal candidate to adopt some of the permutations of the spread offense that have sprouted all over the college and professional games during the past decade.
Consider some strengths of Oakland’s current roster: