USA TODAY Sports
From left to right: Fitzpatrick, Myers, Yates.
The offensive players of the Houston Texans are not just trying to learn a new system but a whole new way of thinking when it comes to moving the ball.
A check of the 2014 Houston Texans’ page at Pro Football Reference does not have a Team Info section that classifies the offense. The Texans’ 2013 page lists its former offense as “West Coast.” When the 2013 page is updated it will read “Erhardt-Perkins,” just like the 2013 New England Patriots.
A definition of what the Erhardt-Perkins offense entails is too involved to be covered here. Ryan Fitzpatrick, one of the contenders for quarterbacking this system gave his take, though, per Brain T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle: "It’s definitely a complex system. There’s just a lot of demands. Not only on the quarterback but everybody. You’ve got to be a smart player to play in this offense.”
Brett Kollmann of the Battle Red Blog did an excellent job of explaining some of the basic principles of Erhardt-Perkins (without referring to it by name), and it took him a couple of thousand words just to scratch the surface. Here is just one snippet of the “demands” Fitzpatrick was referring to:
The deep system of "check with me’s" is so much more than just simply changing a pass play to a run play; in fact, the quarterback has the power to turn a pass play into any play. If he smells blitz, it is the quarterback’s job to identify the Mike, call out new protections, adjust routes accordingly based on the direction and manner of the diagnosed pressure package, communicate "hot" assignments to receivers on both sides, receive the snap, look for blitzers to make sure he does not have to throw hot, locate post-snap coverage, determine whether or not your receivers are going to adjust their routes based on that coverage, and then deliver an accurate football somewhere within the span of fifteen seconds.
The “fifteen seconds” Kollman is referring to is the length of the play plus the pre-snap read. This is why, when asked what he looked for in a quarterback, the answer O’Brien gave to Don Banks of Sports Illustrated was: "To me it's really two things. The guy has to be able to throw the ball accurately and a guy has to have intelligence. He has to have a quick mind. He's got to be able to process things in two or three seconds."
The system is not deliberately complicated. On the contrary, the play-calling is simplified to a single name like “Gotti” or “Hoffa” instead of “Right. Y-Mo. 3, 15 O.P. Naked right arrow F. Pump.”
Chris B. Brown of Grantland described Erhardt-Perkins as being based on concepts instead of a sequence of terminology that indicates snap counts, play direction, passing routes, blocking assignments or play fakes:
The biggest advantage of the concept-based system is that it operates from the perspective of the most critical player on offense: the quarterback. In other systems, even if the underlying principles are the exact same, the play and its name might be very different. Rather than juggling all this information in real time, an Erhardt-Perkins quarterback only has to read a given arrangement of receivers.
The learning curve doesn’t just apply to quarterbacks. Second-year wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins has had his own struggles assimilating all the new “concepts,” per Smith: "It's not been easy. I'm not going to lie. It's a new playbook. You have to refocus. You have to do everything you did your rookie year all over again."
Yogi Berra once said of baseball, "Ninety percent of this game is half mental." Some might study the Texans this offseason and decide half of this game is ninety percent mental. That would be the offensive half.