The New York Times has an interesting article today about the evolution of offenses in the NFL. Specifically, the article deals with the proliferation of more spread-out offensive schemes and the infiltration of college-style sets like the Wildcat into NFL gameplans. It’s a good read.
What stuck out to me in the article was a quote from the Grand Poobah of the Spread Offense and Football Itself (just ask him): Urban Meyer. Meyer apparently believes that the offense he “perfected” at Utah and now Florida is quite obviously the answer to what ails all struggling offenses in the NFL:
“I think it would have worked years ago,” Meyer said. “No one has had enough—I don’t want to say courage—no one has wanted to step across that line. Everyone runs the same offense in the N.F.L. A lot of those coaches are retreads. They get fired in Minnesota, they go to St. Louis. They get fired in St. Louis and go to San Diego. I guess what gets lost in the shuffle is your objective is to go win the game. If it’s going to help you win the game, then you should run the spread.”
So, to paraphrase Urban Meyer: NFL coaches all run the same offenses as each other, they hop around from job to job—basically just switching places—continuing to run the same offenses, yet because they lack courage and forget that their job is to win, they refuse to give the spread a try despite it’s obvious ability to lead to NFL victories.
Does that make any sense to you? Me either.
Here is what does make sense: Urban Meyer’s ego is getting waaaay to big and he has clearly lost any sense of perspective.
In fact, a certain former New York Jets coach might like to have a few words with Urban Meyer regarding the latter’s insinuation that a lack of courage to try to the spread is indicative of the objective for winning getting “lost in the shuffle.” Go ahead Herm, tell Urban what you think about that:
Hmm…sounds like Herman Edwards didn’t have a problem with the objective for winning getting lost in the shuffle. Sounds like he is quite clear what the goal is, as I would assume most coaches are. And Herm did happen to be one of those “retread” coaches that Urban Meyer so deferentially (not) refers to in his quote.
Perhaps if Urban Meyer stopped polishing his Purple Heart—awarded in this case, of course, for outstanding feats of coaching courage—and stopped sniffing (and enjoying) his own spread-offense-flatulence, he would realize that there are legitimate reasons why NFL teams have been averse to using a full-fledged spread offense. Here are just a few I can come up with off the top of my head:
- QBs are the marquee players in the NFL and typically among the highest paid players on NFL rosters. The spread offense exposes QBs to more contact and thus a greater risk of injury.
- Defenses in the NFL are far more sophisticated and athletic than those in college football. One great player can make a spread offense wicked in college, but doesn’t work in the NFL. Having the right personnel to run the spread against NFL defenses is difficult to come by.
- What becomes of Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Carson Palmer, etc., etc., if their coaches suddenly develop “courage” and straighten out the shuffle in which their desire to win was lost? Perhaps Meyer is alluding more to crappy teams without QBs moving to the spread…but I’m fairly sure that non-spread compatible QBs have dominated the NFL. If a team wants to win, isn’t that a more likely blueprint than moving to the spread?
At the end of the day, many NFL teams have incorporated elements of the spread into their offense precisely because they know they have to evolve to survive and because they wake up every day understanding that the objective is to win.
The Patriots, as the article explains, set NFL records all over the place in 2007 by spreading out and throwing the ball all over the place. The Miami Dolphins introduced the spread-like Wildcat into their offense last year and used it along the way to a surprising 11-5 season. The Dolphins then “courageously” selected Pat White early in the most recent draft to move their Wildcat capabilities along even more.
So, getting to my primary point, what the hell is Urban Meyer talking about? Ah yes, what Urban Meyer is always talking about: Urban Meyer.
(Note: Click here to see Kevin Spacey channeling his inner Urban Meyer.)
You see, his statement is exactly like all other Urban Meyer statements, which are either explicitly or implicitly meant to serve his ubiquitous objective of self-aggrandizement. Talk about something that never gets lost in the shuffle.
Thanks for your input Urban on why more NFL teams don’t use the spread offense. Perhaps one day everyone will have as much courage and will to win (and one of the greatest players in history who just happens to be perfect for your perfect system) as you do.
Until then, I guess NFL coaches across the league will just keep trading places, content in their cowardice and confused about whether winning or losing is their goal.
* – Urban Meyer photo credit: Gator Bytes