Will the Browns' Brian Daboll Successfully Implement the Hybrid Offense?
Ideally, Brian Daboll would have been an offensive coordinator at some point prior to taking the position with the Browns in 2009. Unfortunately, his inexperience showed last season as the Browns struggled to develop a consistent offensive identity.
The Browns are undergoing a drastic change in their offensive philosophy this offseason and if they are to be successful, Brian Daboll must step up his game.
Daboll was born in Ontario, grew up in Buffalo, and played safety at the University of Rochester in New York. As a senior, he had three interceptions in a game against Case Western Reserve, but suffered a career-ending neck injury during the season.
After hurting his neck, Daboll stayed close to the game by helping out the Rochester coaches in any capacity he could.
In 1997, while visiting friends at William & Mary College, one of the football team's quality control assistants promptly quit his job. Daboll walked in, talked to the coach, applied for the restricted earnings position, and landed the job.
Restricted earnings means exactly that, almost nothing, and Daboll relied on his grandparents to help him out while he pursued his passion.
From William & Mary, Daboll moved on to a coveted graduate assistant position with Nick Saban's Michigan state coaching staff in 1998. Saban had previously served as an assistant to Bill Belichick in Cleveland.
While at Michigan State, Daboll apparently impressed Saban, because he recommended Daboll to Belichick when the NFL coach was looking for a defensive assistant in 2000. Eric Mangini was the defensive backs coach when Daboll came to New England.
Daboll was promoted to wide receivers coach under Charlie Weis in 2002 and spent the next five seasons in that capacity. He has received credit for developing Deion Branch and David Givens.
Daboll left New England and went to the New York Jets, where he served as the quarterbacks' coach from 2007-2008 under Mangini.
Eric Mangini gave Daboll his first offensive coordinator job of any kind when he joined the Cleveland Browns in 2009. Since he had spent years under his mentor, Charlie Weis, with New England, everybody assumed he would bring the Weis' pro-style offense with him. If he has, we either haven't seen it, or recognized it.
Weis-Erhardt-Perkins Offense and The West Coast Offense
Weis ran what is known as the Erhardt-Perkins Offense in New England. This offense often uses the pass to set up the run via play action passing.
Despite its reputation, this system is not always a run-first offense.
Weis often tweaked the Erhardt and ran the offense, spread wide open, with five potential receivers and an empty backfield. He took advantage of personnel groupings and defensive sets to bring the running back back into formation, where he'd call for a quick hitting blast inside tackle.
A common personnel grouping in the Ernhardt is two tight ends, two receivers and a running back.
The groupings line up with the running back in formation, or split out depending on the situation and the defense.
The running game would take advantage of the nickel and dime packages and pick up four-to-six yard bursts inside the tackles. When the safeties crept into the box, Brady would go over the top.
It was a very nice, elegant offense to watch. Brady would work Welker and Branch,in different years, on different teams, underneath.
By tweaking the offense and using concepts from Air Coryell and other offenses common to the period, Weis created his version that he implemented at Notre Dame.
We saw no resemblance to this in Cleveland last year. Daboll called plays reminiscent of a neighborhood pee-wee game.
Run after run up the middle or inside the tackles, followed by a short slant or intermediate post.
Even when the team went on a four game winning streak it was more of a traditional I formation set with a lead fullback, Lawrence Vickers, opening holes for Jerome Harrison to run through.
The most imaginative part of our offense was the Wildcat, and by midseason everybody knew Cribbs was going to keep it, and keyed on him. Daboll looked hopelessly overmatched and the Browns scored 132 less points then their opponents in 2009.
At the end of the year, the Browns ripped off four straight wins on the strength of Rob Ryan's creative defensive pressure and Jerome Harrison's determined running.
Now, Browns Executive Mike Holmgren has brought in Senior Advisor to the President Gil Haskell to teach Daboll, who couldn't successfully implement his own offense, how to combine the West Coast with the Erhardt-Perkins.
The West Coast offense is more a philosophy than a set of scripted plays. It stipulates that an offense should pass the ball and spread the defense horizontally to set up the run, not the other way around. It is a passing, ball-control offense.
The West Coast system uses short, high-percentage passing routes. Since the routes are short, ideally the quarterback throws quickly. Their is less of a need for blockers and more receivers can be used.
They could use the West Coast's precision short routes to move the chains and stretch the field horizontally, opening up spots for the running game and the intermediate passing game.
This also would open up short routes that get talented receivers like Josh Cribbs in space with defenders. That would be to our benefit.
Keep in mind Both offenses often use five receivers and they could be a really good building blocks for a pass first to set up the run offense.
A practical example of a Weis pass play:
Spread Offense.One receiver runs a slant, tight end runs up the seam, running back runs to the flat, tight end runs a crossing pattern and other rceiver runs a fly pattern. The quarterback focuses on the slant, then the cross, the seam, the fly and the flat.
A practical example of a West Coast pass play
Two Back Set:One back runs a wheel route, the other back runs to the flat, both receivers run short posts and the tight end runs to the sideline. The quarterback focuses on the posts, sideline, wheel and the flat.
These plays that I pulled from the net have definite similarities and show how easily the prospects of synthesizing the two offensive sets may be.
Both offenses use short passes to set up the run. Both systems set up the long ball by using the short pass. In both offenses, the receivers benefit by getting the ball in space in a number of instances.
This hybridization could work.
Jake Delhomme could actually flourish in a system like this, and it would play to the strengths of an accurate, mobile, young quarterback like Colt McCoy.
Ben Watson, Mohamed Massaquoi, Josh Cribbs, Brian Robiskie; all of these players have skill sets that would fit this type of offense.
Montario Hardesty has a reputation for running wonderful routes and having great hands and would be a potential weapon in the hybrid.
If Daboll understands the schemes and the young players on the Browns get comfortable with the hybrid offense, will Daboll actually call the plays in actual games?
Or, will he revert to his security blanket, the running game, and send Harrison or Montario Hardesty out there 30-35 times a game?
I don't know. Can you win consistently in the NFL running the ball 40+ times a game? Holmgren didn't bring Haskell in to teach Daboll how to call Harrison's number.
If Daboll does just that, he could very well be one of the first coaching casualties of the upcoming season.
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