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Chowing Down On Offense

Woof, woof, mu...

In this whole debate over college vs. pro coaching I thought it would be interesting to compare Norm Chow and Charlie Weis and their approaches to the game.

Norm Chow has had incredible success on the college level, less so in his stint in the Pros. Bored, I wondered if the contrast between their two games might provide some insight into different coaching styles and schemes. Chow said he found the pro game a tough fit, "It was hard to do some things you wanted to do," he said. "There were too many restrictions in what you were trying to get done, in being able to be creative."

What struck me about Chow's quote is that his entire game plan is based on simplicity and passing. Charlie [edit] fit the pro game extremely well and had great success his first year as a coach and very good success in year two.

Here are Chow's rules for a passing offense: (via EDSBS)
First is pass protection. We are going to protect the QB, otherwise nothing works. This is the reason we spend hours and hours as coaches in meeting rooms talking about schemes. You may beat us because your players are better than ours. But as far as the scheme goes, we are going to protect the QB. Before we even begin to talk about pass routes we talk about pass protection.

The second rule as far as putting the passing game together is this: We are going to try to control the football with the forward pass. This is of course a bit of a contradiction. Statistics are what you want to make of them. But there are two statistics we believe in. One is the time of possession. We feel we need to win this battle. The other statistic we want to win is the turnover battle. We do not want to turn the ball over. Those two points are very important to us. If you can accomplish those two things you will control the football. But we are trying to control the football with the forward pass. What does this mean in our terms? Check downs!

The third aspect of the passing game is this: We want to kiss it. We all know what that means. Keep It Simple Stupid. I think the biggest mistake that coaches make is that we try to be too smart. You come to a clinic like this and we get an idea from coach Herb Meyer. Then you try to incorporate it into what you are doing. You need to develop a philosophy. When you develop that philosophy you need to stay with it. There are lots of ways to move the football. You need to develop your own philosophy and you need to keep it simple. I can not overstate that point.

We want to be able to establish the run to some extent. Also we need the ability to sprint out at times. The reason you need the ability to sprint out is this: If you can't handle the defense on the inside you can take the ball outside; if we get beat on the outside, we can step up in the pocket; if they come up the middle then get to the outside. The last thing in our passing game is that we will use a lot of screens to help control the blitz. There are so many things happening with fire zones, and zone blitzes today and there is so much suffocation with the various coverages, and disguises, that we feel the best way to mitigate the blitz is with the screen pass. We run a lot of screens where we just throw the ball outside to the receiver. When those screens get blown up or knocked down, I do not think you should be that upset about it. It is no big deal. It tells the defensive line they can not be in too big a hurry to get up the field because we may throw the screen pass. It is all done with out blitz control package.

For our basic passing game we have a strong side vertical, and we have a middle vertical, and a weak side vertical. We have a couple of horizontal stretches and we have a couple of man routes. We have a few one-man routes. We have a route to attack Cover 2, and we have the four verticals game. That is our basic passing game. There I have told you everything we do and I did it in two minutes. Again...we have one strong side vertical route, one middle vertical route, one middle vertical and one weak side vertical. We have two horizontal stretch routes, a man route, four verticals and a Cover 2 beater. That is all we basically do. We attack everyone we play with these basic plays. Our kids know these plays the second day of practice.
The similarities? Both believe in using the screen to stem the rush. Both preach simplicity, but Charlie emphasizes multiplicity. Both seem inclined to control the game with passing. (Note, despite my running rants, I'm not at all opposed to this... but you have to protect the quarterback to make it work.) Both swear by check downs. Both believe in themselves. Both have had a very high level of success in college.

Now I haven't seen the inside of the ND playbook, but it would seem Weis and Chow diverge on a couple of points.

The first is the total emphasis on pass protection by Chow. [edit] I love the idea of sprint outs under pressure and thought ND could have taken better advantage of Quinn (Clausen's more mobile than most give him credit for.) The final point seems to go along with KISS in that Chow believes his offense should be simple presumably to focus on execution, something Notre Dame struggled with considerably last year.

A little food for thought as we armchair Monday morning quarterbacks wait for '08 to begin.
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