Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Most Influential Spread Offense Games Of The Last Decade

When you think of the spread offense over the last decade (2000-2009), there have been some specific games and moments that have helped solidify this offensive style as the most dynamic and exciting offense over the past 10 years. In addition, on the defensive side of the ball there have been a few important stops against spread offenses that have helped define the need for a new style of defense.

Lets take a look of some of these moments and games over the past decade:

1) Appalachian State University vs the University of Michigan -September 2007

The 2007 Appalachian State vs Michigan game was held on September 1, 2007 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

It pitted the #5 ranked Michigan Wolverines against the two-time defending champions of the Division I FCS (1-AA), the Appalachian State Mountaineers.

In what was hailed as one of the biggest upsets in all of sports, the Mountaineers shocked the Wolverines 34–32. It was the first win by a team in Division I FCS team over a ranked team in Division I FBS (formerly Division I-A) since the NCAA split the divisions in 1978. The game has been referred to by one sports writer as the 'Miracle in Michigan'.

Appalachian State ran a potent spread offense, lead by sophomore quarterback Armanti Edwards. Many college football experts credited the spread offense system that ASU ran as the ultimate equalizer and the reason for the win.

The game made the front page of The New York Times, which called the game "one of the biggest upsets in college football history" and drew a comparison to David and Goliath.

2) University of Pittsburgh vs West Virginia University - November 2005, December 2007

November 2005 - The 98th version of the Backyard Brawl saw WVU dominate a much slower PITT team 45-13, as admitted by head coach Dave Wannstedt: "They're just faster then us out there, we need to get faster in order to compete".

Pat White rushed for a record 220 yards and two scores, while Steve Slaton rushed for 179 yards and two scores in the game for the potent WVU spread offense.

December 2007 - The 100th edition of the Backyard Brawl had national implications, with West Virginia ranked #2 in the BCS, all they needed was a win over there rival PITT to get into the BCS Championship game vs Ohio State. The Mountaineers were a 4 touchdown favorite in the game.

With the Mountaineers dominating the two previous match-ups in 2005 and 2006, Dave Wannstedt and his defensive staff engineered a great game plan, boxing in the high powered spread option offense of West Virginia, not allowing any big plays as in previous years.

After the 13-9 upset victory, Wannstedt reflected back on the comments he made after the 2005 game, "I guess we finally got faster".

3) University of Oregon vs University of Michigan - September 2007

This game was Michigan's worst defeat since 1968, a 39-7 loss in Ann Arbor. Dennis Dixon threw for 368 yards and a career high 4 touchdowns passes, he also rushed for 76 yards and one touchdown.

The Ducks led 31-7 at halftime, and faced little opposition in the second half. According to Oregon coach Mike Bellotti the game was a "good win because I think there were some questions about how Michigan was going to bounce back, and whether we would be competitive. I think our players took that to heart." This game caused Michigan to open the season with two home losses, both to spread offense teams featuring dual threat quarterbacks.

4) West Virginia University vs University of Georgia - Sugar Bowl, January 2006

The 2006 Sugar Bowl featured the Big East champions, the West Virginia Mountaineers and the SEC champions, the Georgia Bulldogs. The game is thought to have raised the Big East's profile in the wake of losing 3 members to the ACC, and being called by some in the media as 'The Big Least'.

The game was played in Atlanta as the Louisiana Superdome was still unfit to host a game in the months after Hurricane Katrina. Georgia was favored by 2 touchdowns, and had a home field advantage playing in Atlanta.

Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese proclaimed the win the most significant football victory in conference history because it gave credibility back to the revamped league.

True freshman Steve Slaton, now with the Houston Texans in the NFL rushed for 204 yards and three TDs in a 38-35 win for WVU.

5) University of Florida vs University of Oklahoma - BCS Championship, January 2009

Tim Tebow's two touchdown passes and Percy Harvin's two-yard run led the Florida Gators to their second BCS National Championship in three years. The Gators defeated the Oklahoma Sooners, 24-14, in front of a record crowd of 78,468 in Miami.

Urban Meyer became the first coach to win two BCS championship games, and one of only five coaches in NCAA history to win two titles in his first four years at a college.

Tim Tebow and Sam Bradford, two high profiled spread offense quarterbacks combined for four interceptions in the game despite throwing for just eight combined over the course of the regular season.

6) New England Patriots vs New York Giants - December, 2007

In their final regular season game, the 15-0 Patriots traveled to Giants Stadium, trying to win a record 16th game of the season. With the game scheduled to air on NFL Network, not available on some cable providers, the NFL arranged a three-way simulcast of the game with CBS and NBC, the first time an NFL game was broadcast on three networks, and the first national simulcast of any NFL game since Super Bowl I.

The high powered pro spread offense of New England lead by Tom Brady, Randy Moss, and Wes Welker won a hard fought 38-35 game. In this game, Randy Moss set the record for most touchdown receptions in a season with 23, and Tom Brady set one for touchdown passes with 50.

These teams met again in Super Bowl XLII a month later, with the Giants upsetting the Patriots 17-14.

7) Texas Tech University vs University of Texas - November 2008

Number 5 ranked Texas Tech led the Texas Longhorns for most of the game, and by as much as nineteen points at one point. Texas rallied to take a one-point lead with less than 2 minutes remaining in the game.

Graham Harrell's last pass of the game was to wide receiver Michael Crabtree who caught the ball near the right sideline and somehow broke away from two Longhorn defenders to scamper in for the winning score with second left to play. The extra point gave Texas Tech a 39–33 lead with one second remaining.

8) University of Texas vs University of Southern California - BCS Championship, January 2006

The University of Southern California (USC) entered the game with a 34 game winning streak, the longest active streak in Division I-A, having won the 2004 BCS National Championship.

Texas brought the second longest active winning streak into the game, having won 19 straight, and also entered as Rose Bowl defending champion, having defeated Michigan in the 2005 Rose Bowl. Their combined 53 game win streak was an NCAA record for teams playing each other.

Vince Young, possibly the most dynamic dual threat quarterback in NCAA history accounted for 467 total yards (passing and running) in the championship game, which is the best performance ever in a BCS Championship game.

Facing 4th and 5 from the 9 yard line on the games final drive, Young received the shotgun snap and found his receivers covered. He then scampered towards the right sideline and received a critical block from WR Justin Blalock as he won the footrace to the end zone. The score, Young's third rushing touchdown of the game, gave the Longhorns a one point lead with 19 seconds left in the game. Young successfully reached the end zone again on the following two point conversion, giving the Longhorns a 41–38 victory.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Looking Back At The Decade Of The Spread Offense - Coaches

It would be hard to argue that the spread offense hasn't been one of, if not the most influential aspect of American football over the last decade (2000-2009). From the beginning of the decade to the present, the concept and execution of spreading the football field in order to create mismatches in both the passing and running games has changed the game forever on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.

Lets take a look at the decade and some of the major coaching influences on the spread offense.

1) Rich Rodriguez -West Virginia (2001-2007), Michigan (2008-present)

In 2001, Rich Rodriguez was named head football coach of his Alma Mater, West Virginia University. In Rodriguez's first season, the Mountaineers went 3-8. The 2002 team registered the greatest turn around in Big East football history with a 9-4 record, with back-to-back road wins against ranked Virginia Tech and Pitt, and a Continental Tire Bowl berth. The Mountaineers finished second in the nation in rushing with 283 yards per game out of the spread offense that Rodriguez created at Glenville State College, and refined at Tulane and Clemson as offensive coordinator under Tommy Bowden.

Rodriguez was one of the most successful coaches in West Virginia University history. He lead the first consecutive Top 10 finishes in school history, four consecutive New Year's day bowl appearances, the school's first BCS bowl win over SEC champion Georgia in 2005, three Big East championships, eight wins over Top 25 teams, twenty six straight weeks in the Top 25, a 30-6 record from 2005-2007.

It could be argued that Rodriguez invented the 'zone read' concept out of the spread offense, which places a dual threat quarterback into a read situation out of the shot gun, with a split second decision required on whether he keeps the ball or hands it off at the mesh point with the tailback running a zone play, depending on what the backside defensive end on the line of scrimmage does on the play. This play alone has spread in popularity amongst hundreds (if not thousands) of college, high school, and junior football teams throughout the United States over the decade.

The triple option has since been added to the zone read, see Coach Rod explain it here back in 2007.

2) Urban Meyer - Utah (2003-2004), Florida (2005-present)

In his first year at Utah, Meyer was named the Mountain West Conference football Coach of the Year, posting a 10–2 record. He also earned honors as The Sporting News National Coach of the Year, the first University of Utah coach to do so. Meyer's success can be attributed to his spread offense system. At Utah, Meyer's base offense displayed three, four, or five wide receivers and showcased the quarterback in the shotgun formation. With the Utes, he introduced the concept of motion into the backfield from perimeter skill players and turned it into an spread option attack, adding elements of the traditional run oriented option offense.

In 2004, Meyer led the undefeated Utes to a Bowl Championship Series bid, something that had not been done by a team from a non-automatically qualifying BCS conference since the BCS' creation in 1998. He remained at Utah long enough to coach the team to a Fiesta Bowl win over Pittsburgh, capping off the Utes' first undefeated season (12–0) since 1930.

In 2005, Meyer was hired as the head football coach of the University of Florida. Immediately, people in the media and some football coaches claimed that the style of spread offense Meyer ran at Utah could never make it in the tough SEC, known for its great defensive speed.

Urban Meyer has compiled a record of 56-10 since 2005 at Florida, winning two national championships and two SEC championships in that period. The Sporting News has just awarded him college football coach of the decade.

3) Joe Tiller - Purdue University (2000-2008)

Joe Tiller was the head football coach at Purdue University from 1997 to 2008. During his tenure with Purdue, Tiller led the Boilermakers to ten bowl games in twelve years. Prior to Tiller's arrival in 1997, the Boilermakers had played in only five bowl games.

He was the first to use the spread offense in the Big Ten, a more pass oriented spread then run. Under Tiller and his spread offense, Purdue annually had one of the best offenses in the Big 10.

4) Mike Leach - Texas Tech (2000-present)

Under Mike Leach, Texas Tech has been known for its high-scoring, pass oriented spread offense. In a 2004 game vs TCU, the Red Raiders fell behind 21-0 late in the 2nd quarter, later to put on an offensive show and eventually win the game 70–35.

Texas Tech ended the 2008 regular season with 11 wins and 1 loss, the best in school history. The season also marked the first win over a #1 ranked team (Texas). The Red Raiders, along with Oklahoma and Texas, shared the Big 12 South division title. On December 2, 2008, the Associated Press named Mike Leach the Big 12 Coach of the Year.

Mike Leach is a disciple of Hal Mumme, known for developing the Air Raid offense.

5) Mike Martz - St Louis Rams (2000-2005)

Mike Martz became the head coach of the Saint Louis Rams on February 2, 2000 after Dick Vermeil retired immediately after winning Super Bowl XXXIV. He led the Rams to a 10–6 regular season record in 2000, but they lost in the 1st round to the New Orleans Saints 31–28.

The 'Greatest Show On Turf' went on to post a 14-2 record in 2001, before losing in Super Bowl XXXVI to the New England Patriots on a last second field goal.

Martz's spread offense relied on getting all five receivers into pass patterns that stretched the field vertically and horizontally, setting up defensive backs with route technique, and the quarterback throwing to a spot where the receiver could make the catch and turn up field for large 'run after catches' or RAC.

Pass protection was critical, because at least two of the five receivers would run a deep in, skinny post, comeback, speed out, or shallow cross pattern. Mike Martz credits the offensive system as being influenced by Sid Gillman and refined by former NFL coach Don Coryell of the San Diego Chargers.

6) Chip Kelly - University of Oregon (2007-present)

Chip Kelly's potent spread option offense attack was an instant success at the University of Oregon. In 2007, his first season with the Ducks as Offensive Coordinator, they led the Pac-10 in scoring (38.2 ppg) and total offense (468 ypg), and also amassed the most yards in the history of Oregon football.

In March 2009, Chip Kelly was named head coach of Oregon, his first head coaching job at the collegiate level. Kelly became the first Pac-10 football coach to win an outright conference championship in his first season, sending the University of Oregon to the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1995.

On December 7th, 2009 Coach Kelly was named Pac-10 Coach Of The Year. He is the second Ducks coach to earn the honor, the other one being Rich Brooks , who won the award twice.

Chip Kelly's spread offense is a favorite here at SpreadOffense.com, check out some of the video clips of the Ducks at Spread Offense TV

7) Gus Malzahn - University of Arkansas (2006), University of Tulsa (2007-2008), Auburn University (2009 - present)

Gus Malzahn is known as one of the innovators of the wildcat offense, and has been described as one of the games most innovative offensive minds, not just in the college ranks, but in all of football.

Malzahn joined Houston Nutt's University of Arkansas staff after the 2005 season, as offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach. Malzahn was part of the Razorbacks 2006 successful season in which they won the SEC Western Division championship, and installed the 'WildCat/WildHog' formation with the help of quarterbacks coach, David Lee.

In January, 2007, Malzahn received an offer from the University of Tulsa to be co-offensive coordinator (with Herb Hand, formally of West Virginia the other coordinator) and Assistant Head Coach. During the 2007 at Tulsa, Malzahn emerged as one of the premier offensive minds in college football, as Tulsa ranked first in the nation in total yards per game, ahead of Texas Tech and Hawaii, and with a more balanced spread offense attack.

The 2008 Tulsa Golden Hurricane offense was the nation's most balanced spread offense attack, ranking 5th in the nation in rushing and 9th in the nation in passing.

On December 28, 2008, Gus Malzahn was named offensive coordinator of Auburn University.

Gus Malzahn's spread offense is also a favorite here at SpreadOffense.com, check out some of the video clips of Malzahn's offenses in action at Spread Offense TV

8) Josh McDaniels - New England Patriots (2005-2008), Denver Broncos (2009-present)

Josh McDaniels will go down in spread offense lore as the offensive coordinator who lead the New England Patriots 2007 offensive squad to 67 touchdowns (50 passing and 17 rushing) and 589 total points.

The New England Patriots in 2007 became the first NFL team to pass more than half the time from the shotgun spread offense formation. That offense was perhaps the most dynamic single season group in NFL history.

9) David Lee - University of Arkansas (2003-2006), Miami Dolphins (2007-present)

David Lee was named “Innovator of the Year” in 2008 by the Sporting News for introducing the “Wildcat offense” to the National Football League.

Bill Parcells, the VP of Football Operations for the Miami Dolphins hired Lee to be the Dolphins quarterback coach for the 2008 season, where he still holds that position.

In college, Lee worked with Gus Malzahn in 2006 at Arkansas where they installed the 'WildCat or WildHog' formation, showcasing Darren McFadden in the single wing formation.

Currently with the Miami Dolphins, David Lee works closely with Offensive Coordinator Dan Henning and Tight Ends Coach George DeLeone to implement the Miami WildCat formation.

This formation features Ronnie Brown, Ricky Williams, and Pat White as the 'wildcat' or single wing back accepting the snap.

10) Greg Davis - University of Texas (2000-present)

Greg Davis is currently the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for the University of Texas. In 2006, he was awarded the Broyles Award for the nation's top assistant coach for the 2005 season which included a national championship victory in the Rose Bowl over USC.

In that season, Vince Young established himself as one of the most dynamic dual threat quarterbacks in NCAA history, and Coach Davis implemented many zone read concepts into the Longhorn offense, using Young's dynamic running and passing ability out of the spread offense.

One of Davis's best known skill sets is his ability to coach the quarterback position. During his 11 years at Texas, Davis has developed Chris Simms, Major Applewhite, Vince Young, and Colt McCoy.

In the next two posts, we will look at some of the biggest players and individual plays in the last decade dominated by the spread offense.