Gregg Easterbrook spread offense fail

Braves & Birds does an excellent job demolishing Gregg Easterbrook’s incompetent attempt to explain the Oregon offense. Easterbrook is a bright guy, but he’s incapable of seeing what is perfectly obvious on the field. I don’t know if it’s from watching too many years of NFL football that he cannot see things common to college and high school football, or what. It’s bizarre because he’s trying to be up to speed on the new trends but just has no idea what he’s talking about. It’s like he’s heard the words midline option, no-huddle, pistol, and fly pattern and he put them into a random number generator and produced an article.

Braves and Birds does a nice job with the details, to which I’ll only add that the entire premise of Easterbrook’s “blur offense” article is off-kilter — you can’t be called the “blur offense” as doing something new if it is not, in fact, new. The idea of a no-huddle spread offense is rather old (people may remember that the first iteration of Smart Football was called “The No-Huddle Spread Offense site,” and it came out in 1999 — and it wasn’t new then, either). And of course, Gus Malzahn (who wrote a book about the no-huddle) of Auburn and formerly of Tulsa (which leads the nation in total plays run) has been doing this at least as long as Chip Kelly.

  • Gus M

    Easterbrook is merely a (sometimes) entertaining read. You have to give up on the fact that he is an expert on football. He exaggerates things all the time.

    Here’s a fairly recent example. Easterbrook wrote:

    “In last year’s playoffs, Arizona led Green Bay 31-10 in the second half — and was lucky to prevail in overtime. From the point of the 31-10 lead, Cardinals coaches called 16 passes and six rushes. Incomplete passes kept stopping the clock and keeping the Packers in the contest: After reaching a 31-10 edge, had the Cactus Wrens done nothing but run up the middle for no gain, the Pack’s comeback might not have happened. ”

    You read this without watching the game and you think about how badly the Cards blew it by stopping the clock completely. But that’s not what happened.

    What actually happened was that Green Bay scored a TD, recovered an onside kick, then scored another TD. So the Cards never had the ball offensively with a 31-10 lead. They next had the ball with a 31-24 lead.

    Second of all, the stat 16 passes and 6 runs is misleading because 11 of the passes and three of the runs happened with the game tied.

    Third, Arizona didn’t stop the clock with a bunch of incomplete passes. Warner had only 2 incomplete passes after it was 31-10.

  • I sent this to that fraud two years ago:

    Mr Easterbrook-
    Can we the readers get a firm, immutable, not-subject-to-TMQ-whimsy definition of ‘spread’ offense? Does it require five wide receivers? Or is it simply any snap with no-one under center? If so, is the Wildcat within the parameters? Is it simply whatever formation New England is lined up in each week? I know that i saw a whole bunch of ‘shotgun spread’ snaps this past Sunday that involved single-digit-swathed gentlemen kicking the ball; this insidious new formation is more widespread than you’ve reported!

    While the NFL has become more scheme-obsessed, it simply is not reasonable to expect 32 teams to run Toss Sweep R from the pro set week in and week out. What worked for Mr Lombardi was a product of his time. In this decade, we’ve seen New England win three Super Bowls with three different offenses, Indianapolis win with the same offense that Buffalo failed to win with in the 1990s, and Baltimore and Tampa Bay win with no offense at all. The point is that scheme and physical ability are both important, but successful coaching requires a combination of the two based on available resources.

    Jonas Feit
    Durham, NC

  • Teo

    MAN that ESPN article is AWFUL. I don’t know what’s worse, “standard 50 plays college playbook”, “Oklahoma ran the Franklin spread to get to the BCS title game”, “the wishbone today has completely disappeared (HELLO GEORGIA TECH)”, or the whole part about the different option plays. Seriously, i have been reading Smartfootball for a couple of years now and i could put together a better article.

  • Patrick

    “Seriously, i have been reading Smartfootball for a couple of years now and i could put together a better article.”

    A kid with down syndrome who’s never heard of football could.

  • Dog pile ensues
    (You be the judge of the ‘blur’ versus video)

  • Brett

    @Teo: to be fair to Easterbrook, I’ve always heard/assumed Paul Johnson and GaTech ran the flexbone, not the wishbone. In the flex, the two wingbacks are up near the line, not diagonally off the fullback (who lines up behind the QB in both schemes) like in the traditional wishbone.

  • Jackson

    @ Gus M: I remember watching that game (Cards v. Pack) and was amazed that Warner had all of 4 incomplete passes in 33 attempts while averaging over 11 yards per attempt. That game was hardly a good example of the need to take the air out of the ball.

    Gregg apparently misses the obvious details as well as the more technical aspects of the game.

  • Teo

    @brett: i know the difference between flexbone and wishbone very well, but really, they are pretty similar, and so are the base plays (inside/outside veer, midline, etc…). Also GT will shift to wishbone once in a while, i have seen them doing against Clemson in both games last year.
    I guess i was a bit hard on him, but i still can’t believe the guy actually got paid for that article.

  • Coach G

    The Braves and Birds response is a mess too, it rips Easterbrooks description of the midline, but then replaces it with the tailback going outside and the QB going in the middle. this is not the midline, Easterbrook swings and misses, but to the average football fan, he sounds like he knows what he is talking about. That is way more technical than the average fan ever gets so he could be making it up and 95% of people would have no idea.

  • Coach G

    What braves and birds describes as “midline option” is inverted veer that has been talked about on here several times. They also say that there are no triple option plays, only options to throw bubbles, I have seen oregon run read plays with a pitcback, not just bubbles. I think the lesson here ultimately is leave x’s and o’s articles to coaches sites like this one