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There’s no wrong way, to build an offense: Chiefs vs. Ravens on MNF

smart teams build around their talent, not force it upon them

Former NFL Coach Mike Martz never heard that tagline.

As a lifelong Bears fan, I was subjected to the outright nonsense that was former offensive coordinator Mike Martz. Martz if you didn’t know, was hailed as the architect of the “Greatest show on Turf” of the Rams in the early 2000’s. This offense thrived on hitting deep and intermediate shots based off of similar route concepts like “dagger” and “Mills” ( the latter a staple of Fun ‘n’ Gun architect, former Florida Head Coach Steve Spurrier) and scoring tons of points in the process. What made this work, besides a soft tossing but accurate as hell QB in Kurt Warner, or a downfield speedster in Isaac Bruce and route running maven in Torry Holt, was a giant ass future Hall of Fame tackle named Orlando Pace, who allowed these deep pass plays to develop without getting his QB throttled. Oh, and there was some guy named Marshall Faulk who was incredibly gifted and intelligent, but ya know, sports.

At the turn of the decade, Mike Martz tried to implement this SAME offense with the likes of Jay Cutler because he was an egomaniac who knew all of the sports and their wonders. Granted, Jay Cutler could push the ball downfield, but a 7th round left Tackle, and scrub receivers (no offense to Johnny Knox), didn’t exactly make this a formidable offense that particularly fit the personnel. At one point during a game, the cameras caught Jay Cutler telling someone to tell Martz to “f*ck off”, if I may be so bold. I am in favor of coaches needing to adjust their offense to what their players do best, and it’s almost as true in basketball too. The whole concept of “run my scheme, my way!” is slowly starting to evaporate in the ever so conservative NFL. (I don’t mean politically, I mean schematically, etc.)

Wrong place at the wrong time

There are a handful of QB’s in the past decade plus that would have had success doing what either the Cardinals are doing with Kyler Murray, or Mahomes and Jackson have going with their perfect setup, but have gotten lost in the fold. They are ran spread offenses in college, NFL guru’s wanted them to run pro style, and it wasn’t going to work. If the NFL had its head out of the sand, they would know that in the 2000’s and especially this past decade, that high schools and colleges aren’t running pro style tight end offenses as often anymore. They are going spread. How in the hell do they expect young guys who have played in these less sophisticated but productive offenses to figure out masters level concepts in the NFL, especially in a setting with veteran amazing athletes?

Are we scoring points or curing diseases? Just run concepts that let guys be stud players.

Here is where the Chiefs and Ravens had it figured out. Before the 2018 draft, Ravens HC John Harbaugh pulled together his OC, QB coach, and others to say: “Hey, what kind of offense can we make around Lamar Jackson, if he happens to fall to us?” One of those staff members was Greg Roman, who formerly ran the early 2010’s 49ers offense with that Colin Kaepernick fella, as well as the mid 2010’s offense in Buffalo with Tyrod Taylor in Buffalo, both of which were elite running QB’s. I would ledger a guess that he would have an immense field of knowledge about what a guy like Jackson could do. Fast forward to 2019 when Jackson tore up the NFL with Roman as his Offensive Coordinator. Weird, right!?

Before we deem the Ravens as Kanye West level self professed deities and genius’, the first team to really utilize a raw talent and totally rework a normal sophisticated NFL offense around their talent was the Redskins in 2012 with RG3. “Of course, you can’t run college stuff in the pros, guys are too fast!” says all the naysayers, cognoscenti, and “those in the know”. You know who politely said we know what we’re doing? Head coach at the time Mike Shanahan, and his whiz kid son, Kyle. You may have heard of Kyle, he runs the 49ers offense at 40 years old, and uses outside zone run concepts and long play action of ruin teams. Sort of like his dad did in the 1990’s with the Broncos. Weird, I know, right!!??

***Side Note: However, RG3 to Jackson comparisons are not fair, because Jackson has proven himself to be a more refined passer, both in mechanics (it’s side arm, but he is accurate as hell), and seeing the field. Not to call him Peyton Manning, but he isn’t in over his head either. How the NFL adjusts to the Ravens maybe less sophisticated offense will remain to be seen, but I am sure the Ravens are self-scouting themselves without a doubt, and making small formation alterations to throw teams off their scent, as we speak.

AnDy ReId Is PoOr At MaNaGiNg ThE cLoCk

The Chiefs with Mahomes are a slightly different deal and but very similar. Mahomes wasn’t given proper credit, because he played at Texas Tech (under current Cards HC Kliff Kingsbury) and was written off as “just an Air Raid offense” guy. The Air Raid has been run for the past 20 years by Mike Leach, and other acolytes like Oklahoma’s Head Coach Lincoln Riley. They seem to be pretty good and sports offenses, right? I mean you did see Miss State carve up LSU on basic concepts like 4 verts and mesh routes, right? Unreal. But, with so much turnover in college ever year, you want something guys can acclimate to quickly. Hence, that’s why the Air Raid has been trickling down into high schools during the 2000’s. Nonetheless, the one thing many scouts chose to ignore, because Mahomes wasn’t throwing it, the “RIGHT WAY”, was that Mahomes had an absolute nuclear friggin’ arm…. sort of like the bad guy from Black Panther.

What the Chiefs have done, besides surround Mahomes with a perennial Pro Bowl Tight End, and two light years fast receivers, is provide a coach that is more than open to not being methodical and going by the book, and that’s Andy Reid. Reid is a West Coast offense guy, serving under Packers coach Mike Holmgren (along with Jon Gruden) in the 1990’s, but this point he’s like “hey, I’m here to ball out. Let’s borrow some concepts and destroy people”. In reality, Reid has implemented so many college concepts into the NFL, and not thought twice about it. Maybe if Reid has lesser talented players, maybe they wouldn’t be blowing the doors off of people, but the Chiefs offense in 2016 and 2017 (Pre Mahomes) was really good with Alex Smith (when Natt Nagy was OC), so he was on to something.

There is no wrong way to build an offense, especially in the past few years. Guys like Murray and Mayfield would have been an after thought getting picked number one as recently as earlier in the decade, but now the college game has finally bled into the pros. Not to mention too, Mahomes and Jackson are competitive confident guys, who don’t come off as douche bags, and just want to win. Maybe NFL Scouts were looking for bro’d out alphas in pre draft interview process, but leadership comes in all forms too. Tune in Monday night, and find out the hell why.

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