PRO PS WELCOME TO THE NFL – Wild Card Saturday

Posted: January 7, 2018 in All Things Power Spread

Now that Power Spread has found its way into the NFL, I will be taking a look at the NFL Playoffs from a PS Perspective 

THE TEAMS

Kansas City Chiefs

Coaches

Andy Reid is a BYU/West Coast guy. Traditionally, BYU played a college “spread” style of West Coast Offense from the 70s – 90s until they switched over to Power Spread. The NFL was dominated by the West Coast Offense of Sid Gillman, then Bill Walsh. Now, many WC influences are combining with Power Spread concepts to form what I call ProPS.

Offense

IF Reid can stay aggressive in scheme, play calling, and timing then KC will have a chance to recapture their early season form and make a run at the Super Bowl. OC Matt Nagy is calling the plays, but Reid’s the one in charge. Offensive aggression for the Chiefs will begin and end with Reid.

The Field needs to be stretched vertically as well as horizontally. Reid is a master at misdirection, but some simple play action + attack schemes need to be implemented. Attack the Space and Time with simple spread sets + route designs along with Tempo Huddle or No Huddle. Once the opponent is on its heels power the middle with Kareem Hunt. When the Opponent is hesitant and desperate on what’s coming next, Andy’s misdirection works brilliantly. When Andy overthinks all the “tricks” and stays short in the field, then disaster soon ensues. It feeds on itself in either direction. ANDY REID NEEDS TO STAY AGGRESSIVE FROM BEGINNING TO END AND THE CHIEFS HAVE A SHOT AT THE SUPER BOWL.

Defense

It’s the same thing on Defense. The Chiefs are getting old and injured on that side of the ball, but old ball coach Bob Sutton has recently shown a willingness to be aggressive in his blitz and mixing coverages. When the personnel is lacking, Sutton goes back to his old ways with pure 4 man rushes and very little mixing in the back. This cannot happen. Regardless of his personnel this is the time to AMP UP THE DEFENSE. Especially with a young QB. If they play a top 5 QB, then this idea needs tweaked, but against the Titans the Defense needs to be as aggressive as the Offense.

Tennessee Titans

Coaches

Another pair of old ball coaches in Mike Mularkey and Dick LeBeau. Mularkey also likes to mix up his offensive variety like Reid. Unlike Reid, Mularkey is more power + spread oriented. He learned R&S spread pass concepts while at Florida, but played for the power offenses of the Vikings and Steelers in the NFL. He learned the staple NFL West Coast with Tampa Bay. He also witnessed an early version of power spread under Chan Gailey and Ron Erhardt in the form of “Slash” that took the Steelers to the Super Bowl. He ran a nice pro power spread offense with Matt Ryan in Atlanta.

Offense

With the talented but young Marcus Mariota, the offense has had his struggles. There is plenty of talent on the offense, but Mariota came from a pure Power Spread scheme under Chip Kelly. It’s all about Space and Time in this style of offense. A very different concept than Personnel and Design implemented in the NFL. Mularkey’s ideas are always solid, but not always subtle. His ProPS offense with Mariota mixes heavy power sets with spread sets while utilizing some tempo. He uses Mariota’s legs to some extent, but not enough. Mariota is not adept at reading defenses from the pocket. Some of what Mularkey does is interesting-definitely a power spread mentality – but it’s a real work in progress right now.

Defense

In some ways LeBeau is all about the PS Defense we are seeing and will continue to see in the future. LeBeau’s ideas manifested in the 90s in what is now called Zone Blitz – a way to play aggressive D while eliminating some of the risk. Over time offenses have learned ways to combat his schemes, but Dick continues to make subtle changes. His defenses are not cutting edge anymore but they are still very good.

LosAngeles Rams

Coaches

The first ProPSAR team in the NFL. PSAR is a combo of power spread concepts in an air raid type of system. Tony Franklin’s system first started tinkering with this idea, while Dana Holgorsen brought it to full fruition after his time at Houston, marrying Art Briles power spread with air raid principles. (Briles is not Air Raid – unbeknownst to most). Sean McVey became head coach at a young age, but he knew people. His grandfather is John McVey, the former 49er general manager who helped build a 5 time SB winner. McVey has surrounded himself with long time NFL coaches Joe Barry, Greg Olson, and Wade Phillips to name a few. Jeff Fisher did not leave the cupboard bare so there was something to start with for McVey and his crew.

Offense

Sean’s offensive roots are Bill Walsh with a close tie to the Shanahans. He actually helped Kyle Shanahan construct an early version of Pro PS for RG III when they were together at Washington. Both Shanahan and McVey learned Spread principles from college to incorporate for their talented QB. For the Rams, McVey may have gotten insight from Sonny Dykes or Tony Franklin- Jared Goff’s college HC and OC. Combining a power heavy WC offense from the Shanahans with the PSAR system of Goff’s former team has led to same innovative scheming for by the Rams not seen previously in the NFL. OC Matt LaFleur actually coached with Brian Kelly in the past. WRs coach Eric Yarber was with Noel Mazzone. Asst WRs coach Zac Taylor with Eddie Gran. There are spread ideas floating all around this Rams offense. They also have done a real nice job fitting the personnel. They have yet to reach their potential. Will we see it in the playoffs or have to wait until next year?

Defense

The defense is all Wade Phillips. Smart move by McVey. There is some decent talent left over from the Fisher regime. Fisher always had decent defenses, but ran a 4-3 instead of Phillips’ patented 3-4/2-4. Like the pro he is, Phillips has adjusted and actually runs more 4 man fronts than I saw from him in Denver and Houston, though the 2 DEs are really big OLBs with their hands in their dirt. The bottom line is that the Rams defense has been good. I don’t see it improving much during the playoffs as there needs to be more time and personnel moves for Phillips’ style of D, but they will be good enough as long as the Offense does its job.

Atlanta Falcons

Coaches

A lot of fans may be unaware that Atlanta changed both of their coordinators. Steve Sarkisian took over for Kyle Shanahan (49er HC) and Marquand Manuel took over after Richard Smith was let go. These changes have not been smooth. Quinn is the leader of the Defense so that has gone better, but the Offense has been really up and down after a record setting year under Shanahan in 2016.

Offense

Steve Sarkisian’s schemes at USC in 2008 had a lot to do with my interest in football schemes and the underlying concepts that apply to so much in life. He was originally a BYU west coast spread guy who always liked a balance of power running to compliment the passing game. His creativity and timing have always been outstanding. Of course it didn’t take a smart guy like Steve to jump over to Power Spread schemes when he became a head coach first at Washington then USC. His offenses have always been good – even his one game appearance as Bama’s OC in last year’s Ch game.

This year hasn’t been so smooth for Sarkisian . I do think there’s several factors involved.

#1 Dan Quinn.

Quinn is a defensive guy but seems to get involved a lot in all aspects of his team, including offense. Defensive guys usually don’t like a lot of points and believe in ball control. These concepts are opposite the first precept of Power Spread – Aggression. Sarkisian has recently learned about space as it applies to his long time history of west coast play design. Getting guys in space with tempo have become his signature. Quinn’s ideas may be conflicting with what Sarkisian knows to do. This leads to the #2.

#2 Sarkisian is a newbie to the NFL.

He’s the “college guy” who may feel very inclined at this time to blend in to the rest of the NFL – listen and learn – especially from his Head Coach. This would be a detriment as Power Spread half ass is worse than no power spread at all.

#3 Matt Ryan struggles to adjust to new coordinators.

He was struggling early in Shanahan’s first year and all the previous OC changes both at Atlanta and Boston College. Ryan is playing a west coast mentality – Personnel+Design not Space+Time in a PS system. I have seen him struggle with this all year. I saw signs of improvement the second half of the year but it never lasted long. I’m surprised it never totally clicked for Ryan. Even the last game – a win against Carolina – the Offense didn’t click after the first drive.

So with all of the above being said, I don’t see how the playoffs will be any different for Atlanta. Sarkisian has shown some good schemes and play calling all year, but other times Atlanta has run the ball every first down or showed fractured passing game. None of this makes sense from what I’ve seen from Sarkisian for over a decade. This has got to be a combo of Quinn + Ryan + Sarkisian trying hard to adjust.

If it’s going to click it better happen fast. The talent is there both in the booth and on the field. It’s possible but don’t count on it.

Defense

Quinn is from the Pete Carroll line of defense(see above). He also has influences from Nick Saban and Will Muschamp. Quinn, like Gus Bradley, has evolved the Carroll 4-3 D, but likes to keep the scheme simple so his players don’t have to think too much and play fast. Not as much aggressive mixing as Bradley or Wash. Like Carroll, Quinn has proven to be very adept with Personnel in all 3 phases – acquiring, positioning and teaching. Atlanta has good talent and speed on defense with great attitudes. Quinn’s schemes are good enough with this personnel. Though it did come back to bite him in the SB last year when he was slow to make adjustments in the 2nd half. Simplicity is good. Lack of variety is not.

PROGNOSTICATION

The PS Mess

I’ve been saying this to anyone who’s thinking of laying down any money on any playoff game this year – college or pro – DON’T DO IT!   Seriously though, all of Football is in flux right now – sort of a Power Spread Mess. But what a wonderful mess it is – full of innovation, new thoughts on old ideas, new ideas on old thoughts. The 2020s are going to be incredible – Full PS with everything from Single Wing to Spread T to Lonesome Polecat.

For now it’s tricky. There is a lot happening with every team and can change from week to week. Old coaches are adding new PS concepts brilliantly. Original PS Creators are struggling to evolve. Some brand new young guys are providing some cutting edge ideas both on and off the field.  The NFL is full of emotional ups and downs. College Football’s favorite word right now is momentum. Everyone is working some sort of power spread angle in their own way. It’s powerful when it clicks. Disastrous when old habits come back and take over. For the NFL it’s all about what coaching staff can stay aggressive. The old NFL “Fear Standard” lingers right in the rear view mirror. Especially when games are on the line. Sometimes more so when teams have big leads.

Quick Thoughts

Below I give quick thoughts on who “should” win these games, but truthfully, this playoff year is up in the air even with the 2 Kings of the Hill back on top in New England and Pittsburgh. I actually think all the Home Teams are true favorites.

The Rams, Jaguars, and New Orleans are all inexperienced but have played solid all year excluding any meaningless games at the end. All four away teams have been inconsistent all year and two are inexperienced. Many will consider the two experienced teams in Carolina and Atlanta as favorites but I don’t because they have been far too inconsistent and the teams they play are solid  – not flukes.

WC GAME

The WC Team of the playoffs is Kansas City. If Andy Reid starts and stays aggressive through the whole playoffs they are a SB Contender. If not, then they could definitely be upset by a young, but exciting Tennessee team.

Picks

Tennessee at Kansas City

This is all about KC. Tennessee will be nervous. KC needs to jump on that with aggression right out of the box on both Offense and Defense. Then they need to keep it up the WHOLE game. Not just at the beginning like we’ve seen before from Andy Reid. I have to expect KC to jump out aggressive as Reid scripts the early plays and can really make a defense spin in circles. I also expect their Defense to be more aggressive now that it’s the playoffs.

My worry is “WILL THEY KEEP UP THE AGGRESSION ALL GAME”? If they do this can be a blowout. If they don’t it could give the momentum to Tennessee and you don’t want to see a young dynamic team with two old dynamic coaches fired up. It could turn into a nightmare real quickly for KC. Especially if Mariota starts using his legs and LeBeau’s Blitzburgh defense lets loose.

Expect a KC win but don’t be surprised if they get too conservative late and blow it like they have all year. All of Reid’s tenure actually.

Atlanta at LosAngeles

This game isn’t as much about aggression as continuity. The Rams have been improving all year. They may struggle early with nerves, but they will go after this game schematically. McVey will attack the whole field both running and passing, while Phillips will get after Matt Ryan and mix up his man/zone coverages.

The question is really on Atlanta’s side. Their defense will be good but will it make adjustments quick enough if the Rams PSAR starts to catch fire? On offense I see no signs of a big game. There will be some great schemes and big plays but nothing consistent. If Atlanta does get consistent production on Offense for a whole game then they will win this game. Big if.

This is a tough call. The Falcons are for real. They should threaten to get back to the SB for years to come, but right now Sarkisian isn’t fitting in well with Quinn and Ryan. The defense could win the game for them but that’s a lot to ask vs the Rams ProPSAR.. They may have a slow start, but I think they can get on a roll late at home and pressure Atlanta. I have trouble backing Atlanta’s offense to come through late, even with the experience and talent on their side. I hate going against Sarkisian, but… Rams in a toss up game.

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