Posted: December 28, 2019 in All Things Power Spread
Original Design for this Blog

For me it’s been a full 10 years of Power Spread. Actually maybe 12. I’m not sure when Kurt and I started to use the term Power Spread on a regular basis. Sometime between 2007-2009. The original concept was simply the ability to spread the field horizontally to power the ball straight up the gut.

The most beautiful play design for us was the 4 WR Spread with 11 or 10 Personnel (1 TE or None and 1 RB) with the Read Option straight up the middle. The defense would collapse on either the RB or QB. A good ball handling QB would either keep it or hand it to the RB, depending on what the Defense chose. So you let the Defense commit themselves right out of commission! Beautiful. And in a Spread alignment either the RB or QB ran straight up the middle 50 yards for a TD.

For me, this simple vision and idea had far reaching implications, which I have developed over the last 10 years. Synergy is a big one. Dynamic Opposition is another. I came up with 3 Precepts Aggressive Flexible Variety. I mimicked the E=mcc equation. I put the PS=stt into the m as the Game is a Microcosm of the Life we live … the Universe in which we exist. Except in that microcosm, we get to look in and observe.

Well, the game of football is evolving rapidly and for the first time in 80 years the Pro and College game is coming back together. In other words, the game you watch – be it the NFL or College – is starting to look the same again. A reuniting under one umbrella I call PS Pro.

Why Power Spread?

Another early design – from the early days of “rugby” power football to the present spread age

Basically it all started pretty simple for us. The Spread is a relatively generic term that the football world continues to use – 10 years later. The actual “SPREAD” started 100 years ago by a man named Rusty Russell. In reality, Football has been spreading since it’s inception.

Here’s how:
  • Walter Camp Constant Rules Innovations in the late 1800s
  • Alonzo Stagg and others experimenting with Space within the “Rugby” Scrum entering the 20th Century
  • Fielding Yost using High Tempo (Hurry Up Yost) in the 1900s
  • John Williams using Shifts and Pre Snap Motion
  • John Heisman pushing for the legalization of the Forward Pass to open up the game.
From there:
  • Pop Warner splitting out a player into the “Wing” position off the scrum T Sets of the time. A Pre-Spread move.
  • Knute Rockne using Tempo Shifts and the new found Passing Game
  • Hugo Bezdek and Bernie Owens opening up the Passing Designs
  • The first true Spread – Rusty Russell with his Mighty Mites of the 1920s
  • Francis Schmidt – the first intricate play designer. The first Pro Spread
  • Dutch Meyer’s proliferation of Spread Formation Football from the 1930s into the 1950s.
The Split and Reunion

This is when the College and Pro Game started to split apart into two philosophies. More on that in a minute, but as you can see – THERE WAS A LOT OF “SPREADING” GOING ON OVER 100 YEARS AGO! So yes – the word Spread and the use therof – is quite generic indeed.

What makes today’s “spread” so interesting is the Syncrhoniztion of the original game – Power – with today’s continuing evolution – Spread. The Past+Future into one Present. Dynamic Opposition if you will. Or Synergy Synchronization. Power Spread.

The Football Fracture in the 1940s between Pro and College Football

While Rusty Russell’s protege Dutch Meyer spread the word about the Spread, Frances Schmidt’s protege Sid Gillman began to organize and order the intricate play designs of his mentor into one cohesive whole. At the same time another brilliant mind – Clark Shaughnessy – went Back to the Future to reinvent the T Formation in what he called the Modern T.

By 1940, the Chicago Bears were blowing up the Pro Football landscape with their Modern T. Instead of a direct snap to the Tailback in the Single Wing Formation, there was a Quarterback under center doing all the ball handling and misdirection runs. What started as a 100% Team Game, began to morph towards a Star Orientatation. First the TB in the Single Wing, then the QB in the Modern T.

The Split – Pro Pass / College Option

Sid Gillman began to develop a Timing Passing Game that included all the WRs,TEs and RBs and the QB protected in a “Pocket” by his Offensive Line. Nothing ever seen before on such a large scale. At the same time, the College game developed the Option Offense. One where the QB was constanly unprotected. Yet a powerful scheme where the Offense can play off whatever the Defense chooses to do. The Pro Game and College Game were going in opposite directions schematically.

Gillman’s colleague Paul Brown really revolutionized Pro Football from the top down. He popularized the use of the Split T and Pro Passing game of Gillman. Vince Lombardi popularized Gillman’s ideas on Zone Blocking for the Spread Run Game – Run to Daylight – and really was the frontrunner of the Pro Set. 2 RBs, 1TE, 2WRs. This dominated the Pro Football Landscape for some 40+ years!

Meanwhile, the Colleges kept experimenting with this powerful Option idea. First just the Sweep Option by Don Faurot out of the Spit T. Then the Veer Triple Option of Bill Yeoman and finally the Wishbone of Emory Bellard. The Wishbone dominated College Football in the 1970s and into the 80s. Different forms of Veer Option football have always been present in College Football since that time.

Meanwhile at the Pro Level, Don Coryell used Gillman’s ideas to spread the field vertically as well as popularize the use of the TE. Bill Walsh spread the field horizontally and made the entire West Coast Offense universally popular as the WCO. Mike Martz came along and implemented both Walsh and Coryell concepts into a true Pro Spread that dominated Pro Football for the past 20 years.

Then something happened in the 1960s that was going to end up bringing the College and Pro game back together some 60 years later.

Run and Shoot – A Power Spread Evolution

Many think that the R&S concept is a pure Passing Spread, but nothing could be further from the truth.

The inventor, Tiger Ellison, had a hardcore power heavy offense, but needed a change. Not only in scheme, but in philosophy. I am sure he was aware of Dutch Meyer’s spread formation book from the 1950s. Ever since Francis Schmidt left TCU to coach Ohio State, it seems Ohio and Texas have been connected in Football Innovation. All the Ohio Coaches knew about Dutch Meyer’s Spread Formation. It’s on record that Paul Brown used ideas from Dutch’s book and shared them with others – including Bill Walsh.

So Ellison most certainly would have known about this Spread Football stuff, but he had his own epiphany when watching some kids in a field playing a Pick-Up game of football. Just running around, trying to get “open”. Space Time Team. The Tenants of Power Spread.

Spread Formation > Lonesome Polecat > Run and Shoot

First Ellison invented the Lonesome Polecat. Then the Run and Shoot. Both were Formations that spread players across the field, but Ellison never meant it as a pure passing spread. He would always have a guy in motion and mix up the power with the spread – the run with the pass.

By the way, Rusty Russell’s original 5 WR Sets from the 1920s always had a player in motion, ready for a Jet Sweep, as well. So even today’s rebirth of the Jet Sweep is ancient history.

Run and Shoot Triumvirate

From Ellison came the R&S Trimvirate. Jack Neumeir, Red Faught and Mouse Davis. Mouse turned the offense into more of a pure Pass Spread. Red kept his philosophy very close to Ellison’s – a Power Spread.

Neumeir mixed pure pass spread with some pure power out of the OneBack formation. Neumeir’s ideas later merged with Gillman and Coryell’s OneBack philosophies on both a pro and college level.

Mouse and his proteges actually exploded on the small college scene, then the USFL with the Houston Gamblers and finally the NFL with the Houston Oilers. His use of Ellison’s concept, “WRs run to get open” or “Run to Daylight” – in the form of Option Routes – transformed all of football and is a big part of the orginal Air Raid Philosophy.

Red Faught is the lesser known of the three, but in this case, Last is definitely not Least. He coached for years at the High School level with great success. He finished his career in the small college ranks. His pure Power Spread – a Spread Formation that synchronized Power and Spread Running with the Passing Game – has secretly revolutionized the game.

R&S eventually led to a Reunion of Pro and College Football

One common theme of the whole Run and Shoot gang? It crosses from College to Pro. First Neumeir. Especially when we saw Joe Gibbs OneBack take hold in the 80s. Then Mouse as the the Pass Spread version became a cool thing in the NFL in the 80s/90s. Faught’s philosophy took longer because it utilized Jet Sweeps and Option Football. Sort of a WingT Power Spread not too far from the Gus Malzahn PS Philosophy.

In the end, the Run and Shoot was the beginning and end of the biggest change in Football since the game was being invented by Walter Camp. It has brought the game back together again!

United We Stand – One Game – Power Spread – Space Time TEAM

So as they say, the rest is history. We have the Power Spread Triumvirate of the 00s. Urban Meyer, Gus Malzahn and Art Briles.
But before that there was more…
  • Flexbone – attempt to combine Wishbone with R&S football – the Power and the Spread – by Ben Griffith.
  • Triple Shoot – a close colleague of Ben’s – Manny Matsakis developed a better package of R&S passing spread with power running. He’s had teams set records in both the running and passing game. Power Spread!
  • Read Option – Rich Rodriguez accidentally came upon a form of Option Football from the R&S Shotgun Offense. Similar to the Red Gun of June Jones (Mouse Protege), but with a QB/RB Veer Option Scheme.
  • Air Raid – a passing spread concept developed by Hal Mumme and Mike Leach from the BYU College WCO (simpler/freer version of Pro) and the R&S concepts of WR Dependent Option Routes.
  • Gun and Run – Bill Snyders own unique take on power running with a dual threat QB from spread formations.
This all led to the incarnations of the PS Triumvirate.
  • Urban’s pro style, power heavy Power Spread
  • Gus’s college option style, misdirection Power Spread
  • Art’s wide open Air Raid style of Veer+R&S – what he originally called the Veer & Shoot Offense.

Urban learned a lot from the Neumeir R&S line + Bill Snyder’s pro influenced power spread experimentation.

Gus was a WingT Option guy until he learned about Briles unique power spread in Texas. He combined both – more spread than Urban, but with the same power mentatlity.

Finally, Briles really came across his very own invention based on his long experience in Texas – especially Houston. First under Bill Yeoman’s Veer Triple Option. Then with his awareness of the R&S and other Spread ideas happening in Texas in the 1980s.

While Meyer is brilliant on the Power Team side, Briles is a master of Space. NO one has ever Spread the field like Briles and his son, Kendal. Gus is right in the middle with a heavy use of Time – both in Tempo and Misdirection.

Power Spread + Air Raid = PSAR

From all of this came the next incarnation – PSAR. A synchronized version of PS and Air Raid. Tony Franklin (protege of Leach/Mumme) started tinkering with this idea early on. Dana Holgerson led the charge of PSAR Offenses in the 10’s after he coached at Houston and reaquainted himself with the PS Offense of an old Colleague – Art Briles.

The issue with the PSAR is it is hard to sync – not because of the Power Spread, but because the Air Raid is such a specialized philosophy and system. It must be committed to fully and focused on repeatedly in practice. It isn’t easy to mix the full AR with other concepts. Guys like Lincoln Riley and Kliff Kingsbury have done it brilliantly, but it’s not for everyone.

West Coast Offense + Power Spread = Pro PS

Meanwhile, Pro Football not only incorporated the R&S concepts of both Neumeir and Mouse, but eventually Red Faught as well. Thru the ideas of Howard Griffith to Manny to RichRod all the way down the line.

The NFL has been experimenting with the Dual Threat QB since the late 00s. At first it was a fractured multiple offense of both Pro WCO or Pro Spread mixed with some Read Option and Pistol schemes. Jim Harbaugh was the first to sync the two. Coming from college where he ran a heavy power multiple PS system, he was able to effectively use a dual threat QB to spread the field with a WCO, while using power option football.

Other coaches and teams followed. Andy Reid, a former BYU guy and brilliant offensive mind, really explored the possibilities of a Pro PS offense. His protege, Doug Pederson took it a step further, adding in Run Pass Option or RPO schemes he got from PS guru Chip Kelly, while Breaking Tendency in all his designs.

Full Circle – PS Pro

Finally, as we approach the 2020s, we reach full circle – PS Pro. Led by Jim’s brother – John Harbaugh.

The Harbaugh’s have always had a hand in football innovation, so this shouldn’t surprise me, but I must admit I didn’t see this coming. John Harbaugh has fully committed to doing what is best for his dual threat QB and for all of football in general. An NFL Offense BASED in Power Spread Football. With Pro WCO schemes and concepts throughout.

Harbaugh is the leader, but not the only one. Teams all over the NFL are experimenting more and more with a more simple PS Pro approach. The brilliant Doug Pederson has literally gone to a One Read type of PS WCO for his QB who struggles with the more complicated Pro read progressions.

So the NFL is experimenting. One team is doing it. College Teams are starting to move from PSAR to PS Pro. The beginning of this new decade is going to see very little discrepency between Pro and College Football for the first time since before most of us were even born!

What’s Next? …T..E..A..M… Team Team Team

Now that the NFL is finally thinking outside the box a bit and with the influx of great athletes constantly coming into the game, I believe the game of football will finally move away from the STAR ideal back to TEAM.

We are already hearing the mantra “Next Man Up”. This is just the start. With all the injuries in Football due to the massive athletes that now play the game, it’s only a matter of time before “Next Man Up” is not just a mantra, but a philosophy.

Team to Star back to Team

With the onset of the new, dynamic Single Wing “spreads” of the 1910s-20s, the Tailback suddenly became the do-everything STAR never seen before in the game. He ran, passed, caught and even punted! The super all around athlete.

Once the Modern T formed, the QB position – previously a Blocking Back in the Single Wing – became the main cog in the offense. With all the ball handling needed in the College Option game and the Protection needed in the Pro Passing game, the QB became the most valuable commodity ever seen in Football.

I believe this will all start to change by the end of the new decade. The NFL will start to move away from putting all their “apples in one basket” on one player – due to injuries. Injuries that are coming fast and furious, whether a QB is running or not. No matter the size or speed of the players. It’s just a reality.

I think College will follow suit. Especially when smaller teams are able to find ways to out duel their bigger opponents with total TEAM philosophy from the Top down.

For Now…

It’s time to sit back and enjoy. Or get busy and observe. All the new schemes, concepts and philosophies that will spring forth in the Roaring 20s! From the beginning to the end – old to new – we will see it all.

By the end of the 20s, it will be a United Football World on the verge of grand new designs! We can only hope for the same in our World at large.

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