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Will the NFL Ever Rediscover the College Football Offense?

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Larry French

The crack on college playbooks is that there are many offensive schemes that simply aren’t good enough to outsmart, or outpace, an NFL defense.

Take Tim Tebow, they say. The man is perhaps one of the greatest to ever play his position at the collegiate level, gaining a nationwide fan base and bringing football fame to the University of Florida. However, Tebow never gained equivalent success in the NFL outside of riding the Broncos defense to a lone playoff win in Pittsburgh two years ago.

However, when considering the difference between the playbooks of both the college and the NFL level, I think it’s important to consider some of the college-style offenses that could potentially fit into the next level, pending the right personnel was used.

Sure, there’s the famous West Coast Offense, used openly by the Denver Broncos, Philadelphia Eagles, and the Green Bay Packers. Of course, many teams sample this offensive scheme from time to time as well, usually depending on the preferences of the respective coaching staff.

The West Coast Offense is largely reminiscent of offenses that some colleges run, but that doesn’t really count.

What I mean are the crazy plays. The unusual set-ups. The ones that make college coaches seem far more innovative than those higher up these days.

The pitch play? No. That is a play that I agree with the NFL staying away from, at least for the most part. Even the worst NFL defenses are too fast to the sidelines for that play to be made a habit of. However, what about a double reverse, or a jet sweep?

Yes, that’s very dangerous in the NFL. It sets you back in your own backfield, and if the defense is able to sniff it out effectively, then…well there’s goes your drive.

However, let’s be honest here. When’s the last time you saw a jet sweep run in the NFL?

As a Bengals fan, I remember one was run in the middle of the year using A.J. Green. It gained five yards.

I’ll tell you that 2nd and 5 is a lot easier to pick up than 2nd and 10 following an incomplete pass.

Adding to your playbook of running plays in this way does three things.

1. It makes the defense think. A reverse isn’t used often. Throw in one or two a game, and have it on the minds of the defense. It doesn’t necessarily have to be pressed into the playbook; merely take the approach of "Hey, there’s a small possibility that we might run this play. Be on the lookout for it coming your way."

2.  It can be quite effective because of it’s lack of use. Plays like this can get very creative as to who does the runs. Speedier receivers can get involved in motion, and the confusion can be a benefit to the offense.

3.  A play-action setup. If used effectively, and certainly not too much, the offense can mix up fake reverses, and even play-action jet-sweeps to a form a deadly combination with their pass attack.

You never know until you try.

Since I’m on a roll now, what about some more formations with stacked receivers?

Have two sets of stacked receivers, one on each side, and send the front ones out on straight patterns, taking the cornerbacks with them. Have the second receiver on either side execute a quick one-step and turn, providing two opportunities for screens. The front receiver turns into a blocker against the cornerback, creating higher chances for the ball carrier to break away for extra yardage in the open field.

Option plays could soon be an interesting addition across the NFL, as teams like the Redskins, Seahawks, and 49ers are already using a mobile quarterback to their advantage.

Still, can’t other teams do that too?

Wildcard packages or not, the quarterback can be set up with two blocking tight-ends, and a running back at either side. Mix it up. Have a speed back on the left, and a power back on the right. Vice versa? Have one to the side and another power back behind you.

The idea being stressed is to make the defense think.

If you’ve been caught defending the pass and the run up the middle all game long, muscle memory is automatically going to have an effect, depending on the appearance of the offense at the line of scrimmage.

You have the football, so why not be willing to try anything to score?  Creativity worked in college.  Well, who’s to say it can’t work here?

Bring out the markers and have some fun with the drawing board.