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My take on the best offenses.

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Old 12-14-2007, 02:14 AM   #1
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My take on the best offenses.

Don’t Hinder an Offense with a Lead Blocker
Over the years in the National Football League there have been several trains of thought on the most effective way to deploy an offense. All of these styles can be broken down into two opposing ideas of whether or not to use a lead blocker. Those who believe in utilizing a lead blocker support the idea that it helps open holes in the running game which in turn opens up the passing game. This is largely due to the fact that a successful running game will often force a defense to place a safety closer to the line of scrimmage to support the run defense. The other philosophy believes that spreading out a defense while using an extra tight end or a receiver enables a team to pass more effectively eventually opening up the running game. Based on statistics from offenses over the past 4 decades, it is apparent that not using a lead blocker is the most effective way to deploy an offense.
First, the assumption that all fullbacks are lead blockers and any team that has a fullback utilizes them as a lead blocker must be dispelled. By definition a lead blocker is an offensive player, usually a fullback, who lines up directly behind the quarterback and runs in front of the tailback in order to open up a running lane. Although many teams utilize a fullback in their offense, they do not always deploy them in this manner. Every coach who has coached a great offense has had either a fullback or an H back, but few actually utilized them as a lead blocker. In fact, out of the top ten offenses of all time only 3 utilized the fullback as primarily a lead blocker. Ironically, according to ESPN’s 10 greatest offenses they rank 8, 9, and 10 all time. They were the 1963 New York Giants, 1941 Chicago Bears, and the 1962 Green Bay Packers respectively. (ESPN)
According to ESPN, the 7th and 3rd greatest offenses of all time were the 1994 San Francisco 49ers and the 1998 Minnesota Vikings. Both of these teams had one thing in common, Bill Walsh. Bill Walsh is often credited for being the father of the modern day West Coast offense. Although Bill Walsh did not coach the 1994 49ers or the 1998 Vikings, both offenses were derived from his West Coast offensive system by his former understudies George Seifert and Dennis Greene. In this offense a fullback was used, but not as a lead blocker. Often times the fullback was used in either pass protection or as a receiver out of the backfield. This is because the West Coast system as established by Bill Walsh emphasized the short passing game to gain yardage and score quickly. After a lead was developed then they would run at the defense to eat up the clock. However, even when they ran the football the Fullback was not used as a lead blocker because they ran out of what is known as “split backs” or the “Pro” formation (Dr. Z).
The 1994 San Francisco 49ers amassed 505 points for an average of 32 points per game. In the post season the 49ers averaged 44 points per game. The efficiency of the West Coast system allowed Steve Young to achieve a 112.8 QB rating, which set an NFL record. The 1998 Minnesota Vikings put up more points in a 16 game season than any other team in NFL history. Their 556 points translated into an average of nearly 35 points per game demonstrating once again the supremacy of the West Coast Offense. One might speculate that the passing game was good, but the running game left much to be desired. The truth is that both offenses produced 1,000 yard rushers that averaged over 4.5 yards per carry, proving that a lead blocker was not necessary to run the football effectively. (ESPN)
The 4th ranked offense of all time according to ESPN is the 1984 Miami Dolphins, who were coached by Don Shula. In Don Shula’s early coaching years he relied on a strong defense and a smash mouth style of offense. After he acquired quarterback Dan Marino he developed a passing style of offense that flourished during the 1984 season. His offensive system was a combination of both Bill Walsh’s “West Coast” offense and Don Coryell’s “Air Coryell” Offense (explained below). In this offensive system a fullback was primarily used in the shotgun formation as a split back. The purpose of the fullback was to either pass protect or receive passes. This offense accumulated 0ver 7,000 yards of total offense and averaged 32 points per game. Over 5,000 yards of offense came through the air and nearly 2,000 came by ground. Although they did not produce a single 1,000 yard rusher that season, they did have 3 different running backs produce 495+ rushing yards. Combined, the three rushers averaged over 4.5 yards per carry, once again proving that a lead blocker was not necessary to get the job done (Hickok).
The 5th and 2nd ranked offenses of all time shared a common coaching tree much like that of the 3rd and 7th ranked offenses. The 1981 San Diego Chargers and the1983 Washington Redskins offenses derived from Don Coryell. He developed an offensive system known as “Air Coryell” which emphasized a power running game combined with the vertical passing game. Do not assume that power running meant that a lead blocker was present however. In this offensive system the Fullback position was replaced by the H back. An H back is a hybrid of a fullback and a tight end. The H back’s job was to serve in pass protection or receive passes much like a fullback in the West Coast offense. The difference is that the H back lined up in the backfield closer to the line of scrimmage like a tight end rather than in the backfield as a traditional fullback. In the running game it was offensive linemen who pulled to open up running lanes while the H back blocked down. The running back would run through an opening created between the pulling linemen and the stationary blockers. This differs from a lead blocker because a lead blocker leads the runner through a hole where as in this running game the running back does not follow a lead blocker through the running lane (Linde).
The 1981 San Diego Chargers averaged 30 points a game and posted almost 7,000 yards of offense. Dan Fouts threw for 4,082 yards and 33 touchdowns. The Chargers offense produced one 800 yard receiver and two 1,000 yard receivers. At the same time they produced 2 running backs averaging over 4.5 yards per carry. One of the running backs rushed for over 1,000 yards. The 1983 Washington Redskins did not produce as many yards, but threw up many more points. Their 541 points in a single season was an NFL record before the Vikings surpassed it 15 years later. The 1983 Redskins fielded a balanced attack that produced 3,765 yards through the air and 2,625 yards on the ground. They produced a 700 yard and a 1,000 yard receiver and a 700 yard and 1,000 yard runner. Neither of these two teams used a lead blocker in their offense (Drinen).
Considered to be the number one offense of all time by ESPN, the 2000 St. Louis Rams possessed a coach and a philosophy like no other. Mike Martz is essentially a member of the Don Coryell coaching tree, but does not share the same belief in the power running game. He does however firmly believe in the vertical passing game founded by Coryell. In this system, much like the West Coast offense, the passing game sets up the running game. Instead of being a power running game it is based more on finesse, and like other offenses discussed, utilizes an extra tight end or a receiver. If a fullback is used it is primarily as a receiver or a blocker in pass protection. This explosive offensive system is commonly referred to as the “Greatest Show on Turf” (Mike Martz).
In 2000 this offense averaged nearly 34 points per game. What is more impressive is that they averaged 43 points per game through their first six games that year. Trent Green threw for over 2,000 yards and 16 touchdowns while his teammate Kurt Warner threw for 3,429 yards and 21 touchdowns. Tory Holt and Isaac Bruce both exceeded 1,400 receiving yards. Az-zahir Hakim and Ricky Proehl added another 1,100 receiving yards. On top of all of that Marshall Faulk had 830 receiving yards and 1,359 rushing yards. His 5.4 yards per carry and 18 rushing touchdowns were all accomplished without a traditional lead blocker (Troan).
However, there is more than one philosophy on which offense is the best to deploy. Many offenses have been successfully over the years so there is really no one offense that is absolute. In fact most offenses may only be as good as the players executing the plays. However, statistical history has shown us that the best offenses to ever take the field all have one thing in common; the fullback was not primarily used as a traditional lead blocker.

Works Cited
Dr. Z. “The Real West Coast Offense” CNN Sports Illustrated. 29 Oct. 1999. 29 Nov 2007.

Drinen, Doug “1981 San Diego Chargers” Pro Football Reference 2007. 29 Nov. 2007.

Drinen, Doug “1983 Washington Redskins” Pro Football Reference 2007. 29 Nov. 2007.

ESPN. Page 2. “Best NFL Offense of all Time” 2007. 29 Nov. 2007

Hickok, Ralph. Sports Biographies Shula, Donald F. 03 Oct. 2007. 29 Nov 2007.

Linde, Richard. “Pioneers of the West Coast Offense” 04 Mar. 2006. 29 Nov 2007.

“Mike Martz” Scout.com. 29 Nov. 2007 GridironGateway.com and Scout.com 29 Nov. 2007.<http://stl.scout.com/a.z?s=124&p=8&c=1&nid=752629>

Running Redskins. “Joe Gibbs’ Coaching Pedigree” Running redskins blogspot. 14 May. 2006. 29 Nov. 2007.

Troan, John “2000 St. Louis Rams Stats” JT-SW 2007. 29 Nov. 2007.
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Old 12-14-2007, 09:30 AM   #2
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Re: My take on the best offenses.

Wow....thanks for the read! Did you write this? I like what the last paragraph said: "most offenses may only be as good as the players executing the plays."
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Old 12-14-2007, 10:00 AM   #3
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Re: My take on the best offenses.

Works cited? Is this a term paper? Ha. Seriously though, nice work.
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Old 12-14-2007, 10:15 AM   #4
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Re: My take on the best offenses.

I give it an A, which class was this for?
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Old 12-14-2007, 02:51 PM   #5
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Re: My take on the best offenses.

Very nice. Though citing Dr. Z is only slightly more reputable than Dr. Seuss. Good job. What's your thoughts on Sellers in some of these other offenses?
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Old 12-16-2007, 07:05 PM   #6
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Re: My take on the best offenses.

You have a A in Skinology
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Old 12-16-2007, 07:30 PM   #7
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Re: My take on the best offenses.

Good job angry...I would not have guessed that. Very good read.
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Old 12-16-2007, 09:16 PM   #8
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Re: My take on the best offenses.

What about Darryl Johnston and the 1990s Cowboys? Where do they fit in?
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Old 12-16-2007, 09:58 PM   #9
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Re: My take on the best offenses.

Yeah, one of the last sentences pretty much sums it up, the offenses are only as good as the players executing them. I mean goddam, every offense cited had a top tier QB, RB, and at least one top ten WR if not 2.

But lead blocker offenses can be great- look at last years Chargers or Seattle when Alexander went bonkers and they made it to the superbowl. Both of those teams used a lead blocker and their offenses were great. It depends on personnell.
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Old 12-16-2007, 11:46 PM   #10
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Re: My take on the best offenses.

It was my Writing class.

The Cowboys Offense was not on ESPN's top 10 SS, but if you remember Johnston did lead block, but was also a hell of a receiver out of the backfield.

nauschultzmd, I agree that FB's can be effective as lead blockers, but the most potent offenses in history did not use them. That's all.
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