With the firing of five more NFL head coaches on Monday, the future of the league is headed in one direction – offense. Former Dolphins head coach Adam Gase and the Broncos’ Vance Joseph were both criticized for their lack of offense during their tenures with their respective teams. Steve Wilks got just one season in Arizona before getting the axe. The Cardinals had the worst offense in the NFL. As seven teams – the Browns and Packers fired their coaches during the season – now search for new head coaches, you can bet they will be looking for the next Sean McVay or Andy Reid.
The Offensive Revolution A full three NFL teams averaged over 30 points per game led by Reid’s Kansas City Chiefs at 35.5. McVay’s Rams averaged 32.9 per game and Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints put up 31.5 per game. The Rams and Chiefs faced each other during the regular season in one of the NFL’s epic games. The teams battled to a record 54-51 finish, a game won by McVay and the Rams.
Kansas City QB Patrick Mahomes eclipsed the 5,000-yard mark (5,097) and threw 50 touchdown passes. The Chiefs, Rams, Buccaneers, and Steelers all averaged over 400 yards of total offense per game this season. NFL offenses gained yards and scored points in 2018 like they never have before in the history of the game. Why?
The NFL Borrowing Club NFL coaches – all football coaches for that matter – are copycats. They see something they like and they find a way to use it. Take Reid as an example. He hired former Minnesota Vikings head coach Brad Childress to head up his research and development team. Yes, that’s right, research and development in the NFL. Childress and a few others scour voluminous amounts of college game film looking for ideas.
When Kansas City beat New England in the 2017 season opener, they ran a play pulled directly from the game film of North Dakota State, the FCS power that gave the Philadelphia Eagles Carson Wentz. The strategy of using college ideas at the pro level has helped the Chiefs become dominant on offense. It also works because it is what best suits second-year quarterback Mahomes.
College offenses utilize space very well. The Chiefs, as well as other teams in the league, create space for their stars. The teams that do it best are the ones thriving on offense like the Rams and Saints, for example. The play the Chiefs borrowed from North Dakota State? The Patriots used a variation of it this year for a big completion as did the Rams who scored on a 53-yard pass to Todd Gurley. Drew Brees broke the NFL’s all-time record for career passing yards using another variation of the same play.
NFL teams are going to continue to borrow from the college level as long as it works. The next round of NFL head coaches will likely have a college background on offense. If they don’t, you can bet they will be hiring a guy like Childress to help them.