Once upon a time, it was taboo to run the spread offense in the NFL. During the 1990’s, not many teams lined up in a base 4-5 receiver set. The “it” offensive scheme was the West Coast offense. It featured some two tight end sets, and a variety of two receiver sets. For a long time, NFL coaches resisted mother nature. They refused to allow themselves to evolve. You see, the NFL has an huge ego. They are the big brother in the house. They’re the guy who sets the rules and trends, not follows them. The NFL had certain philosophies and ran certain schemes, therefore NCAA teams had to conform and run similar schemes, to better prepare collegiate players for the NFL. The “Pro-Style” offense started to rear its head in college because of this. However, that has changed in recent years. No longer is the NFL dictating these things to the NCAA, it’s the other way around.
In my eyes, it all started with the 2007 New England Patriots. They built an offense that looked quite similar to spread offenses ran across the nation in the NCAA. To this point, the NFL had its share of spread teams, but none who closely resembled the “college spread”. Because of this spread offense, Tom Brady, Randy Moss, and Wes Welker put up NFL record breaking numbers, led the Patriots to a 16-0 regular season, and made an appearance in the Super Bowl.
Tom Brady: 68.9 Comp, 4,806 Yds, 50 Td’s, 8 Int’s, 117.2 Qb Rating
Randy Moss: 98 Rec, 1,493 Yds, 23 Td’s
Wes Welker: 112 Rec, 1,175 Yds , 8 Td’s
The Patriots success started a movement. NFL coaches and personnel men finally saw that the “good ole” college spread is indeed effective. Slowly, but surely, other NFL teams started slinging the ball around the field in rapid fashion. The running game has become an after thought, and it is now all about picking up huge chunks of yards, via the air. Does this sound familiar (hint: The NCAA)? This change in philosophy has helped improve many aspects of the pro game.
Have you noticed huge turnarounds from teams that have endured a season or two of mediocrity? Most recently, the 2010 Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers dug their feet in and got above the yellow line (yes, I watch “The Biggest Loser”, don’t judge me). Both finished the season 10-6 after winning only 4 games in 2009. Have you ever wondered why teams experience these type of turnarounds? There are many factors to the equation. Some are: New coaches, the structure of the NFL schedule and Draft, but most importantly, it’s the preparedness of the new-age college player. Now that the NFL has succumbed to the ways of the NCAA, players are coming into the league ready to contribute immediately.
The risks involved with selecting players in the first round are much lower now. There was a time where NFL teams were mortified at drafting a top 10 quarterback, because the ramifications on the organization loomed large if he were to fail. You’re starting to see a growing trend with college quarterbacks. They are coming into the NFL ready to help a team succeed. No longer is the NFL trying to shape players to certain aspects of their scheme. They are now molding their schemes to best fit this new breed of college players. It is the spread offense that has helped to bridge the gap between these two entities.
There is a new wave headed towards the shore, and it looks like the NFL will be grabbing their surf board and hoping aboard. The next level of dictation will be in the form of the “big and athletic quarterback”. Yes there was Randall Cunningham, Steve Young, and Michael Vick before Tim Tebow, Cam Newton, and Colin Kaepernick, but none of those players styles latched on and became wide spread in the NFL. It is only a matter of time before the “big and athletic quarterback” becomes the norm in the NFL. Once it does, the NFL will once again shift, and start running schemes that best suite this type of player. The NCAA is in the mist of this revolution. The leaders of their offenses have the ability to throw the ball, run past defenders, and even run over defenders.
For the betterment of the game, the NCAA and NFL need to continue to work together. NFL, it is okay to look towards the NCAA for the future of the game. Remember, the children are our future. You don’t have to be afraid to look up to your little brother either. That little brother doesn’t have to be the pip squeak in the house, that is full of worthless ideologies. They too have ideas worth exploring. If the NFL continues to mimic the ways of the NCAA, expect a great deal of success from future players, and teams that by in.