Friday, October 1, 2010

The Okie-Doke Offense

Last weekend, I heard Phil Simms say it best. Phil is still one of the best analysts of the game, and he hit the nail on the head. Regarding offensive philosophies, Phil said something like this:

"Run first, pass second. Run to win, pass to score. Pass to setup the run. Dink and Dunk. All of these sayings represent false ideas we choose to confuse our minds with. The real objective of good offense is always the same: do exactly the opposite of what the defense expects you to do."

Amen brother. I would only add to that two more phrases:
1. Get to the line of scrimmage quickly so the QB can read the defense and check off. This allows him to hit it where they ain't.
2. Use motion and formation to isolate your best playmakers against the defense's weakest sister.

If you implement these three elements of offense, you cannot be stopped. I like to call this the Okie Doke offense. Okie Doke is football jargon for showing them one thing and giving them another. You get the defense to buy something you aren't selling. You employ constant trickeration, negative influence traps, misdirection, play action, draws, option reads, option routes. Nothing is ridged. The ultimate goal is to just hit it where they ain't. Incidentally, that final pharse is baseball philosophy. This saying is frequently mis-attributed to Yogi Berra, but most historians give the credit to an ancient 19th century baseball player named Wee Willie Keeler. Wee Willie may be the greatest philosopher of football offense we have ever seen. Sun Szu frequently said "attack emptiness, avoid fullness". This is a simple way of saying don't go into the teeth of the defense. Just hit it where they ain't. Find the weakness and penetrate it.

If the defense has 9 men in the box and zero safeties, you would be stupid not to throw it intermediate or deep. You would be stupid to run the football into the teeth of the defense. If the defense is in a dime with three deep safeties, you would be stupid not to run the shotgun draw. Just hit it where they ain't. Attack emptiness. Avoid fullness. Do exactly the opposite of what the defense has set themselves to stop.

If you do this enough times, uncertainty, indecision, doubt, and finally a lack of confidence begins to take over a defense. Everybody sits and reads, instead of shooting the gaps and attacking, because they don't know what you are going to do next. This is the moment when the defensive gameplan has completely broken down, and the defense is on its heels. The offense has won.

Right now, Peyton Manning is running the NFL's foremost Okie Doke offense, with the Saints in a close 2nd place. You might say that Mike Martz is the NFL's foremost coaching authority on the subject, with Sean Payton in a close 2nd place. These are the offenses that are currently doing the greatest damage around the league, with the Philadelphia Eagles starting an assault on the top rankings.

Incidentally, I have praised Michael Vick's style as being a night at the improv. When he is in the game, the defense has no clue what he is going to do next. Even if you steal the Eagles' signals, you still don't know what Vick is going to do next. He is quite likely to throw away the play call and do something totally unexpected on any given play. Believe me, that is a serious Okie-Doke situation. Vick will find the emptiness and avoid the fullness, and he'll do it dynamically in real-time.

Being radical and unpredictable makes you dangerous offensively. Attacking the empty spots in the defense makes you really, really dangerous. Doing this dynamically in real-time makes you deadly.

This is the ultimate reason why I utterly hate ridged system guys, and in particular, rigidly constructed West Coast Offenses. The WCO has been played for some 30 years now. We now know its structure and its philosophy. We know what these OCs are trying to achieve. We have studied their methodology. If you enter the game with one of those ridged 15 play scripts, the defense is going to hammer your ass. It's all fairly routine, stock, off-the-shelf, cliche, predictable screenplay stuff nowadays. We defenders know what you want to do, and we know how to defended it. Unless you have incredible stallions, who can simply beat defenders 1-on-1, you are in big trouble if you run a ridged WCO script.

Of course, the true WCO coreligionists will never, never, never listen to this criticism. Those who are ardent and fervent WCO fundamentalist will speak of the wonders done by Bill Walsh in much the same tone that Born-Again Christians speak of the miracles of Jesus. They will tell you about what Bill Walsh, the founder of their feast, has done for them. You cannot reason with these people about what Bill Bellichick has done to them. Those who have been raised in a faith, and hold to a blind faith, cannot be persuaded otherwise.

Just remember, you can never convince anybody of anything at anytime for any reason, so don't even bother to try. They will simply say "Don't confuse me with the facts" and stubbornly move along there merry West Coast way.