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NCAA QBs are not ready for the NFL anymore

Posted by John Reed on

The best coaching periodical—the Wall Street Journal—does it again. Today’s issue has an article titled “Why the NFL has a Quarterback Crisis.” Google the title to read it.

It basically says that because the NCAA teams have largely gone to the spread hurry-up offense, the QBs coming out of college do not know how to read defenses.

Why is that? Spreading the offense—like four wide receivers—spreads the defense. When you spread the defense, you make it harder, if not impossible, to disguise the defense. For example, it is important to ascertain whether the defenses is in man pass coverage or zone pass coverage. In order to be in man, they have to have a defender close to each wide receiver. If they don’t against the spread, you know they are in zone defense. If you know which they are in, it is easier to attack them. For example, you can attack zone by flooding the zone; man, with routes that cross each other.

The more bunched up the offense is, the more bunched up the defense can be. In the NFL, the offenses and defenses are relatively bunched up. That enables them to disguise man as zone and vice versa. That, in turn, means the QBs need to be able to detect which it is before and after the snap. Because NCAA and NFL offenses used to be more similar, the NCAA QBs were well-prepared for the NFL.

The warp-speed tempo, which I have been pushing since 1995, also makes it hard for the defense to get cute. When you run the warp speed, you hear the defense yelling “Base! Base!” a lot. That means they are going to their base or simplest defense because they do not have enough time to choose a defense based on your formation or personnel. According to the article, the NFL has a rule that prohibits the full warp-speed.

Now, it will take years in the NFL before you can tell which QBs made the transition. They even expect QBs to no longer go in the top rounds of the draft! Because the team is buying a pig in a poke with regard to that position when they draft a spread QB to run an NFL offense.

I don’t get the whining from the NFL coaches and GMs. This is what my book The Contrarian Edge for Football Offense is about. I also refer the NFL big shots to the lyrics of the song, If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with

If you cannot draft QBs who have been successful in an NFL-style college offense, change your NFL offense to match the spread QBs you can draft.

There are other things they can do. For example, motion helps identify whether the defense is in man or zone. If it’s man, the defender assigned to that receiver has to go with him when he goes in motion. So run more motion. Maybe split one or two guys out to the wide side on every play so your NCAA spread QB can get an easier read at least on that half of the field.

The Journal article says Eagles coach Chip Kelly who came from Oregon where he ran the spread has adapted better than others to the NCAA QBs.

The Rams GM Les Snead said, “it will take [moral] courage to” use a strategy that minimizes the importance of the QB. Exactly. That is precisely what my Contrarian book is about—having the moral courage to give your offense an advantage by being different from the other teams in your league. It’s also about ju jitsu—using your opponents’ strengths against them. The strength of the NFL defenses is their ability to disguise what they’re doing. If you run the NCAA spread in the NFL, their ability to disguise is worthless.

NFL guys will say they can’t afford to get the QB hurt which they believe will happen more in the spread. Well, do they really get hurt more often? Colin Kapernick for example? And if they do, change the NFL rules to allow an additional QB on each team.

In fact, if I were an NFL QB or GM, this Journal article would make me see an opportunity. A bunch of old NFL walruses cannot adopt to the lack of NFL type QBs coming out of NCAA, So get the best of those QBs and modify your offense in that direction. Yes, that will take time and trades for the right personnel to complement the spread QB. But if I do it first, there will be a number of years when I have a chance to dominate. This is well reported in my book. It has usually happened when rules were changed and a bunch of old walruses whined about it while a few young guns took the opportunity and ran with it.

The article appears to be a knock on NCAA coaches or on the NFL rule against warp-speeds. I read it as a knock on NFL coaches and GMs who lack the imagination or moral courage to adapt to the new reality before their opponents do. This is the fun part of coaching. The alternative is to try to out-fundamentals the opposing coach. Steve Spurrier was one of the first NCAA coaches to adopt the spread offense. When Asked why he said, “I don’t think I can win by coaching the off-tackle play better than my opponents.”

Just so.

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