The Bills Need an Innovative Mind at Offensive Coordinator

The NFL game has changed dramatically over the years, particularly at the quarterback position. It’s common knowledge that many QBs coming out of college are simply unprepared for the responsibilities of their predecessors. More and more QBs don’t take snaps from under center, aren’t responsible for offensive line checks, and do very little from pre-to-post snap in their early years, compared guys just a few years ago.

The college game asks many players to do less in order to maximize their game speed, which is not a bad philosophy. In fact, it has worked in the college ranks and has even had success in the certain areas at the NFL level.

Bills GM Doug Whaley and new head coach Sean McDermott are recognizing the changing landscape of the game, specifically at the QB position. Of course, the Bills have the pretty big decision ahead of whether or not to pick up Tyrod Taylor’s option, but I think the philosophy change is the bigger story. Even if they don’t pick up Taylor’s option, a long term philosophy must be adopted. Based on some of the interviews and hirings it appears they are trying to do just that.

The rumor last week was that the co-offensive coordinator Brad Childress, a longterm colleague of McDermott from their days in Philly, was a leading candidate. Childress is a guy who was initially appointed as a consultant for Andy Reid in Kansas City. His title was, interestingly, ‘spread game analyst’. Why would a respected coach like Reid appoint a person to that position? Because the game is changing.

Childress was in charge of studying the college game in an attempt to gain as much knowledge about the schemes, designs and concepts at that level as possible, and to figure out ways to apply them successfully in the NFL. The Chiefs have had varying levels of success doing that. Reid has made several appearances in the playoffs with a limited QB in Alex Smith. He and Childress have been able to do so by combining lots of west coast concepts with spread offense techniques such as the jet sweep, jet misdirection, zone read, bubble screens, and plays from the pistol set.

There is no doubt that the Chiefs are one of many organizations committed to studying the ever-changing landscape of the game. Their intent is to figure out ways to get the most out of their personnel by incorporating schemes that are familiar to younger players — players who haven’t had to have the processing capabilities that players from ten years ago did.

Even the Steelers bring college schemes to life on a weekly basis.

With the roster turnover because of the salary cap and personnel departments’ jobs on the line, each year’s draft means that much more, nowadays. Younger players are being asked to contribute earlier.

So when news broke that the Bills were interviewing Ken Dorsey, the QB coach from the Carolina Panthers, at first I was not impressed. However, it started me reflecting on his playing career and the type of quarterback he was. He was a very productive college player that fizzled out in the NFL. Then I looked to his coaching resume.

 

After his playing career, Dorsey worked at the IMG academy in Florida. This is a prestigious institute where many athletes go to hone their skills, and one such star was Cam Newton. Dorsey worked daily with Newton the summer of 2011, so it was no surprise that once the summer was over the Panthers hired Dorsey as a scout. They groomed him in their organization until he took over his current position in 2013.

So over the last few years he has worked day in and day out with Cam Newton. Newton is freakish athlete and a ‘new age’ QB. He’s not your typical drop back QB, but is rather a spread offense, triple threat guy. He can beat you with his arm, legs and intelligence. He played under Gus Malzahn, a ‘wizard’ when it comes to designing plays from the spread system. He runs traditional power and inside zone runs, but also QB-centric plays like zone reads, veers/inverted veers and the modern day triple option .

 

Video courtesy of Wilvin:

 

In Carolina it was a gradual transition, but once Mike Shula was promoted from QB coach to offensive coordinator and Dorsey elevated to QBs coach in 2013, the Panthers embraced Newton’s abilities and made them their identity. Newton is just too dangerous of a threat to not utilize his abilities as a runner.

One of the ways that Shula, Dorsey, and that staff have been so successful with a ‘new age’ QB is by utilizing run-pass options, otherwise known as RPOs. If you go to any coaching clinic at the NFL, college, or high school level, these concepts dominate the topics of discussion. In essence, an RPO is a run play with a built in pass. The running back and offensive line carries out a run play. The QB is taught to read a certain defender. That player is referred to as a ‘conflict defender’ and is typically a player that has both run gap responsibilities and coverage responsibilities. Therefore, his reaction to the run play being shown puts him in conflict on whether to fill vs. run or carry out his coverage responsibilities.

The receivers are running pass routes. On the play in the video, you will see a traditional slant/flat combo, which is one of the oldest route concepts in the book. So this package is a combination of old school concepts and new school.

The QB will take the snap, read the ‘conflict defender,’ and if he commits to stop the run, he won’t hand it off. Instead he will throw the ball to the vacated area. Check out the video.

 

Who do you think was teaching Newton how to execute these reads? Ken Dorsey..

Nobody knows who the Bills will select as their offensive coordinator, but after hearing some of reports on guys like Childress or Dorsey, I think they are doing the right thing. They are surveying the landscape of the NFL and its trends and trying to find a coach that can not only adapt to his personnel, but also adapt to the game itself.

The QB position is the most important position in all of sports, and it’s a position that at the college level is becoming further and further away from the NFL. Quarterbacks, and players in general, for that matter, are being asked to do much less than they used to be. Owners, GMs, personnel departments, and coaches alike, have to adapt.

Many Bills fans scoffed at the thought of a 35 year old first time coordinator taking over in Buffalo, myself included. But if you look at his resume and coaches he has studied under, then take into account the game and how it is changing, Dorsey is the type of young, innovative mind you need.

Whether it’s Tyrod Taylor, Cardale Jones, or a rookie, the next coordinator must be able to teach two styles of play: the traditional drop back pass game like Dorsey learned and played in, and the ‘spread’/’new age’ game like he had been teaching Newton, because that is what offense has become in today’s NFL.


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