OT: What is a "pro-style" offense these days?

Submitted by AC1997 on November 20th, 2013 at 6:12 PM

Grantland posted a piece today about the decline of running plays in the NFL:



The primary takeaway I had from the piece is that carries-per-game has dropped to an all-time low in the NFL this season.  Teams are focused on the passing game and are not handing the ball off nearly as much as they used to.  Likewise, the effectiveness even when they do hand the ball off has decreased.  

Reading this makes me wonder what Hoke or Borges view as a "pro-style" offense that emphasizes power running and whether such an offense can be as effective long-term given the advances in all other areas of the game.  A team like Wisconsin may suggest otherwise, but this piece was interesting anyway.  I had hoped that he would offer some better explanations for the decline rather than focusing on individual players - but don't expect any of that here.  Could defenses have adapted or advanced physically enough to limit the effectiveness of running the ball?  Have the rules in the passing game just made it too important to focus on that?  

The other interesting note if you bother to read the highlights from all the running backs he discusses is that many of them can at least partially attribute their decline to turnover, injuries, or ineffectiveness within their offensive line.  Sound familiar?  




November 20th, 2013 at 6:20 PM ^

The college and pro game are very different in regards to the running game.  Because defenders aren't quite as big or fast you can have very dominant offenses that are very running focused like the RR and Oregon spread offenses.  Even a lot of their passing is short screens that rely on the receiver to make moves after the catch and are similar to a run.  The hits are just too hard and defenders too fast to make it sucessful at the next level but it doesn't mean it won't work in college.  Wisconsin and Stanford are also showing that a power running offense can succeed in college.

Ron Utah

November 21st, 2013 at 4:13 PM ^

Rule changes in the NFL have made the passing game much more beneficial:

  • You really can't touch the receivers after 5 yards - In college, you can be making contact with the player (as long as he is in front of you) until the ball is in the air.
  • QB protection rules - It's tougher to rush the passer in the NFL because of how many protections have been given to QBs.  NFL players have to be more aware of how their momentum may cause a penalty and very careful about where they hit QBs

The best offenses in college are still running the ball very effectively.  Wisconsin, Ohio, Northern Illinois, Oregon, and Auburn lead the nation in YPC and rush for at least 285 YPG.  Those teams don't lose very much.


November 20th, 2013 at 6:25 PM ^

1. Rule changes - why shoot for 100 yards rushing when it's just as easy to get 300 passing (or 400)

2. Partially related, running backs have become more of a commodity.  I can't be for sure as to why, but there doesn't seem to be much separating a first rounder from a mid-round back these days.  For every Adrian Peterson, there's a Trent Richardson.

Gustavo Fring

November 20th, 2013 at 6:47 PM ^

If you want a good pro offense, you can ask Jim Harbaugh, Chip Kelly, or Sean Payton.  All have taken different approaches with a great deal of success (I'll admit it's still early with Chip, but the fact that he has succeeded with Vick and Foles has to count for something). 


November 20th, 2013 at 6:53 PM ^

I don't watch a ton of pro football, but I did hear some commentators on the radio this morning complaing about the number of PI calls in the NFL and how there are series where teams gain more yardage through PI than through catches.  Running the ball now seems just a means to keep defenses honest and set up the passing game.


November 20th, 2013 at 7:32 PM ^

I think in the NFL if you ain't passin you ain't winning (much).  In college its easy to run a good rushing attack and hold the other team with great defense (Hello MSU).  Stanford and USC are models of this.  And when teams like Oregon go against teams like Stanford, they can't do what they normally do.


November 20th, 2013 at 8:05 PM ^

The NFL is evolving, teams are running passing spreads which are still rare in college now. I expect that college will catch up. After guys like Borges retire, probably. That's not to say that the old West Coast offense variant can't still work in college, though. 

People forget that the current "pro-style" (meaning what the Pros called the West Coast offense) is relatively new. Before the late 80's, college football was dominated by the wishbone and the flexbone and three yards and a cloud of dust veer offenses. 


November 20th, 2013 at 9:28 PM ^

in terms of offensive innovation.  NFL borrowed ideas from the college rank like Pats from Chip Kelly when he's with Oregon on no huddle offense for example.

If you're talking about the 90s and before it, yes, NFL has been ahead of college, but right now, college has been ahead of NFL. 


November 20th, 2013 at 8:10 PM ^

The hash marks are a main issue. In the NFL it condenses the field and doesn't allow for a lot of runs to a massive open wide side of the field. It's one reason the read option struggles in NFL.