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Letter from AFM - Football Evolutionby: John Gallup
Editor and Publisher
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Charles Darwin determined that species evolve over time due to natural selection – the passing along of favorable traits from one generation to the next.
While Darwin’s theory of evolution pertains to the natural world, parallels can also be drawn to football. The most successful systems, schemes and plays, regardless of where they originate, will eventually be utilized by teams at other levels of the game. In this era, we’re witnessing offensive football evolving at all levels into a faster-paced, speed-based, spread option game.
Even the most casual observer can see that the style of football in the NFL has changed dramatically in just a few years. Most, if not all, NFL offenses are now employing some version of the spread. Whether it’s referred to as the zone read, the read option or simply the spread, the elements are the same. Every play run by the offense might not conform to the basic structure of the spread formation, but all teams have at least some version of it in their playbook.
The huddle could someday soon become a football dinosaur – extinct. Offenses everywhere are using no-huddle, up-tempo situations to fatigue defenses, and limit substitutions and adjustments. Popular for years among the most prolific offenses in college, the frantic up-tempo game has filtered down to many high school programs and gravitated up – thanks to Chip Kelly – to at least one NFL team. Time will tell whether there’s a place in professional football for the manic offense that made Kelly so successful at Oregon, but initial results thus far have been impressive and certainly entertaining.
Some have said that rule changes, many of which have been made in the interest of player safety, have led to more wide-open offenses. If that’s the case, we applaud them. Any top-down changes in the game that protect players on the field are positive changes. If the side benefit is more exciting offensive football that showcases the speed and incredible athleticism of today’s players, then that’s a bonus that will make the game better.
More than rule changes, we think that football’s evolution is due to vast changes in the high school game – greater sophistication, more speed and better talent than ever before – and the many innovative college coaches that have developed systems that showcase this speed and talent. We’ve seen it for years in college football, as masterminds like Kelly, Urban Meyer, Mike Leach, Mike Gundy and Gus Malzahn have built offensive juggernauts around speed and athleticism. And the more high schools that adopt the up-tempo speed-based offenses they see in college, the more prepared the elite athletes will be to excel at the next level. It becomes self-fulfilling.
At AFM, we are working hard to showcase this evolution in a positive way. For nearly 20 years, we’ve shared information, strategy, systems and plays from the best minds in coaching with the entire coaching community. The largest segment of our audience is high school coaches, and we’ve strived to deliver critical information by providing detailed looks at successful college systems and how they can be adapted to their teams.
Our goal is to stay ahead of the curve. We first profiled Urban Meyer’s spread offense in 2006. We ran a cover story in December 2009 where Gus Malzahn and others advocated no-huddle offense and followed it with a feature on how to install it. We profiled Kelly’s Oregon offense, the air raid and the pistol.
In almost every issue, we include a feature or clinic article about up-tempo, spread football or how to stop it. Last month, it was six coaches showing you how to tweak your spread. This month, it’s Coach Joe Willis detailing how he slows down the up-tempo offenses he faces every week in Cedar Park, Texas.
AFM is evolving with the game. We’ll continue to work hard to provide a platform for these changes as coaches, at all levels, evolve and football gets better and better.
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