I HATE the no-huddle offense. Give me three yards and a cloud of field turf any day.
I guess this is because I enjoy watching good defense. And if anything is the bane of good defense, it’s having your team run the no huddle. Sure, it’s flashy and might produce a few more points, but it also wipes out your defenders, who don’t get to rest much between possessions and therefore are most times worn out when the fourth quarter rolls around.
A couple of illustrations: First, think back to Sam Bradford’s Oklahoma team from 2008. Those Sooners where prolific on offense – running the no huddle full time – to say the least. They set an all-time NCAA record for points scored, racking up over 700 for the season. But they also gave up 319. When was the last time a defense with a half dozen NFL prospects on it (including the Broncos Jeremy Beal) gave up more than 26 points per game? When push came to shove, the Florida Gator defense had the answers and shut down the Sooners 24-14 in the national title game. Defense still mattered.
More recently, Air Force went to the no huddle last season with lousy results. Against Navy, a comfortable 18-point AFA lead melted away in the fourth quarter as the Falcons kept giving the ball back to the middies. Navy held the ball for more than 40 minutes and ended up running a ridiculous 105 offensive plays in that single game. 105…including 80 rushing attempts! No wonder the valiant Falcons D wore out. A fortunate break in overtime – a questionable penalty on Navy during an extra point – allowed AFA to win the game 35-34. Normally I’m a big advocate of Academy coach Troy Calhoun, but I will NEVER understand his move to the no huddle. Option teams like Air Force run that offense specifically to keep control of the ball and shorten the game. Going no huddle made no sense. Even with Tim Jefferson at the controls, it did not turn out to be a banner year for the Academy.
Advocates of the no-huddle like to say that time of possession is the most overrated statistic in football. They’re wrong. If you’re holding on to the ball, pounding on the other team’s defense, keeping THEIR defense on the field chasing YOUR quarterback around… guess what YOUR defense is doing? Ya. Resting for crunch time. Try telling the Air Force defense that time of possession is overrated after they spent 40 minutes on the field against Navy.
Now of course Peyton Manning’s version of the no huddle is the rage here in Denver. Maybe I missed something, but I watched Manning run the Broncos offense pretty well (some of those wobbly duck throws not withstanding) against San Francisco using the traditional huddle-up offense. Why isn’t that okay? Why isn’t it okay to try to wear down the other team physically by running the ball at them and then hitting them with big pass plays when you’ve got them on the ropes? That kind of offense has won a whole lot of football games over the years.
This Broncos defense is improved, but if they are asked to be on the field for more than half the game, Denver’s chances of winning are slim no matter how much Manning improves during the season.
Some will say that running the gimmicky no huddle offense full time can cover up talent deficiencies…that if you aren’t talented enough to line up and beat the guy across the line you need to trick ‘em instead. There’s truth to that, but doesn’t that make it even MORE important that you protect your less talented defense? Less talented offenses have run the option for years knowing that if they can just grind out three or four yards at a time they can shorten the game and give themselves a better chance to win. It’s tough to score if the other team has the ball.
The no-huddle should be viewed the same way as a full court press in basketball. It’s very effective when used strategically and selectively, but not for a full game. I’ll be thrilled if the Broncos come out against Pittsburgh and spend most of the game huddling up between plays…but throw in the occasional no huddle sequence to mix things up. That’s the best use of the gimmick.