Given my writing schedule, rather than writing long posts, I am instead going to offer up shorter ones that will address a specific point of a larger topic. In the end, this may take a little longer, but the content will be the same.
In my last post I talked bit about the origins of the Run-n-Shoot under Tiger Ellison. Some people clearly took umbrage with some of my remarks, perhaps feeling that I was dismissing his work. Not so. Ellison was an innovator and we have much to be grateful to him for.
Ellison laid the foundations for what Mouse developed; his base packages, such as Gangster, Wagontrain, and Popcorn are all present in Mouse's stuff. This serves as a nice segue into what I want to talk about: How Mouse built a better mouse trap and the anxiety of influence.
Structurally, Mouse preserved the basics of what Tiger created. His version of the Run-n-Shoot from the very beginning was one predicated upon operating solely within a four wide environment. He would also make use of moving pocket; like Tiger's, Mouse's QBs would not thrown from vertical axis. But here is where Mouse started to modify or reign in some of what Tiger did. Tiger's QBs utilized a hard role. The side of the field they worked was clearly defined based direction of their role and the QB was ALWAYS a real threat to run the ball. Tiger wanted his QBs to throw downhill off the roll. Mouse did not exactly jettison this; the Go route, arguably the most famous concept of the offense, is a downhill concept that is most effective when the QB attacks the line of scrimmage, thus putting the invert player in a three way bind between the seam, angle, and QB. More on the Go later and its more limited uses today. The Go was great in the early days of the offense because most defenses operated some type of 3 shell with sky rotation. But Mouse recognized that you could not build an effective passing offense around a concept whose very strength eliminated 3/4 of the field. Mouse's solution was to control the QB's steps by numbering them and thus calibrating them loosely to QBs progression. The QB thus was still utilizing a mobile launch point, but one that enabled him to pull up under control behind the tackle, work the back side, and take better advantage of how the role moved the FS out of position. This today is still a reason why the offense has yet to take out the angle drop of the QB; defenders still tend to angle their drops with the QB thus taking themselves, even if ever so slightly, out of position.
Mouse's most important "reform" was arguably his most ironic one. By this I mean the one that seemingly contradicts the base principles of the offense itself. Mouse added structure to the offense; he defined the goals of each concept, and created a structure within which the concepts operated. Think of it in terms of poetry. We all have rhythm; it is the feel of the poem. This is what Tiger had with his stuff; what he did not have, however, was meter. Mouse gave the Run-n-Shoot a meter that structured the rhythm of the offense. Put differently, but defining each concept, Mouse expanded their creative potential. This is the hallmark of great verse. Great verse has the ability to create anew within established structures. Great poets, or writers, thinkers, and football coaches for that matter, are ones that have the ability to overcome the influence of their predecessors not simply by miming them or rejecting them but engaging directly with their creation and overcoming it through their own work, which in fact is creative criticism of their predecessors. This is what Mouse did.
Next time I will explore the mechanics of Mouse's offense.
Oh, and speaking of influence, John Jenkins followed Mouse's path in this regard. He did not just copy Mouse, but engaged with his work directly and in the end put forth an offense that was substantially different.