Since the end of the bowl season I’ve noticed a number of threads on various sites devoted to the quick game. Given the fact that we are living through the “Spread” age in football this hardly comes as a surprise. What is surprising, however, is the number of posts in which coaches speculate as to how relevant a quick game package is to an offense that bases out of the gun anyway. After all, should it not be possible to simply build your quick package into your basic 5 step package anyway, either via hots, sight-adjustments, or some form or the other of flare control?
There are six reasons why one needs to throw quick:
1. Horizontal Stretch
2. Force defensive numbers to be even in the box.
3. Force hard support control
4. Identify the leverage on the perimeter.
5. Find where the defense is not on the field.
6. Blitz control.
I think relationship between reasons one and two is pretty obvious. If you are a spread team, operating in a four-wide environment, the quick game functions as a way to structurally set the defense and to get an idea as to how the defense is going to defend the box. In a sense, your quick package should do for you what double-tight does for an ACE team in that it should force the defense to balance up, which should enable the offense to get a hat-on-a-hat in both the running and passing games. In other words, the horizontal stretch the quick game creates should prevent overloads from occurring in one form or another. In so doing, the quick game also enables you to identify the specific areas in a given defensive structure that you will want to isolate and exploit by way of the five-step game.
In the same way that one and two work together, so do three and four. If you create a good horizontal stretch and even the defense the defense will begin to play hard support, thus flattening the under coverage out, creating, in effect, more man to man situations in which defenders will, by the leverage of their technique, be in a less effective position to play good run support. In addition, this will clarify the defense’s leverage and subsequent pursuit angles.
Reason five, I believe, helps explain why the quick game is an invaluable tool: it helps identify, at early stage in any game, where defenders are and where they are not. In this sense, the quick game is tool for probing that helps an offense identify where along a broad defensive front it should concentrate its spearheads.
Blitz control, reason six, albeit important, is not, in my opinion, the primary reason one should throw quick. Yes, it’s imperative that an offense have the ability to get the ball off quickly off of a short drop, but certainly there are other tools an offense has at its disposal that can not only serve as a blitz deterrent, if desired, but that are a more sure fire way to make a defense pay for blitzing, such as screens, for example.
In a place of a conclusion, I would like to say a word or two about how the quick game figures into the historical evolution one-back offenses. I know this will sound like ancient history, but the one-back offense, as we understand it today, in the modern post-Jack Elway / Pink Erickson sense (and for those that don’t know, Pink is Dennis’ father), developed out of a desire to find an easy and economically teachable way to spread the ball out to the perimeter in order to displace defenders and open the running game. What people forget is that the passing game of the modern one-back offense, the one that Dennis Erickson popularized throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s, but not the one he runs today at ASU with Noel Mazzone, revolved around a vertical stem quick game whose main objective was to create a horizontal stretch that would displace the Sam backer, create a 4-2 box, but one with a two hi shell that would enable the offense to run a power inside and outside zone running game, preferably to the low shade of the defense. So, even in its modern beginnings, the quick game was really not designed as a way to beat the blitz, but rather as means to an end for running the football.
In my next posting, I will talk at some length about the questions a staff needs to ask itself as it conceptualizes its program’s quick package.