I feel that, sometimes, Bolts from the Blue can get a little too technical. When all we're talking about is schemes and routes and footwork, it's easy to confuse those that are still in the process of learning this very complicated game.
That's where I come in. Everyone knows that the San Diego Chargers have a new offensive coaching staff this season. Mike McCoy and Ken Whisenhunt are hard at work, installing their "new" offense in hopes that it can better fit Philip Rivers' skillset. But what exactly is this new offense? And how does it differ from what Norv Turner was running the last six seasons?
Norv Turner's Offense
Spread the defense. That's the goal of every offense in the National Football League. Make the defense have to choose the lesser of two evils, and then take what they give you.
Norv's offensive philosophy is pretty simple. Establish the running game as a threat, wait until the safeties start cheating up, and then use the play-action pass for a big play downfield. When the Safeties hang back to prevent the big play, hit the front seven with runs and short-passes.
Basically, stretch the defense vertically. If the 11 defenders are scattered in a 30-yard range downfield, you'll get a lot of one-on-one situations within the first 20 yards. If they move down to a 20-yard range, you'll get a few one-on-one situations beyond the first 20 yards.
The type of running back Norv Turner looks for has become very hard to find in the NFL. He needs a guy that can take the pounding of 25 carries a game, while remaining a big-play threat. When you look through the types of RBs Norv has had success with (Frank Gore, Ricky Williams, LaDainian Tomlinson, Stephen Davis), it's easy to see why he chose to work with Trent Richardson this season and why he was never able to get much out of Ryan Mathews. Mathews doesn't make big plays and could not take the beating of that many carries. Most RBs can't.
Norv also needs a very specific type of WR for his offense, and those guys don't typically succeed in other offenses. He looks for WRs that can win jump balls, have a ton of straight-line speed and can block at the line. In addition, they need to be smart enough to read defenses and have enough chemistry with the QB to make the same read and the same decision.
Offensive linemen play a huge role in Norv's offense. They're arguably more important than the QB. They need to be dominant in the running game, forcing the Safety to come down and help. They need to be good enough in pass-protection to let those big plays downfield develop.
In a nutshell, Norv's offense puts an awful lot of strain on the players and the General Manager to assemble a group of great players that can also stay healthy. There's a reason that Norv's legacy still resides with one of the most talented teams in the history of the NFL, and part of it is his system.
Ken Whisenhunt's Offense
Spread the defense. It's still the philosophy, but it's been turned on it's head. Literally (EDITOR'S NOTE: Not literally).
Whereas Norv works to spread the defense vertically, Whiz spreads them out horizontally and vertically, creating four or more options for the QB and letting him find the hole in the defense.
If you figure that there are four people rushing the passer and one playing deep coverage to prevent big plays (since there's usually someone on a deep route), that leaves the defense with six guys to cover five playmakers. That's a lot of one-on-one matchups.
It's a more boring, more consistently successful approach than Norv's. Norv's offense says to take either the 5 yard run or 30 yard pass, depending on which the defense is giving you. That works when you have a great offensive line, a great QB and a great WR. When you're missing one, two or all of those, it doesn't work at all.
Whisenhunt's offense says that throwing five options at the defense puts them in a position where they're always giving up 5 yards. It's just a matter of finding where those 5 yards are. Then, it's simply a race between the QB's ability to break down the defense and his offensive line's ability to hold back the pass rush.
Unlike Norv's offense, where a QB can get by with a strong arm and a good play-action fake, Whiz's offense requires more from the QB position. Strong, accurate throws mixed with strong, accurate decisions by the QB is what makes this offense go.
For the most part, players in this offense are required to be versatile and/or fundamentally sound more than they're required to be freaks of nature. This offense is similar to what the Patriots run in New England, which is why you see guys like Danny Woodhead and Wes Welker getting cut by other teams and turning into stars there. That's what we're hoping to see in San Diego.
Running backs in this offense are more successful based on how well-rounded their game is. Can they run for speed? Can they run for power? Do they have good hands? Can they block? If the answer to all four of those is "yes," their success rests solely in the hands of the QB.
The offensive line is almost irrelevant in this offense. Their job is simplified as much as possible. Don't let pressure up the middle, try to turn every run into a big play, and stay out of the way. The offense uses timing to keep the defense on their heels. Once they're on their heels, just about any offensive line can push them around. If pressure is getting the QB from the outside, that's more on the QB than it is on the line.
Wide receivers in this system don't need to win jump balls and they don't need to have great speed either, they simply need to have good hands and need to be able to get open quickly. Receivers that flourish in this offense are typically smart, strong, quick, ex-punt returners (because they can create yards after the catch) and able to stay healthy.
That's not to say that Malcom Floyd won't be successful in this offense, though. Like I said, Whisenhunt tries to stretch offenses horizontally and vertically. There will almost always be a deep guy, keeping the Safeties honest or taking advantage when they cheat. Think of Randy Moss' time with the Patriots.
The most successful players under Whisenhunt were Kurt Warner (quick, accurate throws and decisions), Anquan Boldin, (smart, strong, quick) and Larry Fitzgerald (smart, strong, quick and also fast enough to be the deep guy). The Chargers are hoping that Keenan Allen can model his game after Boldin or Fitzgerald, and that Rivers can mimic what Kurt Warner was able to do in Arizona.
I hope that made sense.
Norv's offense relies on the players around the QB to make plays and defeat the defense. Whiz's offense relies on the QB to make plays so quickly that the defense doesn't have time to defend.
When Norv's offense is working, you're going to see BIG plays down the field. When Whiz's offense is working, you're going to see rhythm and timing and a lot of completed 7-yard passes.