Talking about Scheme Fit and System

January 14, 2011

Tim Tebow reignited the thought in my head during the ESPN documentary last week. Are we being unfair in considering limitations of QBs based on how much they did or didn’t do something in college? Obviously Tebow was a clear discussion point in regard to that – “Will have to learn to take snaps from under center” etc. Just because his coach and system in college didn’t ask him to, doesn’t mean he can’t. The same discussion comes up with many other QBs who play in a particularly system or scheme.

Lets look at Mike Vick. In his Va Tech days he ran a pretty pro-style offense. It allowed him to do some drop passing, roll-out stuff and make some plays as a scrambler. At Philadelphia he runs the West Coast Offense. If he were a HS prospect today, many would be suggesting he should be used in a spread offense with some zone read. And you know what…he would excel at that. That is three different schemes that could and would work for Mike Vick. Now, don’t get me wrong, not every QB has the broad skill set of Vick, but isn’t this reflective of what others could do?

The Air-Raid and Run and Shoot offenses have seen some prolific passers over time in college. Have all of these QBs gone on to  be NFL stars? No. If you look at Colt Brennan, David Klinger, Graham Harrell etc. All were very successful in their college time, but couldn’t crack the NFL long term because they were ideal for a system that was in place in their college. Just not the systems in place for most of the NFL franchises. If the Houston Oilers were still cranking out the Run and Shoot, then you may have seen a perfect NFL system fit, but the case for drafting such a narrow range of QB is hard to swallow for many GMs who know the need for contribution early from draft picks, and the pressure is on with QB selections especially. I am sure that each of these players, if surrounded by the right personnel, entrenched in the right system and given the opportunity to develop, could well have been successful. But they represent a large portion of the ‘system guy’ talk, and for the purpose of NFL drafting, I can see their point.

In considering the case of a QB like Denard Robinson and his predicament as a successful QB in a RR zone read offense, things get interesting. No doubt D-Rob is ideal for this scheme. It plays to his strengths. He was recruited to Michigan for his ability to play in this system, the same as why Ryan Mallett left Michigan because he didn’t fit the system being introduced. With a new coach in place, many are wondering if there is still a place for DR in the ‘Pro-Style offense’ being introduced by OC Al Borges. Maybe DR can comfortably adjust and run a system that Mike Vick thrived in. Maybe he won’t. If he doesn’t, many will consider that Denard didn’t fit the scheme introduced. Maybe we should be considering if maybe the scheme didn’t fit with the players in place. Robinson is the brightest spark on the Michigan team by far. I would consider the staff should be showing their flexibility to move to him, not the other way round. But this is about ego of course, power and control. My question is whether the desire to implement a new system for this purpose may see a lack of success which may see the coaching carousel spin again!

No doubt QBs have strengths and weaknesses. For some it is their strong arm and pocket presence. Others, their run-pass threat. Then you have the QBs who are accurate and read the field well. Not all can do all. So you play to their strengths. Give them opportunities to do what they do best. DO that, and as coaches you will do best. If you are desiring a move to a new system, sure, recruit for it, and build upwards towards it. Just don’t try to change it overnight. The leash of Div 1 Head Coaches is very short.

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