Play calling makes your life easier. If you are in this coverage then I have certain things I will run but I’m not going to go to a ‘cover X beater’. I don’t want to make a play call BE wrong. This way if I don’t make the best call they can still have a high probability of success. I’m in the minority, I have heard a lot of coaches say that play calling is overrated or not as important but I disagree because I know how difficult this is. I’m a much better play caller now than before. It comes from instinct and knowledge. I take that part of my job very very seriously because if I don’t it can negatively effect a game. I don’t make a play call without watching the opponent inside and out. I want to have knowledge of what the defensive coordinator wants to do. Yes we need to know what coverage or down linemen they are in but the human nature aspect is more important. You can play four cover two teams in a row but each team they are going to play it differently because of details – everybody has their own take on it. Even if you coach it the same way the players may play it differently. So instead of coaching out of a rigid playbook we approach it this way. Here is your route. If the corner attacks you do this, bails you do that, runs with you do this. What matters is what a player does. Just because a linebackers coach teaches them to read the offensive line and not the backfield, that doesn’t mean that’s what they do. Even though the playbook says one thing the human instinct does the other. I trust more what I see on film that the human beings are doing than the scheme that they install.
Normally this is considered a nightmare but Coach Longo found a way to make it work.
Last year we had an athletic guy that threw well but we had another guy that doesn’t run well but he can make any throw so we split them about fifty-fifty. They were entirely different quarterbacks but in the exact same offense. With the exception of a few quarterback draws and deep throws, it is the same thing. My first choice in quarterbacking is a player that can think and is willing to study as much as I am, and a guy that can make all of the throws. I’m never going to take a great athlete that cannot throw or think as a quarterback. No matter what guy we have he must have leadership ability. If we get a do it all guy like a few years ago, then that is a bigger emphasis point. From year to year the emphasizes might change in the twenty-six plays but the offense does not.
From a character standpoint if you recruit the right high character guys the personal aspect in the office and competition in practice was never negative because you got a coach that’s going to play people that will help you win the game. We had two guys dying to be the guy but they aren’t going to let their individual desires become more important than the team. Having an ego isn’t a problem, being an ego problem is. If one guy is good the other guy is happy. They have to have that attitude. We have a high number of plays last year where the guys didn’t know who the QB was and it didn’t matter because they had tremendous confidence in both of them. I didn’t have two play sheets. Now I don’t want to do this every year but we aren’t going to leave a weapon on the sidelines. I have done a dual system three years. The first time we had two good young unproven players and I wasn’t sure who would respond better. I needed to find out, so they both played and excellent yet neither one separated from the other. One graduated and the next took over. We did this last year, but out athletic quarterback transferred (probably) because he saw his play time diminishing so we are going to have a QB 1 guy this year.
One year I was an offensive coordinator but I was not the quarterback’s coach. It was the most difficult year I ever had because I needed to coach them directly but I couldn’t. There was nothing wrong with the quarterback coach but we had two guys doing one job.
The Risk-Taking Spectrum
We want to be intelligently aggressive with the let’s go win the game mentality, so we are aggressive. But we want to make educated decisions. Throwing the ball in a crowded area isn’t smart. We want to keep things clean for the quarterback because they don’t read defenders att all. We utilize the same progression every time on each play. If I teach them Y Cross, there is one progression that never changes. There may be a different emphasis level on the parts of the progression but we still look. If I’m asking you to look at an out route; if it’s screaming, throw it. If there is a blur of the other team’s jersey, move on to the next route. Against one coverage the out is great and another it is terrible but we still look at it and then go to the next route. It doesn’t mean it is right or wrong because I don’t have all of the answers but it works for us and it is what we do.
Responding to the Critics of the Air Raid
So much of what we do is based on the decisions the quarterback makes, so the last thing I want to tell a guy is to tell him to always make right decisions in a complex offense. There are some systems where they have to verbalize the signal, put guys into position, identify the mike, check the coverage, look back at the coach, snap the ball, and execute but we don’t do that. Our quarterbacks are not intelligent; they are extremely smart because an unintelligent quarterback is an unsuccessful quarterback. I don’t care what the Air Raid does in the NFL, I care about winning games here. I would find it interesting that somebody would have the opinion that it would be detrimental for a guy to be in the Air Raid system when there are so many college guys that run this system and there are elements of it in the NFL. One of the great things is that it is simple, its about instinct. It is laughable to me to suggest that our quarterbacks could not be successful in another offense.