Commentary: Individual success under spread offenses in college might not translate to NFL
Published: Thursday, September 20, 2012
Updated: Thursday, September 20, 2012 23:09
When I first heard that renowned coach Urban Meyer was returning from retirement to coach at Ohio State, I almost choked on the microwavable meal I was eating.
I mean, this was the coach who led the Florida Gators to two national championships in 2006 and 2008. Possibilities of great potential rushed through my mind. OSU could now return to its title-contending status it had under former Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel.
Some changes, however, would need to occur.
One of these changes was the implementation of the spread offense into the playbook. No harm done, right?
I mean, numerous college football programs across the country use the spread offense and thrive, including many schools in the dominating Southeastern Conference, where Meyer previously coached.
In the realm of college football, it’s a great idea.
But what happens when the top-notch players move to the NFL? The spread offense has been tried in the National Football League and, sometimes, it can bring some success.
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady used this scheme in 2007. But, time and again, the spread offense, for the most part, doesn’t work in professional football.
The old tradition of dropping back in the pocket and making plays rules dominant in the NFL and will most likely do so for a long time.
The question facing college athletes playing in spread formations across the country is whether individual success in that type of offense translates to the pro level? It might just be the case that it doesn’t.
Need an example? How about former Gators and current New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow? Tebow played in Meyer’s spread offense at Florida and he was a freak of college football nature, winning the Heisman Trophy and two national championships.
Tebow entered the NFL after his senior season in 2010 and was drafted 25th overall by the Denver Broncos. Once Tebow had his chance to be a starter, he led the Broncos, who began last season 1-4, to the playoffs.
Since Tebow was accustomed to using his running ability often in Meyer’s spread offense, though, he was forced to buckle down and throw in the pocket in NFL.
He failed miserably, not even being able to throw with the correct form. This complication allowed Tebow and the Broncos to eventually be flushed out by the New England Patriots in the playoffs.
Despite Tebow’s sincere dedication to reshaping his throwing form, it didn’t help him when it mattered most. Everyone knows from a psychological perspective that integrated physical habits are extremely hard to overcome.
Now, Tebow finds himself as New York Jets’ quarterback Mark Sanchez’s backup. This was also the case for quarterback JaMarcus Russell, who was the quarterback for the LSU Tigers and played in a spread offense under Tigers coach Les Miles.
While he was a dominant player in college like Tebow, Russell struggled after being drafted by the Oakland Raiders in 2007. In May 2010, the Raiders cut Russell.
While it’s hard to say that the spread offense doesn’t work at all in the NFL, the chances aren’t good from a historical point of view.
Spreading the offensive line can open up holes for a no-huddle offense in college, but the speed and athleticism by defensive players in the NFL is too great, and the players will still cover the open gaps.
So what about OSU quarterback Braxton Miller?
Known for his ability as a dual-threat quarterback, Miller has done well as the Buckeyes’ (3-0) season rolls on.
But being under this coaching scheme, success in the NFL still remains murky.
Meyer is a sensational coach, there is no question. He’s arguably the best coach in the game right now. His plays and schemes work well for college football, but is his work really going to Miller if he moves on the big stage?