Should The Cowboys Use The No-Huddle More In 2011?

Could we see fewer Cowboys huddles in 2011?

The Cowboys enter the 2011 season with some of the best offensive skill position players they've had in a long time. And most of these players have been playing in Garrett's system for quite some time. So is there a way to take advantage of these two points? The no-huddle offense may be one solution.

The no-huddle offense is used by most NFL teams as a "hurry-up" when teams are looking for a quick score at the end of the game or at the end of the first half. Excluding the Colts (we'll see why later), 70% of all no-huddle snaps in the league last year came in the two-minute-warning of the first half or in the fourth quarter.

And while the no-huddle can be an effective tool to speed up the game, it also has a much more strategic benefit: Arguably, the biggest advantage of the no-huddle is the threat of snapping the ball quickly, which takes away the ability of the defense to substitute players and allows the QB to get a long, hard look at the defensive formation. Teams that go to the no-huddle regularly will often delay snapping the ball for quite some time after they've lined up, using the time to adjust their formation, blocking assignments and plays to what the defense is showing.

Imagine lining up with Austin, Bryant, Witten, Bennett and Felix, with the option of splitting either of the latter two into the slot. That could present present almost unsolvable mismatches, especially from the no huddle and with a (hopefully) improved O-line.

The Cowboys went into a no huddle offense 51 times in 11 different games last season. Only four of those snaps came in games the Cowboys won (three versus the Colts, one versus the Redskins).

The no-huddle in 2010

Here's a look at the games in which the Cowboys used the no-huddle.

Wk 1:
WAS
Wk 2:
CHI
Wk 5:
TEN
Wk 7:
NYG
Wk 8:
JAC
Wk 9:
GB
WK 12:
NO
WK13:
IND
WK 14:
PHI
WK 15:
WAS
WK 16:
ARI
No. of no- huddle plays 2 6 3 10 11 8 5 3 1 1 1

Even a cursory glance confirms that there are not a lot of winning games on this list. In fact, all but three of the Cowboys' 51 no-huddle snaps came in the fourth quarter (41) or in the two-minute-warning of the first half (7) when the Cowboys were in desperation mode and trying to score to save the game.

The 2010 Cowboys used the no-huddle almost exclusively in end-of-game situations as a tool to speed up the game. But isn't there an opportunity to use the no-huddle as a regular part of the offensive arsenal? The no-huddle requires experienced players and a good knowledge of the playbook and offensive schemes to work. Every single starter on offense (barring Dez Bryant, who may or may not become a starter this season, and Tyron Smith) will be entering at least his fourth season with the Cowboys in the same offensive system. This is a very experienced offense, one that should be experienced enough to run the no-huddle more often if they want to.

The no huddle in the NFL

The no-huddle never has been used widely at the NFL level, but there are a couple of teams that used it quite frequently last year: almost 20% of the Colts' offensive plays came out of the no-huddle, and only about a third of their no-huddle plays came in ‘hurry-up' situations (two-min-warning, fourth quarter). The Ravens and Patriots also used more than half of their no-huddle snaps in "non-hurry-up" situations. The use of the no-huddle varies significantly, as you can see from the table below.

No huddle offense by NFL team, 2009 (click column header to sort)

Team Total offensive plays No-huddle plays in % of
total plays
of which 4th Q &
2 min warning
in % of
no-huddle plays
IND 1,089 213 19.6% 70 32.9%
CLE 928 91 9.8% 51 56.0%
NE 987 76 7.7% 32 42.1%
BAL 1,017 68 6.7% 13 19.1%
PIT 995 56 5.6% 33 58.9%
DET 1,069 56 5.2% 34 60.7%
DAL 1,037 51 4.9% 48 94.1%
OAK 1,041 51 4.9% 34 66.7%
CIN 1,050 51 4.9% 27 52.9%
CAR 960 43 4.5% 43 100.0%
NYJ 1,088 44 4.0% 34 77.3%
MIA 1,041 41 3.9% 30 73.2%
ARI 932 36 3.9% 36 100.0%
NYG 1,036 38 3.7% 35 92.1%
KC 1,065 38 3.6% 24 63.2%
BUF 956 27 2.8% 26 96.3%
DEN 1,019 28 2.7% 24 85.7%
MIN 984 26 2.6% 24 92.3%
PHI 1,039 23 2.2% 22 95.7%
TEN 909 20 2.2% 20 100.0%
STL 1,053 21 2.0% 12 57.1%
TB 957 19 2.0% 19 100.0%
HOU 1,030 20 1.9% 19 95.0%
ATL 1,100 19 1.7% 6 31.6%
NO 1,066 17 1.6% 12 70.6%
WAS 1,006 16 1.6% 16 100.0%
SF 945 13 1.4% 13 100.0%
CHI 937 10 1.1% 10 100.0%
SEA 966 8 0.8% 8 100.0%
GB 999 7 0.7% 5 71.4%
JAC 1,019 5 0.5% 4 80.0%
SD 1,041 3 0.3% 3 100.0%

Should the Cowboys use the no-huddle offense more in 2011, and not just in hurry-up situations?

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