The Myth Of Offensive Balance From The Mouth Of A Pirate

Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE

How can an offense achieve the type of "Balance" that coaches talk endlessly about? College offensive guru Mike Leach has a take that applies well to the Cowboys offense.

When I made my appearance on the Cowboys Crunchtime podcast with KD on Friday, he asked me a question regarding my perspective on offensive balance. I wanted to take that idea and expand on it a little more here, and I will begin with some quotes from an interview with Mike Leach, the mad pirate & guru of the air raid offense at the college level who rewrote the offensive record books in his time at Texas Tech.

Leach is quoted on Coachingsearch.com as follows:

"We want distribution. We expect a high completion percentage, and we want to be over 65 percent and we want good distribution," Leach said. "In other words: contributing to the offensive effort, we'd like 1,400 yards-plus out of the running back position and then out of the other positions, we'd like 1,000 yards each. The inside receiver positions will probably get 1,000 yards on more touches than the outside guys. The outside guys, when they touch it, tend to go a little further."

"There's a whole myth about balance, and it's really stupid. The notion that you hand it to one guy half the time, and then you throw it to two other guys the other half of the time, and maybe you connect, maybe you don't. There's nothing balanced about it. There's two skill positions left out."

"Balance, whether you run it or throw it, is getting contribution from all the skill positions. Ours is a balanced offense. The wishbone is a balanced offense. Some I-tailback offense, it may be a great offense, it may be great for the team that they play for, where you're giving it to the back 40 times. There's nothing balanced about it. It doesn't even add up to balance. We try to be balanced based on contributions by all the skill positions."

This expands well on the point I made on Friday. As Leach says above, he considers the Wishbone to be a balanced offense as well. In fact in other places he's said that he feels like the two ultimate offenses in terms of ball distribution are what he does, and the wishbone.

This perspective of balance actually opens up your play-calling to do what your team does best. Rather than trying to achieve some false sense of balance by running the ball 30 times and throwing it 30 times, you can call plays simply trying to get the ball to the 5 skill position players and attack the entire field. If this means that you put 3 backs in the backfield with a QB who's a running threat, and any of those four guys can get the ball on any of the 50 run plays you run in a week, plus a play action threat to throw to your split end or tight end 10 times a game, that is just as balanced as spreading the field with four WR's and throwing the ball 60 times a game to each of the five skill guys.

When Jason Garrett says he wants the offense to "attack defenses in a lot of different ways," I believe this is what he is talking about. He doesn't want a fullback on the field who is only there to block for a ground and pound running game with no threat to run it himself, or catch the ball out of the back field. He wants the defense to have to think about every player on the field as a threat.

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