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Football 101: The No Huddle And The Hurry Up (Part 1)

The Chip Kelly pistol and the use of the hurry up offense is going to continue to at least catch NFL watcher's interest. Both concepts have desirable outcomes and while Kelly may not, and probably will not, implement his version of the full pistol offense here in the NFL, the concepts of both the pistol and the hurry up are worth studying and possibly incorporating in some form.

Getting guys lined up.
Getting guys lined up.

One of my goals in writing this Football 101 series is to not make it too technical so that the subject can be easily understood. I will try to do that in this post as well. First let's touch on the concept of the hurry up and how it can be very useful to all teams in the NFL including the Cowboys. I have already touched on the pistol depth of the QB here, and after touching on the hurry up concept, I will expand a little on some more concepts from the pistol offense.

If you haven't already read my previous 101 posts, below is a drop down where you can select them.


One of the things that really improve things in many areas of life, and especially business and football, is innovation. This was recently presented very nicely in this article by my fellow FPW, neithan2000.

The hurry up starts with the no huddle. They are not the same thing, but with the new collective bargaining agreement focusing on limiting the number of hours players can be on the practice field, the main advantage of making this concept a big part, if not a main part of your offense, is the fact that it can increase practice reps by as much as 33 percent or more. More practice reps will usually translate into better execution. For more on this concept, check out this very good article over at SB Nation. From that article:
The no-huddle and hurry-up are both old ideas. However, heavy usage is a more recent innovation, one that legendary coach Bill Walsh predicted would come into play in his seminal book, Finding the Winning Edge.
From Walshtradamus:
  • Teams will huddle only when the clock is stopped.
  • Teams will use single-world [sic - single-word] offensive audibles.
  • The quarterback will receive direction from the coach at the line of scrimmage. Because the ball can be put into play at any moment, the defense must commit itself with its front and coverage.
  • The quarterback will look to the sideline the instant the whistle blows on the previous play to see which personnel combination is entering the game. The designated coach indicates the formation to the quarterback and whether he should audible his own play or will receive a play call from the coach. All of    these steps will occur without a huddle.
  • The quarterback will have even more latitude in audibling at the line of scrimmage. His decisions will override those by the coach signaling in a play call.

It is very interesting just how forward thinking Bill Walsh was. In fact thinking out of the box is what really impressed me about him.

I think these trends will continue to increase and one of the reasons is because it can be used to change the tempo of the game. At Oregon Chip Kelly used three speeds: The red light where the QB looks to the sideline for the signal, the yellow light where the QB takes the time to call audibles at the line of scrimmage and then the green light where the QB gets the ball as soon as the offense can get lined up. This change of pace can keep the defense off balance and makes the offense less predictable in terms of the pace.

Also, by not spending any time in the huddle, the QB can have more time to go through his pre-snap keys, such as, what are the leverages of the corners, how many in the box, is it and under-front or over-front, where are the safeties?

A team usually gets 60 plays in a game, but with the hurry up / no huddle being run most if not all the time, you can get up to 80 plays in. More plays, more chances to score. Another aspect is to keep the defense from substituting personnel groups, such as changing their base to their nickle, or their nickle to their dime package. And not to mention those big guys can get tired and become less useful in the forth quarter if they are running around all the time without much chance of rest by substitution.

Some will say that a disadvantage in doing this so much is that it makes you communicate much better....oh, boy, that's a horrible thing to want from your team. Now, I have to admit, it does make it difficult to not make mistakes by forcing you to have all of your players extremely focused, sharp, and smart.  Again, that is not a bad thing and guys will study up a storm if they want to be a starter. Please read that article at SB Nation once your done here, as I promise you will get a lot out of it, and keep me from repeating a lot of what the author has already said about this subject.

So, having said all that, let's get in to more into how this all fits in the Chip Kelly offense of the Eagles:


Let's look at two schools of thought when it comes to where the wide receivers line up each time. In my last article I pointed out that from time to time, it might be good to move the X receiver down into the slot so that if the team's best corner follows him down into the slot, then he would be playing out of position and if he didn't, then you would have the defense's third best corner matched up with your best receiver.

The other school of thought can be found in the Mike Leach/Hal Mumme air raid offense which is what Chip Kelly's offense is founded upon and that is always lining up the receivers in the same spot for all plays. This means the receivers won't have to stop to think about where they should line up on each play, but also one of the things about efficiency is to eliminate wasted steps, and going to a huddle, and then going over to line up could be though of as wasted steps as well as slowing down the pace.

Once the play ends the whole offense rushes to get lined up for the next play. The Eagles also almost always lined up in the 11 or 12 personnel the whole season.


When a coach puts together a game plan for an opponent he goes through several questions:

  • What are the tendencies based upon groupings?
  • What does the offense do with certain players on the field?
  • What does the opponent do against an empty formation?
  • Do they do the same thing every time?

Well, when you try to do a statistical analysis of run versus pass, Chip Kelly makes it tough to pin down and that is on purpose. He can run several plays using the same exact formation and he will mix the run with the pass so as to stay balanced.  (Hmmm....Does Garrett always say the Cowboys want to stay balanced?)

One of the things that a QB will do as part of the pre-snap read, is to see where the advantage is in the defense. This starts with how many are in the box. If there are seven in the box, then the offense feels it has an advantage in the run game, but if there are eight in the box, then the advantage is with the pass. I realize that many hate this idea of "Taking what the defense gives you", but almost all teams do this and it is on the surface a sound principal. Ideally you want to be in a formation that has at a minimum one option to run the ball, and one option to pass the ball, and all from the same formation. Some will think that this is allowing the defense to dictate what they want the offense to do, but the results of a high percentage of success is there for all to see when this strategy is employed.

As was mentioned above, Kelly uses a simplified communication between the sidelines and the team. Instead of using the QB to tell everyone in the huddle, the signals can be sent to all the players from the side lines using a cartoon character or a single word. There are usually two boards, a dummy board and a "live" board and they are changed every week  This gives the players the ability to not have to hesitate about their assignment as it is simplified and practiced all week using the cards and up to 33 percent more often than other teams do.

In the next article we will go into some of  the plays that Kelly uses and keep in mind that you want to go fast, but not too fast that you don't get a chance to see the defensive alignment and your players want to be able to see their assignments for blocking and route running.

We will go into the basic concepts of both the run game and the pass game. The inside zone and the outside zone but we will stick with the theme of the hurry up and no huddle offense while making it relevant to what we and the Cowboys will see when we play the Eagles.

Hope you enjoyed this first installment of the hurry up and no huddle, and if you liked it, well you know about those re-tweets, and like on face book, and of course those rec's.

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