No-Huddle Offenses All the Rage but Not Always Good


Back in the day, the “no-huddle offense” and the “two-minute drill” were one and the same thing.

Enter Jim Kelly.

Jim Kelly led the Bills to 4 Super Bowl appearances behind the no-huddle offense in the early-mid 1990’s. Then along came a kid named Peyton Manning.

It wasn’t long before a young Manning was waving his arms around and stomping and cupping his hands to his mouth, taking a step back from center and turning to scream at his wideouts to move to a particular spot, or some other signal. Unlike Kelly, Peyton actually won a Super Bowl.

Ever since then, with the defenses loving to use “sub-packages” for particular situations, the no-huddle offense started to slowly catch on with a couple of other teams.

The New England Patriots have been using it off and on for years depending on their opponent or BB’s mood a particular week. Mike McCarthy in Green Bay picked it up and AR-12 runs it as well as anyone these days. Still other teams have “dated” it.

Sep 9, 2012; Nashville, TN, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) calls from the line against the Tennessee Titans during the first half at LP Field. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-US PRESSWIRE

This year, even more teams are moving toward using it. The Baltimore Ravens found out in preseason that they could really run up the score as it _lengthens_ games – much like less-talented teams try to run against great QB-driven teams to _shorten_ games. A la the 2012 Cleveland Browns’ approach.

The Ravens have Joe Flacco, Torrey Smith, Anquan Boldin, and Ray Rice to weaponize the offense while Ed Reed still lurks deep over the middle, waiting to spring the trap and snag interceptions.

Ex-Packer Offensive Coordinator Joe Philbin is now the Head Coach in Miami and has been installing the no-huddle there. Unfortunately, with a rookie QB, O-line issues, and a bunch of high schoolers at WR, the Dolphins have issues moving the ball. If you’re in the no-huddle, you HAVE TO BE SUCCESSFUL – at least up to a point – or you actually hurt your own team.

I’m not questioning Philbin’s intelligence at all. Hard Knocks showed me how observant and how bright the guy is. His more introverted, quiet style of coaching would make him someone I’d like to have played for.

editor’s note: After having been the recipient of personal attacks when I questioned John Madden’s sanity in a tongue-in-cheek post that the Humor Impaired actually took seriously, no, I’m not an NFL veteran – I wasn’t aware one had to be an ex-NFL Head Coach to have an intelligent opinion about things in the NFL. I simply don’t agree that RG3 is the “best player in the NFL” yet and that it’s silly to say such a thing about ANY player after a single game…that was my point. But I have played the sport, and could tell some stories, but I digress.

Philbin is trading short-term losses for long-term success. That’s the plan, anyway. His team needs to learn his system, get practiced at it, and get game reps to learn the intricacies of both Philbin’s West Coast offense and the different things that are required of the offense in the no-huddle as opposed to the normal pace.

For instance, personnel matters. A lot. The Dolphins (I’m picking on them because they’re a good example) have two starting tackles of vastly different styles.

LT Jake Long is an ox of a man. Big, tall, strong, and a run-blocking mauler. I don’t think there’s a better run-blocking LT in the game than Jake.

RT Jonathan Stewart is a rookie that switched to the less-demanding RT spot in the NFL after protecting Andrew Luck’s blind side at Stanford. He’s a bit smaller and less impressive physically than Long is, he’s not as strong, but he knows how to negate a lot of that difference with smarts and angles. Sure, he’s struggling early but he’s having to get accustomed to changes of all sorts…moving from LT to RT, the difference in size/speed/strength of NFL defenders, more complex blocking schemes, and going to a West Coast offense from a run-first Stanford offense.

He’s quicker than Jake, however, and can pull if necessary. Being a bit smaller, his physical type can better stand up to the conditioning needed to run a no-huddle all game.

THAT’S why Philbin drafted him for the right side. Plus, Martin was a projected mid-late first-rounder who slid to the second as all OL shifted about a half a round’s worth of space down the draft board on everyone’s list.

The no-huddle offense means the entire team needs extra physical conditioning. If you’re running a no-huddle and go three and out, your defense hasn’t had time to really catch their breath before they have to hit the field again so conditioning is a concern on both sides. Even successful no-huddle offenses rarely win the time of possession battle with their opponents due to the nature of the scheme.

September 9, 2012; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) against the Washington Redskins during the first half of a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE

The NFL is a game of cycles, like many others. The Wildcat came and then went away for decades, only to be revived by the Dolphins’ Tony Sparano a few years back. The “fad” seemed to wane somewhat but looks to make another push among some teams…including the Sparano-led NY Jets offense.

These days, the no-huddle in some form (other than “just” a 2-minute drill) is used by Green Bay, New England, Miami, Baltimore, Denver (with Peyton Manning), the NY Giants occasionally with Eli, Pittsburgh, and New Orleans.

According to the Wall Street Journal, no-huddle plays were run in 14% of all offensive snaps in week one which is up 56% from last year and 100% from five years ago. Read their article here: The Offense That’s Ruining Television.

It looks like the no-huddle is here to stay.

@Ken_Dye on Twitter. Follow me!