Point/Counterpoint: Offensive Philosophy?

Warpaint Illustrated Columnist Darren Carter and Beat Writer Mike Nugent offer their takes on whether the Chiefs should stay the course with their offensive philosophy, or make some changes to what has been one of the most successful offensive teams the NFL has ever seen.

DC's View: Leave the Offense Alone

In his short tenure as the head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs, Herm Edwards has used the "if it ain't, broke don't fix it" philosophy when talking about the Chiefs offense. Edwards has mentioned that he's never had an offense this prolific. In reality, how many coaches have? This offense has been a top five offense each of the last four years. Quarterback Trent Green has passed for over 4,000 yards in each of the last three years. The Chiefs have placed two different running backs in two of the last three pro bowls.

However, Edwards has also talked about his desire to run the ball more. In his first weeks as head coach he mentioned running the ball six more times a game. Recently, he's spoken of running the ball more to help the defense. When you have a running back that ended up third in the league in rushing last year with only nine starts, this seems like a logical move. However, after further review, it may be a flawed decision.

Run the ball six more times a game? One of the reasons this offense has been so effective is that it maintains balance. Last season, 51 percent of the Chiefs 1,056 offensive plays were passes and 49 percent were runs. That equates to about one more pass play than run plays per game. That type of balance enabled the Chiefs to keep defenses off balance. The Chiefs were one of the few teams that could run the ball in obvious passing situations and pass it in obvious running situations. Why can Trent Green throw for 4,000 yards in a season where his starting running backs combine for 2,000 yards rushing? Balance. The Chiefs were the only team to do that last year. By the way, they did it the year before, too. Converting six of those pass plays to run plays changes the mix to 42 percent pass and 58 percent run. Stats aside, that lack of balance will likely result in less scoring.

It was certainly time for Dick Vermeil to step down as head coach. However, one of the tenants he believed in should not be forgotten. He said that you can win playing conservatively, but your margin for error is minimal. Games that are played close to the vest result in tight contests. One mistake, one funny bounce of the ball or one bad call by a ref could cause you to lose the game.

It's not a change in the scheme. The Chiefs will operate from the same playbook. It's a change in philosophy. It appears that Herm believes the best way to help the defense is to keep them off the field with a strong running game. There's some validity in that. Vermeil believed the best way to help the defense was to score as many points as possible with a balanced offensive attack, thus putting even more pressure on the opposing offense. That sounds good in theory but it never yielded the desired results in Kansas City. Is that because the philosophy is flawed or because the Chiefs didn't have the defensive talent to execute it?

It would seem the ideal solution is a happy medium between the two. Run the ball more, but maintain the balance. If the Chiefs were to run the ball three more times a game rather than six, the result would be 54 percent runs and 46 percent passes. Not quite an even balance, but much better than 58/42.

Nuge's View: Tweak Away

We've heard offensive coordinator Mike Solari say time and time again that Kansas City's offense won't change now that he's running things. Sure, the scheme won't change. All the formations, motions and calls will stay the same. The Chiefs' philosophy, however, likely will.

I'm fine with that.

It's probably time for a tweak in the offense, anyway. Not a major philosophy change, but a shift in focus. Opposing defensive coordinators have five years of film to break down on the Chiefs' offense. Someone's going to catch up, and it could be this season. It's time for the Chiefs to start running the ball more.

Sure, part of the Chiefs' offensive success can be attributed to their great balance. I'm not advocating a return to the days of Marty Schottenheimer. I'm talking three or four more runs a game, or just enough to give the Chiefs a tougher offensive identity. I don't mean more perimeter runs, either. I'm talking up the gut, right into the teeth of the defense runs.

Despite the indications of balance, the Chiefs have been a run-first team ever since they discovered what Priest Holmes could do. Watching the Chiefs offense the last few years, the philosophy was clear. Stay on the attack, run the football and use the threat of the run to make the play-action pass more effective. This was especially true on the goal line. The Chiefs have one of the best offensive lines in the league, and as good as their pass protection is, their run blocking is even better.

The Chiefs best offensive weapon is Larry Johnson, who piled up 1,750 yards rushing last year in only nine starts. He's a blunt instrument, a club to beat the will of opposing defenses into the dust. Johnson loves running for the tough yards. He loves punishing defensive players. Give him the ball. Balance is great, but it's much more demoralizing when a team knows what you're going to do, but they're powerless to stop you. Force other teams to put eight in the box, and watch the play-action passing game become more effective.

Last season, tight end Tony Gonzalez, the team's true number one receiver, appeared to begin his descent towards mediocrity. He's going to need to see more single coverage to continue to be effective. Larry Johnson will give him that. Give Johnson the ball.

Probably the most compelling reason to shift the team's offensive focus is the quarterback situation. Right now, the Chiefs have Damon Huard, who has been thoroughly unimpressive, as Trent Green's primary back up. Behind Huard is Casey Printers, a young talent who has no NFL experience, and rookie Brodie Croyle. It's unreasonable to think that any of these guys can be effective this season in the event that Green goes down for any length of time.

Green has been remarkably durable in his tenure with the Chiefs. If he was injured it would seriously jeopardize the Chiefs' playoff chances in 2006. The Chiefs can't afford to lose Green. Every time the Chiefs run the football, that's one less opportunity for Green to take a hit.

Running the football shortens the game. It gives opposing teams fewer possessions, which limits their scoring opportunity. That forces opposing offenses to press, particularly if the Chiefs are scoring when they have the football. We know the Chiefs will score points. Herm Edwards probably won't have the profound immediate impact on the defense everyone thinks he will. He's a good coach, but there's still much work to be done to improve the Chiefs' defense. They're still likely a year or so away from being a dominant unit. Any help the offense can provide will only accelerate the process.

Balance is good. It's helped make the Chiefs the number one offense over the last five years. It also hasn't won any notable games. If the offense slipped a few notches, only to help the defense, would that be the end of world? Probably not. Running the ball more would likely cost the Chiefs' offense a couple of spots in the rankings. If the team could trade their offensive numbers for a championship, they probably would.

This season, they might have that opportunity.

WarpaintIllustrated.com Top Stories