Arrhythmic play calling: The fad of 2013

We all expected Chip Kelly to bring his unique brand of red-yellow-green no-huddle to the NFL. (If you’re not familiar, those three colors represent the pace he wants his offense to run– red being “huddle up normally” and green being “get to the line as fast as possible and run another play.”) But what we didn’t expect is that, based on preseason, other teams seem to be mimicking some of his concepts already.

No-huddle offenses have been run in the NFL before, and are run by every team in their two-minute drill. But they were almost always run in a more standardized way– stopping to huddle when the clock has stopped, while immediately returning to the line if it was running. This is what we see at the end of games, and it’s borne out of the trailing team’s prime objective: defeating the clock.

Well, if you’re not under the pressure of the clock, then your first opponent is the defense, and why not use the concepts of the no-huddle to throw off the defense’s sense of timing and take advantage of personnel mismatches? Teams are starting to run no-huddle offenses in ordinary game situations, mixing in huddles and no-huddles as they feel would best interrupt the defense.

Where before, teams always huddled, substituted personnel, and got to the line with no particular urgency other than the play clock, now teams are beginning to pick and choose when and how to do so as a weapon. Adding another element the offense can control and the defense can’t is surely a point in the offense’s favor. “Pace” is a term usually reserved for basketball, but I think we’re going to start seeing teams use playcalling strategies in the NFL to control it. For a basketball analogy, it’s like if the league just realized, for the first time, you could run the fast break instead of always playing in a half-court set.

Combined with the increased use of “packaged” plays, where the QB has the option to either execute a run or pass depending on how he reads the defense, offenses are finding new, creative ways to gain advantages, and I’m excited to see how this plays out in the 2013 NFL season.

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