Editor's Note: Really great read, DanRoc. Thanks! - BG
Fans can agree that, under Chan Gailey, the Buffalo Bills have seen an improvement in their offensive performance. While we are still nowhere near the levels we reached with Jim Kelly at the helm, the offense has been stabilized. Now in year three of the Gailey offense, with a full off-season to prepare and important pieces in place at quarterback, on the offensive line and along the skill positions, it's time to add some wrinkles to this offense. Of all the pieces that could be added, none, I think, would be more effective in boosting our offensive production than installing a no-huddle offense.
Before we dig into why the no-huddle would be a great idea, let's look into the history of the concept. The no-huddle was first run by the Cincinnati Bengals under Sam Wyche and Boomer Esiason in 1988. It was a big reason for their Super Bowl appearance that year. After the Buffalo Bills were defeated in the AFC Championship by this Bengals team, they developed their own version of the no-huddle offense, dubbed the "K-Gun," not because of QB Jim Kelly, but rather for the tight end Keith McKeller, who was a lynchpin for the offense with his versatile blocking and pass catching abilities. This offense, of course, was a big reason for Buffalo's appearance in four straight Super Bowls! The No-Huddle wasn't used much as a primary offense after the days of Jim Kelly, although it had a failed resurrection under Dick Jauron with Trent Edwards in 2009. I don't think that subject needs to be discussed anymore.
So what are the elements of the no-huddle that make it both a powerful machine of an offense and yet something that hasn't been run successfully in over 15 years? Well, for one thing, you need a hugely versatile set of skill position players. Because the no-huddle aims to keep the defense from being able to substitute players effectively, they need to line up almost immediately after each play. There isn't much time for an offensive substitution. In order to keep the defense honest, it helps to have a RB who can split out wide, or a TE who can line up as a fullback. The more roles your players can take, the more mismatches you can create. Another element of the no-huddle is the playbook. It is simultaneously simple and complex. Jim Kelly was famous as one of the last QBs to call his own plays, something he did every game. The quarterback of a no-huddle needs to be able to read a defense effectively, before the snap, identify based on their look whether a man or zone is being run, if there is a blitz coming, and what personnel are being used by the defense. Then they have to choose a play and audible any changes to better fit the situation. Since there is not a huddle, the players begin the play already lined up, and these playcalls and audibles have to be communicated across the field, and everyone has to hear and know their role. One more big reason that the no-huddle is rarely run today is that it requires good athletes. Even though the "no-huddle" is not always a hurry-up offense (players line up on the line of scrimmage immediately, but can sometimes wait through the whole playclock before snapping the ball), players still need to be ready in case the offense does a sudden shift in pace. This means skill positions, linemen, and quarterback, all must be fit and ready to go as soon as the ball is spotted.
The no-huddle is clearly not an easy offense to install. However, I believe that the 2012 Buffalo Bills are uniquely suited to run this offense like no other team in the last decade has done before. Let's look at the reasons:
- Versatile Skill position players - from Chan Gailey training all his receivers at every receiver position, to running backs lining up in the backfield or out wide, to players like Dorin Dickerson selected for their ability to be a matchup nightmare wherever they line up, a big theme for the Buffalo roster is "Versatility." In a no-huddle, it would be no problem to run a set with one or both of our RBs, Stevie, David, Marcus/TJ/whoever, and Scott, and have 10 different formations available with only a single player substituting at any time.
- A smart QB - if there is anyone who is suited to handle the mental aspects of running a no-huddle, it's Ryan Fitzpatrick. For all his mechanical issues, there is no denying that his ability to read a defense is one of the best in the NFL right now, and given the leeway to call audibles and direct his players, I think he could create some real mismatches.
- Athletic players - good investments by Buddy Nix have resulted in a fantastic offensive line that can handle tough assignments and play hard all game long. Conditioning has never been a problem on the o-line, nor with any of our skill positions. If this team wanted to go hurry-up for a quarter, they could probably pull it off.
In summary, the no-huddle presents a strong opportunity for the Buffalo offense to craft a unique identity and make good use of their talented, versatile players. Ryan Fitzpatrick can maximize his strongest points by directing the flow of an offense that keeps defenders on their heels. If Chan Gailey wants to burst onto the scene this year, running a no-huddle offense and a savage attacking defense would be a fantastic way to tell the world that Buffalo is back!