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Has Modern NFL Offense Changed the Game of Football Forever?

April 30th, 2012 at 4:00 PM
By Jen Polashock

There’s the old adage: “Defense wins Championships.” Lately, one would beg to differ – especially those deep into NFL stats. Like it or not, the game has been changing.

Power running is still a part of game day; it’s just not a priority as much anymore. There’s another change: teams do use the run to hold onto the ball and gain time of possession, but it’s not what seemingly gets teams into the playoffs as of late.

Looking at stats from the last three years, the top ten overall rushing and passing offenses were viewed and compared to those of the teams that made the playoffs. Of the top ten rushing offenses, 43% of those moved on to the playoffs. Of the top ten passing offenses, a little over 63% advanced to the post-season. Out of all three years, the Lombardi winners all had top five passing attacks and little to no run game in the regular season.

Defense still matters somewhat in the regular season. The overall defenses of playoff-bound teams from the 2009, 2010 and 2011 (16-game regular season) were top ten almost 57%. Once it came time for the Super Bowl, only 33% were top ten. 2010 was the only year that both teams (Green Bay and Pittsburgh) had top ten defenses. 2009 and 2011 were where the anomaly comes in. Neither team in the big game had impressive defensive statistics (2009: New Orleans and Indianapolis; 2011: New England and New York).

This isn’t to say that defenses don’t step up and change once in the playoffs, it simply is fact that offenses -mainly the pass- is surpassing the run and pass defense in what was once the epitome of football.

Here’s where the evolution of the New York Football Giants has come to today. It’s no longer the smashmouth, slobber-knocker-type of gridiron play it was when Coach Bill Parcells came in and made other teams fear the run and, of course, the defense. The game has sped up and become more finesse. The battle is still in the trenches, but involves more than strength down there. It’s now also a battle of intellect more than ever. Defensive players are faster and have more skill technique up front, so the approach from the team trying to move the ball and score had to become one that relies heavily on the quarterback and trust.

It was easy years ago to ground and pound. The offensive line would shove opposing defenses back and pave the way for bruising running backs while adding in a second, faster scat-back that could “cut” on the defense once more men were pushed up to the line. Stacking more bodies up to that line of scrimmage is what drove offensive coordinators to realize that run first wasn’t going to work as well anymore. Run and shoot is more predominant now. Spreading out 11 players is harder to defend and where most playoff-caliber teams have been headed, including the New York Giants.

Acquiring Eli Manning and bringing in Tom Coughlin set this Giants change in motion. Coughlin promoting QB Coach Kevin Gilbride and getting rid of then offensive coordinator John Hufnagel was the last piece needed to solidify what was to become this current high-powered offensive mold. The team was slowly built around Manning: protecting him, giving him a solid run game and eventually -here’s the big part- giving him young receivers to grow with him. Today, he leads the huge, powerful air force that has brought glory back to the Meadowlands.

Yeah, it’s not the Giants of decades ago, but last look at the calendar, its 2012 and Big Blue are World Champions. Again.


Tags: Bill Parcells, Eli Manning, Football, Kevin Gilbride, New York, New York Giants, NFL, Tom Coughlin

15 Responses to “Has Modern NFL Offense Changed the Game of Football Forever?”

  1.  norm says:

    Sometimes I can’t help but wonder what the narrative might have been had Lee Evans not dropped the game winning pass in the endzone and/or (god forbid) Tynes had missed the game winning FG and SF went on to win.

    The sports world was this close to being subjected to a Joe Flacco vs. Alex Smith Super Bowl. I doubt anyone would have credited great QB play and dynamic passing attacks for the Ravens’ and Niners’ ascension to the game’s biggest stage. Rather, I suspect we would have been treated to a lot more stories about how defense and smashmouth football still wins championships.

    High powered passing attacks may be all the rage nowadays but there’s still more than one way to skin a cat.

  2.  Dirt says:

    I think the rampant proliferation of gigantic defensive linemen who don’t get pushed backwards is key here. You don’t blow up Vince Wilfork or waste 2 guys tryong to do so. You throw it over his head to a guy running untouched.

    I’d rather throw to a guy down the field being marked by 1-2 guys than a guy being pursued by 8 guys behind the line of scrimmage. I’m actually surprised it took this long (and of course the rules helped that happen).

  3.  Grateful Giants says:

    A few things about the draft that I noticed along the way…Sorry if everything I have said has already been said.

    1. I love that we took two players (the Punt returner, and Kick returner) off of one of the perennial Special Teams powerhouses in the country. Year in and year out Vtech is able to win games with good defense, offense, but GREAT special teams. I loved both these picks. If anything they can show a few of our players what it means to be great at special teams. Did you hear Wilson used to chase rabbits just to see if he could touch them? Wilson and Hosley were Roommates in college, weren’t Jpp and WIlliams too? We are family…literally

    2. What do you guys know about this Jackson kid we picked up as a UDFA? Is he from Tennessee? If those highlights of him are him, is he connected to McNeese state? Did he transfer? He looked to have a pretty good eye for the ball, and hits pretty hard. I’d assume his stock fell HARD with his off field issues, but he seemed to move pretty fast in some highlights.

    3. The JPP of TEs? Idk what that even means but I love it.

    4. I saw Victor Cruz this weekend at the Tribeca ESPN FIlm Festival, I didn’t think he was going to be a big guy, but he’s pretty solid, especially standing next to his GIGANTIC Body Guards. Also, is the kid we picked up from Umass his old teammate too? I love when our players make a pitch for drafting a certain player.

    5. I’ve said it before, I just have a feeling that Boothe will be one of the starters on the Oline this upcoming season.

  4.  purorock says:

    The answer to the question posed in the title of this article is no. No, modern offense hasn’t changed the game. What has changed the game? Rules. Rules geared towards a pass accommodating-loving league. It’s not the offenses themselves, rather the restrictions placed on defenses and green lights allowed to offense proliferation. People pay to see big plays. No bigger play than the big pass.

  5.  Sonny Mukhopadhyay says:

    Quick question….

    Does anyone know when Eli Mannings passing camp/teammates work out is ?

    The one last year had him clicking with Victor Cruz, I’m wondering which of his teammates will be smart enough to know that they should sure as hell be here this year.

    Last years camp developed chemistry between Cruz and him, so it has some big importance, I know its in New Jersey, but does anyone know when it is exactly ?

    NOTE: If Barden has any hope, any dreams at all of making this team, he’ll surgically attach himself to Eli Manning for the entire duration of Mannings “Passing Camp” practices……………

    •  Luv2Salsa says:

      I don’t think you’ll see that this year. “Camp Eli” was a child of the player lockout. But there will be plenty of regular OTA’s. The guy Eli takes under his wing this year should be Randle. He WILL make him a better player. No question.

  6.  fanfor55years says:

    Offense/Defense always goes in cycles. Right now the offense has the advantage thanks to rules and that defenses are just beginning to develop a second line of defense that can stop the shorter routes underneath that have been available even against great pass rushes. But teams are now getting more athletic linebackers and developing standard nickel packages that can offset some of that advantage, and going after really fast edge rushers who can get to the QB if he hesitates a split second. As defenses catch up the balance will return, at least in part. The cat-and-mouse game goes on and on. Offense will have a slight permanent advantage (because fans want scoring and fantasy ball depends on it) but the gap will narrow considerably over the next 3-4 years as drafts reflect new defensive thinking.

  7.  G-MenFan says:

    All I know is this:
    The Giants have won 4 Super Bowl Championships by holding 3 different Hall of Fame quarterbacks to an average of 17.5 points per game. This includes holding John Elway to 20 points, Jim Kelly to 19 points, and Tom Brady to 14 points and then again to 17 points.

    So from my angle, while the rules have made the NFL more of a passing league, DEFENSE still wins championships.

  8.  BBWC says:

    I was doing a little investigating on our 7th rd pick, Markus Kuhn. I know he’s raw and needs a lot work, but I compared his combine numbers to the other top DT’s in the draft, and was amazed. When you take in consideration all the events, Kuhn came out on top. He had, by far, the best vertical leap at 34.5”, the next closest was Poe and Still with 29.5”. He had the second best broad jump, third best bench with 28 reps and the third best 40 time 4.91, barely beaten by Poe 4.87 and Cox with a 4.79.
    All and all, Kuhn 6’5″/300, has all the physical tools of the top DT’s taken in this years draft. It’ll be interesting to see if Kuhn will turn out to be a solid NFL tackle or the next Jonas Seawright.

  9.  GOAT56 says:

    My roster predictions were definitely guesses at some spots. I understand Locklear is a solid player and Brewer especially but Mosley and McCants would have to show very well to knock him off the roster. I can see Locklear over McCants easily. However, I think Cordle will have a hard time making the team because as a backup he provides no versitility. Boothe was the backup center last year so I see him having a difficult time with our other young OL players.

    Jackson is a guess because we need more talent at safety IMO. Sash is decent but I don’t trust him to be anything more than decent if KP or Rolle got hurt. The vets are not much different than Sash. I think either a CB like TT or Coe needs to help out at safety or Jackson can. Jones would also be an outside chance.

    LB is wise I think keeping 8 is too many for a 4-3 team, especially with several DBs returning from injury. 10 DBs seems to make more sense than 8 LBs with so many 4 WR sets. The last 2 spots really seem to be between Blackburn, Paysinger and Jones. I think it’s close but Paysinger offers more speed. With Boley and Rivers also able to play MLB Jones’ value is diminished.

    •  Luv2Salsa says:

      I see McCants on the practise squad and Mosley as this year’s never active project. Diehl will start at RT. Locklear the vet backup with Brewer seeing some playing time at RT and kicks and possibly goal-line 3rd TE.

      If KP or Role were to go down in a game, Sash would be the next guy up. However the next week we’d see some realignment to put our best cover guys on the field. That would include TT if he’s ready to go. (Frankly I think TT will be a step slower for a few weeks….not good for a cornerback.) Don’t be surprised to see the 4th safety spot eliminated in order to carry an extra corner.

      I don’t see Jones as a good fit long term, but neither is Blackburn. Of Jones/Blackburn/Paysinger, agreed Jones would probably go.

  10.  Luv2Salsa says:

    Given two offensive juggernauts, the one with the better defense will always win the Championship.

    Controlling the clock with power running is great, provided you can find the end zone as the field gets smaller. This is no easy task. Long sustained drives don’t work in this league (anymore) if you come away with only a field goal, and then turn around and give up a touchdown in the next couple of minutes.

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