After the offensive disaster that occurred in 2019, The Eagles chose to let go of offensive coordinator Mike Groh. Groh, the Eagle wide receiver coach in 2017, was promoted following the Super Bowl. The results were less than impressive.
He was unable to find ways of using newly acquired receiver Golden Tate, couldn’t find ways to open up the offense, and didn’t add much to the overall success of the offensive coaching staff.
During the Frank Reich Era(yes, I know Pederson calls the plays.) The Eagles were the 16th and the 3rd ranked offense in 2016/17. The Mike Groh regime was ranked 18th and 12th in 2018/19. The front office saw what most fans did, a struggle to get the offense going, and even more so a struggle to consistently make plays.
With a need for fresh and creative ideas, the organization attempted to look outside it. They tried to lure USC offensive coordinator Graham Harrell to make his move to the city of brotherly love. They looked into bringing in my choice for an offensive coordinator, Ravens quarterback coach James Urban.
Urban, with long ties to Philadelphia as a former coach here, said thanks but no thanks. There was even an attempt to steal away former Eagles quarterback and current quarterback coach for the Chiefs, Mike Kafka.
Mike politely declined our invitation to a reunion. Who did they bring in? Rich Scangarello. Did they hire him as the offensive coordinator? No. They brought in Scangarello and a few other coaches to be senior offensive assistants or consultants.
He was the Raider’s offensive quality coach in 2009, he held the same title with the Falcons in 2015, and was also the 49ers quarterback coach from 2017-2018. He was then named the offensive coordinator of the 2019 Denver Broncos.
While the team was less than impressive and finished with only a 7-9 record, there’s more than meets the eye. There were two halves of the season that took place. The Broncos were the 28th ranked offense during the 2019 season. Why would the Eagles want to bring in a coordinator that came from such an underwhelming offense? His ability to adapt. His creativity.
There was also the system that he had in place and how it had success after they changed quarterbacks. Once he had a quarterback who could fit the style of play he preferred and offense he was running, things changed. When they had two quarterbacks who were a threat to run, it opened up play-action, and the team went 5-3 to end the season. What was his system, and how did he implement It?
Before becoming the offensive coordinator in Denver, he spent three seasons working with current San Francisco 49ers Head coach Kyle Shanahan in Atlanta, and then in San Francisco. After working under Kyle Shanahan, It’s no wonder he tried implementing It in Denver.
How does one run a system like Shanahan’s? The staples of this type of offense are speed, an established run game, and a stellar play-action system. In an offensive scheme such as this, what makes it stand out compared to others, you may ask?
You’ll never see a square peg in a round hole in a Shanahan offense. Everyone in It serves a purpose, whether it be for their blocking ability or their speed. Would you like to know what else he loves using? The Outside Zone.
That’s where offensive linemen focus more so on specific spaces on the field rather than that of defenders. You ask your linemen to motion toward the sideline and move whatever defenders are blocking their zone. You then ask the running back to either work their way through the opening set up by the linemen or cut across, similar to a jet sweep motion.
In a system like this, you must have patience and willing blockers for It to succeed. For a system like this, everything is a weapon. The two biggest weapons in this system would be that of blocking and play-action. While speed is a must in this system, the scheme wouldn’t work without good blockers.
The way Shanahan likes to keep defenses on their toes is with the excess amount of blockers he has on the field. Whether It be the use of dual running backs sets, a tight end, or something as old school as the use of a fullback.
The extra blockers and running threats allow for maximum protection. It can also make it very confusing for the defense. With so many pieces in motion, It can allow for non-conventional play calls. Such as your other skill position players to become rushers of the football.
In 2019 the 49ers rushed for 2,305 yards, 23 touchdowns, and 4.6 yards per attempt. Of those 2,305 yards, 1,939 came from your running backs. Your other skill position players rushed for 366 yards and three touchdowns.
The Broncos rushed for 1,662 yards, 11 touchdowns, and 4.1 yards per attempt. Of those 1,622 yards, 1,516 came from your running backs. Your other skill position players rushed for only 148 yards and one touchdown.
In the type of offense that Shanahan and Scangarello like to run, anyone on that field is a weapon. With all these extra blockers and the possibility that they could also be rushers, It sets up for a lot of confusion. It also sets up play action.
Play-Action is most effective when you have speed and a good running game. While a good run game doesn’t always open up play-action, there is at least a correlation between the two.
Matt Harmon of Yahoo Sports recently wrote an article based on analytics of who the best play-action quarterbacks were. What did those teams rank in rushing the football? Five of those quarterbacks had an elite run game. The top three rushing teams all had a quarterback on the list.
Those five also made the playoffs. Four of the five quarterbacks won a playoff game. Of those four, two made it to the Conference Championship. While only one of the five made It to the Super Bowl.
Can you have an effective play-action without a stellar run game? Of course, but having both makes the offense that much more dangerous. Jimmy Garoppolo had a 68.2 completion percentage, 106.8 in passer rating, and had a 10.1 adjusted yards per attempt on play-action passes.
So would a Kyle Shanahan disciple like Scangarello attempt to mimic this offense? Without a doubt. He ran his offense very similar to how the 49ers ran theirs. The difference being the results that came from the system.
The main issue? Joe Flacco. He completed 171 out of 262 passes, with a 65.3 completion percentage. He also threw for 1,822 yards, with six touchdowns and five interceptions. He also had a Quarterback rating of 85.3.
Flacco completed 22 play-action passes for 219 yards and a touchdown. On deep ball attempts, he was 14-39 for 462 yards and a touchdown. However, the team only averaged 15.6 points per game and had a 2-6 record.
They had all the parts needed for a Shanahan offense, minus a well-run play-action system. One thing that helps to sell it is the worry that it could be a fake, or that the QB might run or bootleg It. No one on the opposing defenses thought Joe Flacco was going to run.
You don’t even have to be a great runner for it to be effective. Garappolo is a perfect example of that. He never got big yards on his runs, but he did it enough to keep teams honest. Flacco had 12 QB runs for 20 yards. Flacco injured his neck in week 8, so the experiment was over.
Over the final eight games, the Broncos went 5-3 under the combination of Brandon Allen and Drew Lock. They gave the team more of a threat due to their legs. The pair combined for 106 rushing yards on 30 attempts. Lock/Allen completed 139 passes out of 240 while having a completion percentage of 58 percent. They also combined for 1,535 yards, while having a QB rating of 79.
On the deep ball, they were 14-36 for 461 yards, two touchdowns. They threw 48 play-action passes for 557 yards and four touchdowns. They averaged 19.6 points per game. So what exactly changed between the first eight games and the final eight? Style of play. You had two guys who could maneuver in and out of the pocket.
They didn’t have to be Lamar Jackson or Russell Wilson. They only needed to be mobile enough to keep teams guessing. The run game was good enough for the season, but it was their legs that helped open things up for them. While the duo wasn’t exactly a home run threat under center, they were a slight improvement. The improvement came with play action.
They ran It more, had more yards, and more touchdowns in the same amount of games. Defenses respected Allen/Lock’s play action ability far more than that of Joe Flacco. Now, what does all of this mean for Carson Wentz? Greatness. It’s a perfect fit for him.
You have fast and shifty running backs. You run 12 personnel more than any other team in the league. You have two tight ends who can excel with the ball in your hand. One of them is an excellent blocker. Not to mention you have fast, elusive running backs who can get through holes quickly if need be.
The Offensive line is talented enough to open up the gaps you’d need to excel at this type of system, and you have the speed at wide receiver to stretch the field. Carson is the perfect candidate for this type of system. He’s an accurate, mobile quarterback, who can sling it downfield, with pinpoint precision.
His ability outside of the pocket won’t allow for this type of scheme to be vanilla. Do you want to know what Rich Scangarello brings to this offense? Creativity, insight, and has a system tailor-made for Carson Wentz. In a word, the bronco will be bucking!