The Daboll/Kafka Offense Part 1 - Nomenclature

Now that the draft is over, It's time to get down to Xs and Os. I was curious as to what the Giants offense will look like in September, so I fired up the Google machine and did some digging on what Daboll was running in Buffalo, and what Kafka picked up working for Andy Reid in Kansas City. This post is the first in a 8 part series. I broke the offense down as follows:

  1. Nomenclature
  2. History & Influences
  3. Formations, Personnel and Motion
  4. Under Center Runs
  5. Under Center Play Action
  6. Shotgun RPOs and Runs
  7. Shotgun Dropback Pass
  8. Screens and Gadgets


Note: The examples below are just that. The numbers and terms are taken from various playbooks from the Inter-Google and are probably not the same as what's in the Daboll/Kafka playbook.

Daboll used the Perkins/Earhardt system in Buffalo, and I don't expect that to change. Perkins/Earhardt was developed in the 70s when Ray Perkins was the head coach and Ron Earhardt was the offensive coordinator for our beloved Giants. Perkins/Earhardt is not an offensive system. If it were, Daboll would be using a 40 year old playbook. If we compared Daboll's playbook to Earhardt's, it would not be recognizable. Perkins/Earhardt is simply a naming convention, and for my money, is the easiest to coach and teach.

We will delve into it later, but Daboll's offense deploys a mix of West Coast, Air Raid, and and Air Coryell plays, but uses the Earhardt/Perkins nomenclature. Coming from Kansas City, working under Andy Reid, Kafka came from a system using West Coast nomenclature. Reid is a strong branch in the Bill Walsh coaching tree. The interesting thing is that much of what Reid runs in KC bears little resemblance to the offense that San Francisco ran in the 80s and 90s. Kansas City is very heavy on RPOs and shot plays, and in the 80s and 90s, RPOs didn't exist. The Shanahan/McVay tree also uses West Coast nomenclature (Mike Shanahan Sr. worked for Walsh), and those offenses would never be confused with what Andy Reid is running in KC. The point is that pure offensive systems like the West Coast have gone the way of the dodo bird. Earhardt/Perkins was NEVER an offensive "system". It 's just an organized way to call plays. I digress.

There are 3 naming systems still in use:

  1. Air Coryell - For pass plays, this uses 3 digit numbered routes, where each number corresponds to a route on the receiver tree. For example, 826 has the X receiver running a post (8), the Y running a 5 yard cross (2), and the Z running a 16 yard deep in or "dig" (6). There are 2 significant drawbacks with Air Coryell. The first is that the routes for the 4th receiver and RB need to be tagged. So this would become 826 H Wheel F Angle. It can get pretty wordy. The 2nd disadvantage is that there are way more than 9 routes on the receiver stems in modern offenses, which makes it even more wordy.
  2. West Coast - The West Coast playbook uses 2 digit numbers to denote the protection and words to denote the play. Example: 22 Hank. The hank route has all 3 receivers running 10 yard hook routes with the other receivers running flat routes. Again, where this gets wordy is the tagging when a concept needs to be modified. Hank is the base route, but the tagging would look something like: 22 Hank H Post F Angle Z Stutter Go. Try saying that with a mouthful of crackers.
  3. Earhardt/Perkins - uses 2 digit numbers (50-89) for protections, and names route concepts for each half of the field or one word for full field concepts. Typically, half field concepts are paired to attack 2 different coverages. The left pattern could attack cover 2, and the right would attack cover 3 (or vice-versa), This diagram has been floating around the Internet forever, but I'll recycle it.

For this play, 73 is the protection, Ghost is the pattern to the left, and Tosser is the pattern to the right. The beauty of this system is:
  1. It's easy to call and audible.
  2. It defines passing concepts which are easy to remember
  3. The players are interchangeable. The coach can line up any player at any position in any formation, and if they know the concept, the players know what route to run. For Ghost, the #1 receiver runs a Go, the #2 receiver runs an 8 yard stick route, and the #3 receiver runs a flat route. "Tosser" is double slant.
  4. The naming convention above only covers half field passing concepts. Full field concepts like this get a one word name like "Saints". A pass play is a 2 digit number followed by one or 2 words. Easy peasy.

Running Plays

The running game for Earhardt/Perkins is the same as the other 2 systems. They use 2 digit numbers, where the first digit is generally the backfield action and the second is the hole. Even numbers to the right, and odd numbers to the left. The 2 Hole is the G/T Gap and the 8 Hole is outside the TE. One or 2 word modifiers are used to declare the blocking scheme. An example would be "18 Zorro Y Split". The 1 denotes a straight handoff, "8" denotes the play going around right end, "Zorro" is a zone blocking scheme and "Y Split" tells the Y that it's "Split" Action - his job is to block opposite of the play. In this case, his assignment is to cross the formation and block the backside edge rusher.

This should provide a pretty good idea of how Daboll and Kafka will be calling plays. As a disclaimer, the terminology above is most probably wrong, and is not the actual wording that will be in the Giants playbook.

The next article in the series will take a look at the coaching influences of Brian Daboll and Mike Kafka and how they landed on their offensive systems.

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