Coaching Staff = Offensive System = Opportunity = Production

Fantasy Football Fanatics

Offensive System = Coaching Staff = Opportunity = Production

By, Eric Vigson


Fantasy Football success boils down to one very basic ideology; predicting the future (sounds simple enough).  The owner in our league who is able to most accurately forecast each players upcoming “fantasy point production” will be the person going home with all the accolades including; our League’s Trophy, a large payout and all the bragging rights.

When conducting our Player Evaluations we should recognize that “Production” is the byproduct of “Opportunity”.  In terms of Fantasy Football, Opportunity is synonymous with a team’s Offensive System.  For example; if a QB plays in a “Passing System” he would then have increased opportunity.  If a QB plays in a “Running System” he would then have decreased opportunity (sorry Mark Sanchez).

The only known method to correctly identifying each team’s Offensive System is examining the history of the Coaching Staff.  Upon doing so we’ll find 90% of all NFL coaches around the league adhere to the same Offensive System that has propelled them to the pinnacle of coaching.  Every coach around the NFL will have an equally distinct coaching history we can study.

Researching a team’s Coaching Staff there are few glaring questions we should be looking to answer such as; which teams has this man coached?  What position did he play?  What Offensive System did he learn as a player or assistant coach? Who has he coached under?  Who are his mentors?  What players were successful on his former teams?  Reaching a conclusion we are able to extract a team’s “offensive identity” even before examining the players on the roster.

Without a doubt the most wide spread example are the numerous Head Coaches and Offensive Coordinators nurtured under the “Bill Walsh Coaching Tree”.  Each and every coach around the NFL with ties to Coach Walsh, dating back to his predecessor Paul Brown, will employee some version of the famous “West Coast Offense”; a System predicated upon short-to-intermediate passes utilized to soften the defense and open up the field for the running game and vertical passing attack.  The West Coast Offense has produced overwhelming success throughout the years including countless fantasy super stars (Aaron Rodgers and Arian Foster come to mind).

Current Philadelphia Eagles Head Coach Andy Reid is a direct disciple of Bill Walsh and his West Coast Offense – via Mike Holmgren.  Due to Reid’s firm belief in the West Coast System we can predict, with great certainty, the Eagles will continually finish the season with a 60% – 40% pass/run ratio regardless of the players on Reid’s roster.  From this knowledge we then determine; “whoever’s the starting quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles will be given every opportunity to be an impact fantasy player in the coming year(s)”.  In our Pre-Draft Player Evaluations we then upgrade any QB or WR on the Eagles roster solely based on the Coaching Staff and Offensive System (teams currently utilizing the West Coast offense entering 2012 are Packers, Texans, Redskins, Dolphins, Bengals, Eagles and Browns).


Although the West Coast Offense remains the most pronounced System utilized to date, Paul Brown and Bill Walsh aren’t the only coaches to influence the growth of the NFL’s passing game.  Don Coryell is widely considered amongst the pioneers of the modern the day Passing Offense with his patented “Air Coryell System” – originally dating back to his mentor and Hall of Famer Sid Gillman.  Both Gillman and Coryell believed in a “vertical passing attack” to stretch the defense, thus opening up other areas of the field.  Numerous coaches raised under the tutelage of Coach Coryell have achieved success including; Norv Turner, Mike Martz, Rob Chudzinski, Cam Cameron, Al Davis and my all time favorite coach Dick Vermeil.  When examining these coaches we then upgrade the QBs, WRs and TEs playing inside the Air Coryell Offense.

The other prominent Offensive System of our generation is the “Run-and-Shoot”; popularized by the Houston Oilers in the 80’s and into the early 90’s.  This System is predicated upon the QB and WR’s ability to read and recognize the “soft spot” in the defense, be it vertical or underneath, after breaking the huddle.  The Run-and-Shoot also provides the QB a tremendous amount of freedom to study the defensive alignment, and audible at the line of scrimmage between a pass or run play accordingly his pre-snap judgment.  Teams having recent success running a variation of the Run-and-Shoot in today’s NFL include; New York Giants, New England Patriots, Dallas Cowboys, Detroit Lions and New Orleans Saints.

Another popular Offensive System linked directly to a Coaching Staff is the Running-Back-by-Committee (ugliest four words in Fantasy Football).  Reinvented by Mike Shannahan in 2005, many NFL coaches around the league are directly linked to this hideous form of running the football including; Bill Belichcik, Sean Peyton, Tony Sporano, Tom Coughlin, Gary Kubiak, Jim Harbaugh, Todd Haley and John Fox (to name a few).  We then downgrade accordingly any RB playing for these coaches.  On the flip side, certain coaches still believe firmly in a One-Back System including; Pete Carroll, Jeff Fischer, Mike Holmgren, Norv Turner, Andy Reid, Mike Tomlin and Rex Ryan.  Runningbacks playing in a One-Back system are becoming a relic of the past, receiving considerable upgrade during our RB research.


Proceeding through our evaluation of the Coaching Staff we should recognize not every Offensive System is designed by a team’s Head Coach.  Many NFL Head Coaches have history entirely on the defensive side of the football.  When this situation occurs we typically find the Offensive Coordinator (OC) is the coach directly responsible for designing the team’s Offensive System, creating the weekly Game Plan and calling all offensive plays during the game.

For example; current Cincinnati Head Coach Marvin Lewis has been a Defensive coach his entire 30 year career.  After examining the history of Coach Lewis we find he was the architect behind the vaunted 2000 Ray Lewis led Baltimore Ravens (arguably the best defense all time).  It was Coach Lewis’ talents as a defensive guru for which he was hired by Cincinnati.

In order to identify the Bengals Offensive System we must examine recently hired OC Jay Gruden.  Gruden is most notably the brother of Super Bowl winning Head Coach Jon Gruden, making him a spinoff disciple of the Bill Walsh West Coast Offense.  Furthermore, Coach Jay Gruden was a prolific Quarterback throughout his playing days, including great success in the Arena Football League, winning multiple championships as a player and coach.

When conducting our Pre-Draft Evaluation of each Bengal’s players, our instincts will tell us to look past Head Coach Marvin Lewis, and instead examine the history OC Jay Gruden as the coach directly responsible for the Offensive System and Play Calling. Coming to this realization we will upgrade key members of the Bengals passing game moving into future seasons.  In 2011, Fantasy owners who recognized Gruden’s role on the Bengals coaching staff capitalized on the success of WR AJ Green, despite his 9th round ADP.

I’m not suggesting “Defensive Head Coaches” have zero input when it comes to offensive play calling.  In fact, history has proven most Defensive Head Coaches prefer a “run-first” Offensive System.  A great example is current New York Jets Head Coach Rex Ryan.  Coach Ryan has never been anything but a defensive coach including 4 years as the DC for Baltimore Ravens.  At nearly every press conference Coach Ryan continues to repeat his now famous mantra of “Ground-and-Pound”, an Offensive System predicated on running the football all game.

As we further examine the Jet’s coaching staff we quickly recognize the hiring of new OC Tony Sparano; a long time offensive line coach, but most recently the Head Coach of the Miami Dolphins.  Next question we ask ourselves is; “what Offensive System did Sporano employ with the Dolphins?  Answer; a “run-first system” whereby both Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown found success, but also providing the resurgence of Reggie Bush in 2011.  Having gathered these Historical Fact of the Jets entire Coaching Staff we know the Offensive System will lean heavily on running the football.  In our Pre-Draft Player Evaluation we then downgrade the Jets QB and WRs, while upgrading any viable RBs.


Evaluating the Offensive System of an established team is fairly simple.  For example; Green Bay and New England are going to be a passing system; not exactly a surprise.  But how about coaches joining a new team such as; Jeff Fischer, Greg Schiano, Todd Haley or Joe Philbin?  Or, how will the Offensive System influence players recently added including; Trent Richardson, Peyton Manning, Brandon Jacobs or Brandon Lloyd?  The possible scenarios are endless, but the application is obvious. A player’s “Opportunity” to generate “Production” is in direct correlation with his team’s Coaching Staff and their Offensive System.


“Success always comes when preparation meets opportunity”

                                                                                                Henry Hartman



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