The Evolution Of The Passing Game And The Wide Receiver Position: The "Cosell Doctrine"

Bob Levey



The Cosell Doctrine

I believe Austin, Hernandez, Cobb and Harvin are representative of where NFL teams would like to go with their personnel, and their passing concepts. The objective is to have five receivers, and certainly four, who can align all over the formation. Traditionally, they can be wide receivers, tight ends or running backs. It can be the Patriots with their "12" personnel. Or the Packers, with their four-wide receiver personnel. From a schematic perspective, it doesn’t matter how you define them by position. The overriding, and superseding point is that they are all movable chess pieces, all "Jokers", to use the term that I’ve used before and I think is aptly descriptive. That’s the "Cosell Doctrine", and that’s the direction I see the NFL game trending. It’s about passing, and how you can create, and ultimately dictate favorable matchups. You do that with players that are amorphous and fluid in their ability to be utilized in ways both multiple and expansive, yet somewhat unstructured based on conventional definitions.

Greg Cosell is an NFL analyst and a senior producer at NFL Films. Cosell is widely regarded as one of the most knowledgeable and astute analysts in the game of football. He just completed a two part series on the evolution of the passing game, proposing a theory regarding the future of the passing game and the role of wide receivers in it, named the "Cosell Doctrine". Part one was published on April 12, 2013 (please click on link). Part two was published on April 15, 2013 (please click on link).

In his articles, Cosell identifies 9 wide receivers in the upcoming draft that fit the mold of "Jokers", receivers that exhibit the qualities that are core to his doctrine:

1. Tavon Austin

2. Cordarrelle Patterson

3. Justin Hunter

4. Aaron Dobson

5. Aaron Mellette

6. Da'Rick Rogers

7. Chris Harper

8. DeAndre Hopkins

9. Keenan Allen

Is it a coincidence that the Rams have looked at 5 of these receivers (Patterson, Austin, Dobson, Hunter and Allen) very closely in the pre-draft process? Is it a coincidence that the Rams spent a considerable amount of money on Jared Cook, a receiver who exhibits the qualities of a "Joker"? Or a #33 draft choice on Brian Quick, who again exhibits those same qualities? Is the Rams offense already heading in this direction, and will continue to do so?

From Cosell, in closing:

The common thread with all the wide receivers I’ve touched on: size. It’s a fascinating dichotomy that is now crystallizing in the NFL. Smaller receivers have increased value due to the expansion of the multi-dimensional "Joker", the player who can align anywhere in the formation. On the other hand, bigger wideouts provide matchup problems for smaller corners on the outside. The NFL has always been cyclical. Is offense a step ahead of the defense right now? Defensive coaches think so.

A lot of food for thought as the NFL draft nears. Your comments and opinions are always welcomed and appreciated.

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